Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins 100m; U.S. runner loses 10,000m bronze with early celebration

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Molly Huddle raised arms in the air before they crossed the finish line in separate races at the World Championships on Monday night.

Only one of them won a medal.

Fraser-Pryce becoming the first woman to win three World titles in the 100m and Huddle prematurely celebrating and losing a bronze medal to a countrywoman in the 10,000m highlighted action at the Bird’s Nest.

In the 100m final, Fraser-Pryce clocked 10.76 seconds with yellow flowers on her forehead and long green hair running down her back. She raised her right arm and index finger with a few meters left and victory locked up. She wished she ran faster.

“I get tired of 10.7s, honestly,” Fraser-Pryce, who has run in the 10.7s in her career 11 times but never faster than 10.70, said with a laugh on the BBC. “Hopefully, my next race, I’ll get it together.”

She will share the podium with the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers (silver in 10.81, national record) and American Tori Bowie (bronze in 10.86, full results here).

Fraser-Pryce, like countryman Usain Bolt, owns 2009, 2013 and 2015 World titles and 2008 and 2012 Olympic titles in the 100m. The biggest separator between Fraser-Pryce and Bolt (aside from the hair and Bolt’s 17-inch height advantage) are world records, of which Fraser-Pryce has none.

Bowie’s rise to a Worlds 100m medal came in the last 18 months. The soft-spoken Mississippian competed in the long jump at the 2014 World Indoor Championships and, by the end of 2014, was the world’s fastest woman in the 100m for that year.

“Of course, we all want the gold medal, but it’s a stepping stone,” Bowie, with a purple streak in her hair and in her first World Outdoor Championships, told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “I’ll come back even better next year.”

Fraser-Pryce entered Worlds as the fastest woman this year (10.74) and became an even bigger favorite for the final after she sprinted a comfortable 10.82 to win her semifinal earlier Monday, easing up considerably for her final few strides.

Also in that semifinal, American English Gardner was sixth, missing the final despite coming into the meet as the second fastest woman in the world this year.

For the first time ever, fewer than two U.S. women made the Worlds 100m final.

World Track and Field Championships: Five men’s events to watch | Women’s events | Broadcast schedule

About 30 minutes before Fraser-Pryce’s early celebration, American Molly Huddle lost a bronze medal in the 10,000m after she raised both of her arms before the finish line, easing up in her final few strides.

Countrywoman Emily Infeld, running her third 10,000m ever, passed Huddle on her inside to nab the bronze by .09 of a second.

“It’s painful to watch,” Huddle told Johnson on Universal Sports. “Emily slipped on the inside as I eased up a little bit. She had this once-in-a-lifetime moment. I feel like it kind of slipped through my fingers. … The Olympics are typically a hard race, not a tactical one, so this probably won’t ever come around again.”

Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot won the race in 31:41.31, after sweeping the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2011 Worlds and missing 2013 due to pregnancy. She was followed by Ethiopian Gelete Burka for silver (31:41.77) and Infeld for bronze (31:43.49) in her Worlds debut.

“I just tried to run all the way through the line,” Infeld told Johnson on Universal Sports, adding to media later, “I don’t think [Huddle] knew I was there. I hate to take a medal away from a teammate and fellow American. … I don’t mean to snipe someone or do that. I feel like that’s kind of like a [expletive] way to get it, so I feel kind of bad now.”

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Evan Jager finished sixth in the 3000m steeplechase despite coming in as a hope to win the first U.S. medal ever in the event. Kenyans swept places one through four, led by dancing two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi, who won his fourth straight World title.

French Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie won a non-gold medal at Worlds for the fourth straight time, this time sharing bronze with two other athletes. Canadian Shawn Barber upset Lavillenie for gold with a 5.90-meter clearance.

Colombian Caterine Ibarguen repeated as World triple jump champion with a 14.90-meter leap while wearing long pink socks. No U.S. woman has ever earned an Olympic or Worlds triple jump medal, and none were in Monday’s 12-woman final.

In the 400m semifinals, Grenada Olympic champion Kirani James and defending World champion LaShawn Merritt advanced to Wednesday’s eight-man final.

Czech defending World champion Zuzana Hejnova was the fastest qualifier into Wednesday’s 400m hurdles final. NCAA champion Shamier Little, the fastest woman in the world this year, was the slowest of the eight qualifiers into the final.

After her semifinal, Little watched the third and last semifinal clutching a railing, hoping the third-place finisher wouldn’t beat her time and knock her out of the final. She was in tears rolling on the track and, later after making the final, speaking with Johnson on Universal Sports.

Little, 20, wears Malcolm X-style glasses and describes herself in her Twitter bio as being athazagoraphobic and a kleptomaniac.

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott failed to qualify for Wednesday’s javelin final. Walcott has dealt with a reported ankle injury this summer.

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Ill Katie Ledecky withdraws from world championships races

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An ill Katie Ledecky withdrew from her next two events at the world swimming championships, USA Swimming announced less than two hours before she was scheduled to race on Tuesday morning in South Korea.

“Katie has not been feeling well since arriving to Gwangju on [Wednesday], and these precautionary measures are being taken to ensure her well-being and proper recovery, and to allow her to focus her energy on an abbreviated schedule,” National Team Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko said in a statement.

Doctors are still identifying the specific problem with lab work, said her coach, Greg Meehan. Ledecky is out of the 200m and 1500m freestyles Tuesday but could still swim the 4x200m free relay on Thursday and the 800m free on Friday and Saturday.

Meehan said Ledecky’s slow last 50 meters of Sunday’s opening 400m free final, where she was passed and relegated for silver, was “a little bit of a sign” of a problem.

Meehan also said she was “having a hard time” in the final 500 meters of her last race, the 1500m free heats on Monday morning, where she posted the fastest time by 2.69 seconds. He checked with Ledecky and doctors after that race.

“She was feeling a little bit better last night, and then we were hopeful today,” Meehan said. “But woke up this morning and was not feeling well at all. We’re just going to take it session by session and then day by day. And then if we can get her back in the meet at some point, that would be ideal scenario.”

Ledecky did not mention a medical issue in speaking to the media Sunday after she suffered her first loss in the 400m free in a major international meet.

“This doesn’t take away from what Ari did,” Meehan said of 18-year-old gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia. “The message isn’t that it’s an excuse for coming up with a silver medal.”

Ledecky would have been in line to swim the 1500m free final and 200m free semifinals within about an hour of each other on Tuesday, the most difficult turnaround of her slate this week and perhaps for any swimmer at the meet.

Ledecky won the Rio Olympic 200m freestyle but was relegated to silver and bronze in the event at the 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. She ranks No. 5 in the world this year in the event, the shortest distance that she races individually at major meets.

Titmus owns the fastest 200m free time this year.

Ledecky, who has never withdrawn from an event at a major international meet in eight years at this level, is undefeated at 1500m. She owns the eight fastest times in history, and her world record is 18.4 seconds faster than the No. 2 performer all time in an event that makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Also withdrawing before the 200m free were Canadian Taylor Ruck, who won the 2018 Pan Pacs, and Australian Emma McKeon, who shared 2017 World silver with Ledecky. Ruck’s decision was due to her busy program overall and focusing on other events. McKeon is also ill.

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Sydney McLaughlin takes juggling act to USATF Outdoor Champs

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Sydney McLaughlin can juggle. She can also ride a unicycle. And she has been known to juggle and ride a unicycle at the same time.

“But I haven’t done both of them at the same time in a long time,” the 400m hurdler added. “I’m getting older now.”

About to turn 20 next month, she is juggling quite a few things these days — a new coach, living on the West Coast, making the transition from college to the pro circuit and the weight of lofty expectations. Her name constantly pops up among the ones to watch heading into the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

That’s hardly a surprise: In 2016 and at just 16, McLaughlin became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to qualify for the Olympics in more than four decades.

Pressure doesn’t bother her. She just keeps her eye on the prize like she did as a kid when her dad would coax her to run with the reward of a chocolate candy bar.

Winning is her incentive now — and it’s just as sweet.

“For me it’s kind of just focusing on myself and making sure I’m doing everything possible to be successful,” McLaughlin said ahead of the U.S. track and field championships, which start Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.

A year ago, McLaughlin turned pro after spending a season at Kentucky and winning the NCAA 400 hurdles crown.

Since then, the New Jersey native has been adjusting to life in Los Angeles and working with 2004 Olympic 100m hurdles gold medalist Joanna Hayes. McLaughlin won her Diamond League 400m hurdles debut in Oslo, Norway, last month over U.S. teammate and Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad.

That despite knocking down the first hurdle.

“It’s good to know the strength was there,” said McLaughlin, who also won in Monaco on July 12. “But definitely have to work on the hurdles form and everything.”

McLaughlin will be one of the favorites when the 400m hurdles start Friday. It’s a loaded field that also includes Muhammad, 2015 world champion silver medalist Shamier Little and bronze medalist Cassandra Tate, ’16 Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer. Since reigning world champion Kori Carter has an automatic spot to worlds in Doha this fall, there are three more spots up for grabs in the event.

“There’s so much depth,” McLaughlin said. “It’s particularly hard to make that team.”

McLaughlin teamed up in early November with Hayes, who ran the 400m hurdles before switching over to the 100m hurdles. Any chance McLaughlin makes a similar move?

“We always joke about it,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have to see about that one.”

One hurdle at a time. Her focus remains on steadily learning the nuances of the taxing 400 hurdles event.

“She’s talented and there’s no need to put everything on the line or everything into it in one year,” Hayes explained. “Give her room to grow and make strides.”

Hayes gets asked this often: Can McLaughlin one day break the world record? The mark sits at 52.34 seconds set by Yuliya Pechonkina of Russia in 2003. McLaughlin’s top time is 52.75 seconds, which she ran in May 2018.

“We don’t talk about, ‘OK, we’re going to try to break the world record,’” Hayes said. “We go in there and try to execute a great race. If you do that, eventually records will come.”

Growing up, McLaughlin wasn’t all that jazzed about running. Her father, Willie, would provide plenty of motivation in the form of candy.

“He said, ‘If you run I’ll give you a chocolate bar.’ I ran the 100m and actually won,” recalled McLaughlin, who started a juggling club while in high school and recently got back into the hobby. “I think I was more excited about the chocolate bar than the fact I won. I guess he lured me into the sport.”

She is still motivated by reward — a good performance earns her either a nap or a cheeseburger.

It’s the simple things in life.

McLaughlin comes from an athletic family. Her dad was a 400m semifinalist at the 1984 Olympic Trials and her mother, Mary, ran in high school. Her two brothers and sister also have competitive running backgrounds.

And when the siblings get together, it becomes rivalry time. Sydney pairs with her brother Taylor and they’re pitted against her sister Morgan and brother Ryan. The competitions range from bowling to board games to push-ups.

“We usually win,” cracked McLaughlin, the Gatorade national high school track athlete of the year in ’16 and ’17. “Anything that involves winning you can best believe that we’re competing with each other.”

In her spare time, she’s active on social media and offers tips to kids not that much younger than her.

“I definitely think having people look up to you and ask you for advice drives you to want to do better and continue to have success,” McLaughlin said. “I have fun with being that role model that does things the right way.”

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