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

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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

Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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U.S. men’s volleyball extends medal streak with bronze in World Cup

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With its medal-winning streak in jeopardy, the defending champion U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Egypt 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, Japan. Poland beat Iran later in the day to slip past the U.S. for silver behind unbeaten Brazil.

The experienced U.S. men have claimed a medal in the last four major international tournaments — gold in the 2015 World Cup, bronze in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 world championships and bronze in this year’s World Cup. The men also placed second in the 2019 Nations League and third in the first Nations League in 2018, though the team failed to medal in the last two editions of the World League in 2016 and 2017.

Most importantly for next year, the U.S. men swept their Olympic qualification tournament in August.

Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament, as he was in the 2015 tournament and in the 2018 world championships. Middle blocker Max Holt was also named to the tournament “Dream Team.

VIDEO: U.S.-Egypt highlights

The U.S. team’s World Cup started with a five-set loss to Argentina, which went on to finish fifth. The U.S. rebounded to beat Italy, world champion Poland, host Japan, Tunisia and Iran before losing to eventual champion Brazil. Border rival Canada took the U.S. to five sets, but sweeps against Australia and Brazil put the team in position to clinch its medal.

Heading into next year’s Olympics, the U.S. team has several internationally accomplished players. In addition to Christenson’s multiple awards, Matt Anderson was named the best opposite hitter in the world championship and Nations League in 2018, and Aaron Russell was named to the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympics. Russell, playing for Italian team Trentino, also was named MVP of the World Club Championship in December.

The U.S. women’s team also won two medals this year gold in the Nations League, silver in the World Cup and swept its own qualification tournament.

This success comes despite the lack of a professional league in the United States. USA volleyball announced last week it has processed paperwork for 257 women and 82 men to play in foreign leagues for the 2019-20, with more players to follow.

The World Cup is contested every four years, the year before the Olympics. The world championship takes place in even non-Olympic years. Qualification for the World Cup is more difficult — only 12 teams reach the tournament, while 24 teams take part in the world championship. 

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