Wayde van Niekerk

Ten best performances from World Track and Field Championships

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Here are the 10 best performances from the World Track and Field Championships, not counting Usain Bolt‘s triple gold effort in Beijing:

10. Julius Yego becomes third farthest javelin thrower ever

Yego, who honed his throwing by watching YouTube javelin videos, became the first Kenyan to win an Olympic or Worlds medal in a field event. His golden throw, 92.72 meters, was the farthest in the world since 2001, eighth farthest all time and made him the No. 3 javelin thrower ever.

9. Anita Wlodarczyk’s second farthest hammer throw ever

The women’s hammer throw does not get much visibility in the U.S., but Wlodarczyk is undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes in the sport. The Pole broke the world record each of the last two years and came within 10 inches of her best in winning her second World title with an 80.85-meter heave.

8. Jamaica runs second fastest women’s 4x100m relay ever

The 100m gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce anchored the Jamaicans to a comfortable win in 41.07 and by .61 over the Americans, but at least the U.S. still owns the world record (40.82) from the London Olympics.

7. Allyson Felix runs third fastest 4x400m relay leg ever

Felix, now with 13 Worlds medals (most by an American), won the 400m in a personal-best 49.26 seconds. Three nights later, Felix’s split on the 4x400m relay was 47.72, the third fastest split all time. She made up a 1.99-second deficit to start her leg and handed the baton off with a .48 advantage.

6. Wayde van Niekerk runs sixth fastest 400m ever

The South African ran 43.48, a time so exhausting that he had to be stretchered off the track. Van Niekerk would have beaten Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympics. Only Johnson (43.18 world record, 43.39, 43.44), Harry Reynolds (43.29) and Jeremy Wariner (43.45) have covered one lap quicker.

5. Dafne Schippers runs fourth fastest 200m ever

Schippers, the 2013 World bronze medalist in the heptathlon, is now a full-time sprinter. She chose wisely. The flying Dutchwoman earned 100m silver and, four days later, gold in the 200m. Schippers’ 200m time, 21.63 seconds, knocked four tenths off her personal best. She is now the third fastest woman ever in the distance, behind world-record holder Florence Griffith-Joyner (21.34, 21.56) and Marion Jones, who ran 21.62 at altitude in 1998, before the stretch when her times were wiped out for doping.

4. Genzebe Dibaba’s final 800 meters of the 1500m

The Ethiopian, who broke the 1500m world record July 17 with a 3:50.07, won the World Championship in a much more tactical race — in 4:08.09, the slowest to take gold in Worlds history. But her final two laps were absolutely stifling. Dibaba covered the final 800 meters in 1:57.2, which would have won the 800m at Worlds by eight tenths of a second.

3. Aries Merritt wins bronze medal with kidney function less than 20 percent

Merritt won the Olympic 110m hurdles title and broke the world record in 2012, but his performance in Beijing was even more incredible. Merritt finished third, four days before he was set to receive a kidney from his sister. He announced he had kidney failure just before Worlds and noted how taxing it was to have to race in three rounds with that condition.

2. Christian Taylor’s second farthest triple jump ever

Jonathan Edwards‘ world record of 18.29 meters from 1995 is under serious threat after the Olympic champion Taylor leaped 18.21 in Beijing. Taylor’s jump left Edwards in astonishment, as the British commentator smiled with his jaw agape and shook his head from the media tribune inside the Bird’s Nest.

1. Ashton Eaton breaks decathlon world record

Which was more impressive, Eaton breaking his world record by six points, or Eaton breaking the decathlon 400m world record by six tenths of a second? The world’s greatest athlete was so exhausted after his two-day, 10-event journey that he had to kneel and rest his head against the video board as he posed for photos next to his 9,045-point score.

Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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TIMELINE: Russia’s recent history of sports doping