Ashton Eaton

Five men’s events to watch at World Track and Field Championships

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Usain Bolt and Ashton Eaton enter the World Track and Field Championships as Olympic champions and world-record holders, but both will be under threat in Beijing next week.

Neither Bolt nor Eaton has shown championship form in the sprints or decathlon, respectively, since his 2013 World Championships triumph.

At the Bird’s Nest, their greatest competition will come from past champions.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule | Five women’s events to watch

Here’s a look at five men’s events to watch at Worlds:

Sunday, Aug. 23 — 100m — 9:15 a.m. ET

The marquee event of the meet. Usain Bolt‘s only defeat in a World/Olympic 100m was when he false started out of the final at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. But cracks have formed in the last two years. Bolt raced 400 meters in competition all of 2014, sparsely competing due to March foot surgery that year. He was unimpressive and injured again this spring and summer until his last meet July 24, when Bolt ran 9.87 twice in a little over an hour in London.

Still, that’s not nearly the fastest in the world this year.

Enter Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion and 2012 bronze medalist five years removed from a four-year doping ban. Gatlin is running the fastest of his life at age 33. Gatlin has clocked 9.80 or faster six times since the start of 2014. Nobody else in the world has done so once in that span.

The 2007 World champion Tyson Gay and former world-record holder Asafa Powell are also in the medal mix.

Bolt and Gatlin are expected to go head to head later in the 200m (Thursday, Aug. 27) and the 4x100m relay (Saturday, Aug. 29).

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Monday, Aug. 24 — 3000m Steeplechase — 9:15 a.m. ET

An American has never won a Worlds steeplechase medal (the first Worlds were in 1983). The last U.S. medal in an Olympic steeplechase came in 1984.

But ponytailed Evan Jager could end that drought in Beijing. Jager, who finished sixth in his Olympic debut in 2012, broke the American record in the event on the Fourth of July in the most heartbreaking way imaginable.

Of the world’s 22 fastest times this year, 19 have been recorded among seven different Kenyans. The other three by Jager, including that American record ranking No. 2 in the world for 2015.

Kenyans have won the last eight Olympic steeplechase titles, plus the last four World Championships. The country’s star is the dancing Ezekiel Kemboi, the 2004 and 2012 Olympic champion and three-time reigning World champion.

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Thursday, Aug. 27 — Triple Jump — 7:10 a.m. ET

The most exciting track and field event this season has arguably been the men’s triple jump. U.S. Olympic champion Christian Taylor and Cuban Pedro Pablo Pichardo have exchanged 18-plus-meter jumps, a threshold only three other men had ever eclipsed prior to this year.

If Taylor and Pichardo can’t live up to their 18-meter status, look out for American Will Claye, the only man to earn medals at the last two World Championships.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Friday, Aug. 28, and Saturday, Aug. 29 — Decathlon

American Ashton Eaton is the reigning Olympic and World champion and world-record holder, but he hasn’t completed a decathlon in more than two years.

Eaton, 27, took 2014 off from the decathlon since it was the one year in the quadrennium that didn’t have an Olympics or World Championships. He tested himself in the 400m hurdles, and he performed pretty well. Eaton pulled out of his only scheduled decathlon so far this season on May 30.

If Eaton is to be dethroned in Beijing, it might be at the hands of the last man to defeat him — countryman Trey Hardee. Hardee captured the 2009 and 2011 World title and overcame injuries since, emerging with his best decathlon point total in six years at the U.S. Championships on June 25-26. The total, 8,725 points, is the highest in the world since Eaton’s last decathlon, an 8,809 at the 2013 Worlds in Moscow.

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Sunday, Aug. 30 — 1500m — 7:45 a.m. ET

The metric mile features two Americans with global championship medals — Leo Manzano, the Olympic silver medalist, and Matthew Centrowitz, the 2011 World bronze medalist and 2013 World silver medalist.

They will both probably be chasing loping Kenyan Asbel Kiprop on the final lap. Catching Kiprop is a tall order. Nobody could do it at the 2011 or 2013 World Championships or on July 17, when Kiprop ran the fifth fastest 1500m of all time and best in 14 years. The best bets may be countryman Silas Kiplagat and Algerian Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi.

Matthew Centrowitz’s chase for gold

Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

Skate America
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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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