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

Tokyo Paralympic triathlon test event cancels swim due to water bacteria

AP
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TOKYO (AP) — High levels of bacteria forced the swimming portion of a triathlon test event for the Tokyo Paralympics to be canceled Saturday.

It’s the second setback in the triathlon for organizers of next year’s Olympics and Paralympics. An Olympic triathlon running event was shortened from 10km to 5km on Thursday because of what the International Triathlon Union (ITU) called “extreme levels” of heat.

Tokyo’s hot and humid summers are a major worry for Olympic organizers. The water issues are a reminder of the Rio Games, when high bacteria and virus levels were found in waters for sailing, rowing and open-water swimming.

In a statement, the ITU said E-coli levels were “more than two times over the ITU limits.” It said the water was at Level 4, the highest risk level.

E-coli bacteria, which normally live in the intestines of animals and people, can produce intestinal pain, diarrhea and a fever.

The venue in Tokyo Bay, called Odaiba, has been a concern for organizers, who have experimented with different measures to clean the water in the area, located in an urban part of central Tokyo.

The ITU is scheduled to hold it final test event on Sunday “depending on the latest water quality tests”, it said in a statement.

A few days ago the ITU described water quality conditions at the venue as “very good.” However, swimmers at a recent distance swimming event at the same venue complained of foul-smelling water.

The water temperature at the venue on Saturday was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, with the air temperature hovering above 90.

Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya said “we are set to conduct a comprehensive review with the international federation.”

He said a triple-layer underwater screen will be installed for next year’s Olympics, replacing a single-layer.

“Based on the results of multiple research in the past, we believe that the multiple layer screen will assure the successful delivery of the competitions,” he said.

Filthy water plagued the Rio Olympics. The South American city lacks a functioning sanitation system for much of its population. Open water there tested high for bacteria and viruses, which confronted athletes in rowing, sailing and triathlon.

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MORE: Double DQ caps bizarre Tokyo Olympic triathlon test event

Women’s hurdlers take center stage as Diamond League hits crunch time; how to watch

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A showdown between world record holder Kendra Harrison (U.S.), reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (U.S.) and 2019 world leader Danielle Williams (Jamaica) in the women’s 100-meter hurdles is the marquee event of the Diamond League meet Sunday in Birmingham, England.

With the track and field world championships not starting this year until Sept. 28, the Diamond League gets an uninterrupted run to its season finales Aug. 29 in Zurich and Sept. 6 in Brussels. The 32 Diamond League events are split between the two finales, with a $50,000 prize awaiting the winner of each final.

The last two meets before those finales — Sunday’s meet and the Aug. 24 meet in Paris — are all about qualifying for a shot at those final jackpots.

Birmingham will be the last chance to win points in the men’s 400m, women’s long jump, women’s 1,500m/mile, men’s javelin, women’s 100m hurdles, men’s 100m and women’s 200m. It’s the second-to-last chance in the women’s discus, women’s pole vault, men’s 400m hurdles, men’s high jump, women’s 3000m steeplechase and women’s 800m.

NBC Sports Gold streams live and commercial-free on Sunday, starting with field events at 7:15 a.m. Eastern and track events kicking off at 9 a.m. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs coverage Monday at 4 p.m.

The women’s 100m hurdles also features two Americans who need points to reach the final — Nia Ali and Queen Claye.

Other American athletes aiming to improve solid chances of qualifying include Raevyn Rogers (women’s 800m), Jenn Suhr (women’s pole vault), Mike Rodgers (men’s 100m), Valarie Allman (women’s discus), Michael Cherry (men’s 400m), Kahmari Montgomery (men’s 400m), Vernon Norwood (men’s 400m), David Kendziera (men’s 400m hurdles), Jeron Robinson (men’s high jump) and Courtney Frerichs (women’s 3,000m steeplechase)

Americans who have already qualified in these events include Ajee Wilson (women’s 800m) and Brittney Reese (women’s long jump), both of whom will be competing in Birmingham,

U.S. qualifiers Jenna Prandini (women’s 200m), Emma Coburn (women’s 3,000m steeplechase) and Sandi Morris (women’s pole vault) will not be in Birmingham. Christian Coleman (100m) withdrew from the meet on Friday, spoiling a showdown with Canada’s Andre De Graase and leaving the potential qualification of Jamaica’s Yohan Blake as the most interesting question.

Americans who may qualify in absentia, pending other results, include Justin Gatlin (100m), Noah Lyles (100m), Jenny Simpson (1,500m), Rai Benjamin (400m hurdles), TJ Holmes (400m hurdles), Michael Norman (men’s 400m), Nathan Strother (men’s 400m) and Fred Kerley (men’s 400m).

In a non-Diamond League event, U.S. champion Craig Engels brings his famous mullet to Birmingham in the 1,500 meters.

Here are the Birmingham entry lists and the current Diamond League standings. The schedule (all times Eastern, x-event not counted toward Diamond League standings):

7:45 a.m. — Women’s Discus
8:02 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat A
8:07 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
8:14 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat B
8:26 a.m. — x-Men’s 110m Hurdles
8:46 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat A
8:55 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat B
9:03 a.m. — Men’s 400m
9:10 a.m. — Women’s Long Jump
9:13 a.m. — Men’s 400m Hurdles
9:19 a.m. — Men’s High Jump
9:23 a.m. — Women’s Mile
9:33 a.m. — x-Women’s 100m
9:38 a.m. — Men’s Javelin
9:43 a.m. — x-Men’s 1,500m
9:55 a.m. — Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase
10:12 a.m. — x-Men’s 800m
10:22 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Final
10:32 a.m. — Men’s 100m Final
10:41 a.m. — Women’s 800m
10:52 a.m. — Women’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 8:07 a.m.
Suhr has no Diamond League points but has the world lead at 4.91 meters. Perennial contenders Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) and Yarisley Silva (Cuba) are also competing.

Men’s 400m — 9:03 a.m.
No one has clinched qualification yet, but Cherry is set to compete in Birmingham and should get through. Americans have the top four spots in the standings — Norman, Cherry, Strother and Kerley.

Women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase — 9:55 a.m.
World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and three fellow Kenyans who have all qualified alongside Coburn will have their eyes on records.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 10:22 a.m. final; 8:02 a.m. heats
Most of the top 12 on the world list this year and most of the hurdles who have clinched spots in the final will be here, including Williams and the American trio of Harrison, Sharika Nelvis and Christina Clemons. McNeal, who will run in the world championships with Harrison and Ali, will not qualify.

Women’s 200m — 10:52 a.m.
Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers, who’s aiming for her third straight world championship, has qualified but will race in Birmingham against equally accomplished sprinters Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas), who has won the last two Diamond League titles at this distance and the 2016 Olympic 400-meter gold, and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, whose list of international honors is lengthy.

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