Justin Gatlin stays hot; Genzebe Dibaba breaks world record in Monaco

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Justin Gatlin continued his unbeaten streak, while Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba broke a 22-year-old world record in the women’s 1500m at a Diamond League meet in Monaco on Friday night.

Gatlin, the favorite to beat Usain Bolt for 100m and 200m World titles in August, won the 100m in 9.78 seconds, beating Tyson Gay by .19. Gatlin is the only man to run 9.80 or better since the start of 2014, and he’s done so six times. The 33-year-old, five years removed from a four-year doping ban, hasn’t lost an individual race since Sept. 6, 2013.

Dibaba, better known as a 5000m runner until now, clocked 3:50.07 in the 1500m to break the 3:50.46 world record set by China’s Qu Yunxia in 1993. In the same race Friday, Shannon Rowbury ran 3:56.29 to break the American record set by Mary Slaney in 1983 (3:57.12).

Dibaba’s world record is the first in an Olympic track event since Aries Merritt in the 110m hurdles on Sept. 7, 2012. It’s the first women’s Olympic track event world record since Russian Gulnara Samitova-Galkina in the 3000m steeplechase on Aug. 17, 2008. Dibaba’s older sister, Tirunesh Dibaba, holds the 5000m world record set June 6, 2008.

“I think Tirunesh will be happy, all Ethiopia will be happy,” Dibaba said, according to the Diamond League. “I knew from the beginning that I could break the record and am still able to improve, maybe under 3:50. But one thing is clear I will double at World Championships [1500m and 5000m]. And let’s try for 5000m world record after Beijing.”

In Monaco, athletes were preparing for the World Championships in Beijing (Aug. 22-30, broadcast info here). Here are full results from Monaco.

Asbel Kiprop, the two-time reigning World champion, ran the fifth fastest 1500m of all time in 3:26.69. The Kenyan was .69 off Hicham El Guerrouj‘s world record from 1998 and moved to third fastest all time in the event behind Kiprop and Bernard Lagat.

Kiprop relegated Olympic and World 5000m and 10,000m champion Mo Farah to fourth place, marking the Brit’s lowest finish in an outdoor track final since 2010, according to Tilastopaja. Afterward, Farah said he will run the 10,000m at Worlds but hadn’t decided whether to contest the 5000m.

American Matthew Centrowitz, who won medals behind Kiprop at the last two Worlds, clocked a personal-best 3:30.40 for 10th place, moving to third on the U.S. all-time list and ahead of Alan Webb. Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano was 13th in 3:36.16.

Two-time U.S. champion Joe Kovacs threw the farthest shot put in 12 years, 22.56m to win that contest and solidify favorite status going into his first World Championships.

Francena McCorory, who failed to qualify for the World Championships in the individual 400m, improved on her fastest time in the world this year by winning the 400m in 49.83. McCorory, who has the three fastest times in the world in 2015, could still run the 400m at Worlds, if Allyson Felix gives up her spot to focus on the 200m.

American Sharika Nelvis took the 100m hurdles in 12.46 in a Worlds preview. Nelvis, the world’s fastest woman this year in 12.34, beat a field that included the three other Americans going to Worlds plus the top non-American going to Worlds, Michigan-born Brit Tiffany Porter.

American Candyce McGrone won the women’s 200m in a personal-best 22.08, becoming the second fastest woman in the world this year behind Felix. The Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller, one of Felix’s biggest threats for Worlds in the 200m and 400m, slowed to a jog in the final 50 meters and was last in 28.28.

Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault with a 5.92m clearance.

Olympic champion Christian Taylor defeated Cuban rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump, 17.75m to 17.73m. Taylor and Pichardo are the only men to triple jump farther than 17.53m this year, which they’ve done a combined 13 times.

Bershawn Jackson, the 2005 World champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, won the 400m hurdles in 48.23. Jackson, 32, has won at eight of his nine meets this season and holds the world’s fastest time this year of 48.09.

In the men’s 800m, Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Herzegovina ran the world’s fastest time of 2015, a 1:42.52 to beat a field that did not include Kenyan Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha.

The Diamond League season continues in London next Friday and Saturday, with Bolt scheduled to race for the first time since June 13.

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Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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