Keni Harrison
Getty Images

Keni Harrison, one of 11 siblings, headlines Stockholm Diamond League; events to watch

Leave a comment

Many top U.S. athletes are skipping the final Diamond League meet before the Olympic Trials in Stockholm on Thursday, except for the most impressive American this year.

That’s Keni Harrison, who matched the second-fastest 100m hurdles time in history, an American record 12.24 seconds, at the Prefontaine Classic on May 28.

Harrison headlines the Stockholm 100m hurdles field, along with countrywomen Queen Harrison and Nia Ali.

All will have their hands full at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., on July 7-8 in arguably the deepest event. The top three finishers make the Olympic team.

Not in Stockholm, but expected in Eugene, are 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson, 2013 World champion Brianna Rollins and Sharika Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers, the two fastest women in the world last year.

Harrison, the middle of 11 children, nine adopted, shuttled in a Marriott bus, is a prodigious hurdles talent who ran her first track race in 10th grade.

She ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in the world in the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles last year, respectively. She won the 100m hurdles and placed second in the 400m hurdles at the 2015 NCAA Championships, her final meet for the University of Kentucky.

She hasn’t raced a 400m hurdles since the 2015 NCAAs. In this span focusing on the 100m hurdles, she dropped her personal best from 12.50 to 12.24 seconds. Her international breakout could have come last year, had she not false started out of the World Championships semifinals in Beijing on Aug. 28.

Stockholm will mark her final top-level international meet before the Olympic Trials. Full start lists are here.

Five events to watch in Stockholm:

Women’s Long Jump — 1:15 p.m. ET

Arguably the deepest field in Stockholm includes reigning Olympic champion Brittney Reese and all three 2015 World Championships medalists — American Tianna Bartoletta, Great Britain’s Shara Proctor and Serbian Ivana Španović.

Reese is the top-ranked American this year, but Bartoletta could use a strong mark in Stockholm. She is ranked No. 6 in the U.S. combining indoor and outdoor marks in 2016.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 2:03 p.m. ET

The start list features three Americans who own a combined eight Olympic and World 400m hurdles medals — 2012 Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley and 2008 Olympic silver and bronze medalists Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson.

Tinsley is the fastest of the trio this year, clocking 48.74 seconds at the Pre Classic. But an Olympic team of Tinsley, Clement and Jackson is unlikely, because the fastest American this year is Johnny Dutch. Dutch, who is not in Stockholm, doubles as the fastest in the world this year at 48.10. Nobody else has bettered 48.67.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 2:37 p.m. ET

Keni Harrison is undefeated in five 100m hurdles races this spring, running between 12.24 and 12.56 every time. The 2015 World Championship was won in 12.57, after Harrison false started out of the semifinals.

Nobody else in the Stockholm field has bettered 12.63 this year. The other Americans, two-time World Indoor 60m champion Nia Ali and 2008 400m hurdles Olympian Queen Harrison, rank tied for seventh in the U.S. this year. They need strong times to be considered among the favorites to make the Olympic team.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:45 p.m. ET

Olympic and World champion Christian Taylor is among four Americans in this field. He has little to prove. In addition to scaring the world record at 2015 Worlds, he easily ranks No. 1 in the world this year.

The Americans behind Taylor and Olympic silver medalist Will Claye (not in Stockholm) are more bunched as trials near. In Stockholm, Chris Benard (No. 3 in the U.S. this year), Omar Craddock (No. 4) and Chris Carter (No. 5) jostle for confidence ahead of Eugene, where they need to be top three.

Men’s 800m — 3:50 p.m. ET

David Rudisha caps the final event of the meet. The Olympic and World champion and world-record holder races the 800m for the first time since finishing fifth in Shanghai on May 14, when an ill-timed starter’s gun marred the competition.

In Stockholm, Rudisha faces 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Timothy Kitum of Kenya, 2013 World champion Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia and 2015 World silver medalist Adam Kszczot of Poland, all men who could make the Olympic final. There are no Americans lining up.

MORE: Bolt ‘almost falls over,’ beats Blake, Powell

Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

T.J. Oshie
Getty Images
Leave a comment

T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

MORE: NHL players vote on world’s best female hockey player

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

NHL closer to Olympic hockey return for 2022, 2026

Sidney Crosby Olympic Hockey
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NHL just took a major step to returning to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 after skipping the 2018 Winter Games.

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association announced a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that includes Olympic participation at the next two Winter Games in Beijing and Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Should the NHL, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the IOC agree, expect the world’s best players to compete for their nations during breaks in those NHL seasons.

Nine of the 12 nations have already qualified for the 2022 Olympic men’s hockey tournament. The groups and qualifiers are here.

The NHL participated in five straight Olympics from 1998-2014 before declining to pause its season for PyeongChang.

The 2018 Olympic men’s hockey rosters included players from every other major international league, led by Russia’s KHL, which made up the entire Olympic Athletes from Russia team that beat Germany in the final. The U.S. team included veterans in European leagues, the minor league AHL, collegians and captain Brian Gionta, a 2006 Olympian who had stepped away from the NHL.

In April 2017, the NHL announced it would not send its players to the 2018 Olympics due to a lack of concession from the IOC, IIHF or the NHLPA to entice owners and officials. At the time, the CBA did not include Olympic participation.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman then cited “fatigue” among team owners about taking an Olympic break every four seasons. Owners mentioned the risk of having their stars get injured, away from their teams in the middle of their seasons. South Korea, with its 14-hour time difference from New York, was also not as enticing a Winter Olympic host as, say, Canada or Russia.

Other issues Bettman and other league and team officials expressed included a lack of exposure and benefit for the NHL, the league’s inability to use the Olympics for marketing due to sponsorship rules and money.

MORE: 2014 Olympic stars on the 2022 Olympic roster bubble

Before and after the PyeongChang Olympics, Bettman doubted that the NHL would return for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

“I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the subject, but I think going to the Olympics is a challenge for us,” Bettman said last November after meetings with the IIHF. “I know the players love representing their countries. I know that the players like going. I know that the players that don’t go like having a break in the middle of the season. But from our standpoint, we have found going to the Olympics to be incredibly disruptive to our season.

“For us, at best, it’s a mixed bag.”

Canada came to dominate Olympic men’s hockey in the NHL era, taking gold in 2002, 2010 and 2014. Sidney Crosby, gold medalist in 2010 and 2014, will be 34 years old come the 2022 Olympics.

Alex Ovechkin, a three-time Olympian for Russia with zero medals, will be 36 years old. Only two Russian male Olympic hockey players have been older: Igor Larionov in 2002 and Sergei Fedorov in 2010, according to Olympedia.org.

Younger stars Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews (USA), Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy (Russia), Connor McDavid (Canada), David Pastrnak (Czech Republic) and Leon Draisaitl (Germany) could each play in their first Olympics in 2022.

MORE: NHL players vote on world’s best female hockey player

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!