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

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Women’s track and field may not have a singular, electric figure like Usain Bolt, but some of the most compelling events at the World Championships in Beijing feature a global array of female athletes.

Great Britain sends arguably its biggest star from the London Olympics head to head with perhaps its biggest star of the Rio Olympics. Brazil’s most accomplished active track and field athlete? Also a woman.

Then there’s the U.S. sprinter bidding to break a record shared with Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis. And the Ethiopian who has been the must-watch athlete in the sport this season.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast scheduleFive men’s events to watch

Here are five women’s events to watch at the World Championships:

Saturday, Aug. 22, and Sunday, Aug. 23 — Heptathlon

The heptathlon. Seven events. Two days. Three hyphens.

British Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill is in her first global championship since the London Games and giving birth to son Reggie on July 17, 2014.

Countrywoman Katarina Johnson-Thompson, 22, has been the phenom of the event during Ennis-Hill’s absence from major competition. Her 6,682-point total in 2014 ranks second in the world since the London Olympics.

Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, wife of U.S. Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton, totaled 6,808 points in May, the best in the world since the London Olympics.

World’s most athletic couple takes the next leap

Monday, Aug. 24 — 100m — 9:35 a.m. ET

Only three women have ever run faster than Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and none of them will be lining up in Beijing.

The two-time Jamaican Olympic 100m champion is the prohibitive favorite to win her third World 100m title in four tries. She is Usain Bolt without the world records. She’s consistently in the 10.7s at global championships, right up there with the fastest women of all time — Americans Florence Griffith-JoynerMarion Jones* and Carmelita Jeter.

Fraser-Pryce has clocked 10.74 and 10.79 this season. Americans English Gardner (also 10.79) and Tori Bowie (10.80, 10.81 and 10.82 the last two years) may be her closest challengers, but a U.S. gold would be an upset.

The 200m (Friday, Aug. 28) will lack star power. Fraser-Pryce, Gardner and Bowie won’t contest it. Neither will Olympic champion Allyson Felix.

Tori Bowie, new U.S. sprint sensation

Tuesday, Aug. 25 — 1500m — 8:35 a.m. ET

Two months ago, Jenny Simpson looked like a possible favorite among a deep field to take gold in Beijing. Now, she may not even be the best American medal threat.

And the favorite is the new world-record holder, Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who was primarily a 5000m runner before this summer (and maybe still is).

Everything changed July 17, when Dibaba chopped four seconds off her personal best and broke a 22-year-old world record. In that same race, Shannon Rowbury finished third, notable because she beat the 2011 World champion Simpson (fourth) and broke the 32-year-old American record that Simpson coveted.

Dibaba is expected to race both the 1500m and, on Sunday, Aug. 30, the 5000m. She is fourth fastest all time in that distance, just behind her biggest threat, countrywoman Almaz Ayana. No woman has swept the 1500m and 5000m at a World Championships or Olympics.

Keflezighi, Simpson win USATF Athlete of the Year awards

Wednesday, Aug. 26 — Pole Vault — 7 a.m. ET

This figures to be a four-woman competition.

Olympic champion Jenn Suhr (U.S.), 2013 World silver medalist Yarisley Silva (Cuba), 2009 World champion Fabiana Murer (Brazil) and Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou (Greece) have each cleared 4.80m or higher this year multiple times. Nobody else in the field has done so once since June 2012.

Suhr, who dethroned world-record holder Yelena Isinbayeva at the London Olympics, will not have to worry about her Russian rival at this meet. Isinbayeva hasn’t competed since 2013 but may return for the Rio Olympics. So this marks the best and perhaps last chance for Suhr, 33, to capture the World title that’s eluded her.

Silva, 28, had been fairly silent since taking bronze behind Isinbayeva and Suhr at the 2013 World Championships. Until the last month, during which she cleared 4.81m, 4.85m and 4.91m, the latest tying the best clearance in the world since Isinibayeva’s 2009 world record.

Murer, 34, is Brazil’s biggest track and field star. Any pressure she feels in Beijing will be exponentially heavier next summer.

Murer: ‘I’m never coming back to China’

Thursday, Aug. 27 — 400m — 8:40 a.m. ET

This is Allyson Felix‘s chosen race at the World Championships after scrutinized deliberations. She is the favorite, and history is at hand.

Felix is tied with Usain BoltMichael Johnson and Carl Lewis for the most career World Championships gold medals (eight). She is tied with Lewis for the most career World medals of any color for an American.

Felix hasn’t raced the 400m at a global championship since 2011, when she took silver, but she is expected to take gold in Beijing in large part due to a lack of competition. Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross and Francena McCorory, who holds the three fastest times in the world this year, failed to qualify at the U.S. Championships.

Felix will face off against the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller, eight years younger than Felix at 21 and the only woman in the field to run faster than Felix this year.

Felix’s performance in Beijing could go a long way in determining which event(s) she eyes at the Rio Olympics, be it the 200m, 400m or both. Felix is also part of the U.S. relay pools for the 4x100m and 4x400m on the final two days of Worlds, Aug. 28-29.

Video: Allyson Felix discusses 2016, 400m, more with Ato Boldon

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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