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.

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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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