Justin Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell
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Ten men’s events to watch at U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

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More than 100 athletes will qualify for Rio by the end of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10 on NBC Sports.

The top three finishers per event, provided they meet the Olympic standard, are in line to go to the Games. More finishers in the men’s and women’s 100m and 400m sprints, usually the top six, make the team for the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

The U.S. Olympic track and field team is always the largest in size across all sports.

This year’s squad could be favored for even more success than 2012, when it led the medal standings with 28 total and nine gold, with the Russian track and field out of the picture for now.

However, the U.S. will look to bounce back from the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where it topped the medal table with 18 overall, its smallest haul since 2003. Jamaica and Kenya took more golds.

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Here are 10 men’s events to watch:

Shot Put
July 1
2012 Olympics: Reese Hoffa (bronze), Christian Cantwell (fourth), Ryan Whiting (ninth)
2015 Worlds: Joe Kovacs (gold), Reese Hoffa (fifth), Christian Cantwell (12th), Jordan Clarke (first round)

Outlook: The U.S. has earned a men’s shot put medal at each of the last eight Olympics, and that streak figures to extend in Rio. That’s because of Kovacs, who finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials and has since emerged to become the best in the world. He had four of the five best throws in the world last year and has three of the four best this year. All three men’s shot putters could be first-time Olympians for the first time in 20 years, with Ryan Crouser and Kurt Roberts ranking Nos. 2 and 3 in the world this year.

10,000 Meters
July 1
2012 Olympics: Galen Rupp (silver), Dathan Ritzenhein (13th), Matt Tegenkamp (19th)
2015 Worlds: Galen Rupp (fifth), Hassan Mead (15th), Shadrack Kipchirchir (16th)

Outlook: Rupp is the premier U.S. distance runner and a heavy favorite. However, he may drop this event for Rio if he makes the team, since he previously won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. The Olympic 10,000m is on Aug. 13. The marathon is on Aug. 21. After Rupp, the most interesting man in the U.S. field is Bernard Lagat, who will try to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at age 41. Lagat owns two Olympic medals, but they were in the 1500m in 2000 and 2004. He failed to finish his last race, the Pre Classic 5000m on May 28.

400 Meters
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Tony McQuay (semifinals), Bryshon Nellum (first round), LaShawn Merritt (first round)
2015 Worlds: LaShawn Merritt (silver), David Verburg (semifinals), Bryshon Nellum (semifinals), Vernon Norwood (semifinals)

Outlook: Merritt is the clear favorite as the fastest American this year by six tenths of a second. Starting with Arman Hall, at least the next 10 fastest Americans this year are within .36 of each other. Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic champion now 32 years old, is farther down the list but slated to give it one more go.

800 Meters
July 1-4
2012 Olympics: Duane Solomon (fourth), Nick Symmonds (fifth), Khadevis Robinson (first round)
2015 Worlds: Clayton Murphy (semifinals), Erik Sowinski (semifinals), Casimir Loxsom (first round)

Outlook: Two-time Olympian Symmonds is out of Trials due to a torn ligament and stress fracture in his left ankle. Symmonds took his sixth U.S. outdoor title last year then missed the World Championships in a contract dispute. Meanwhile, NCAA champion Donavan Brazier and world indoor champion Boris Berian are ranked third and fourth in the world this year.

Decathlon
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Ashton Eaton (gold), Trey Hardee (silver)
2015 Worlds: Ashton Eaton (gold), Zach Ziemek (15th), Jeremy Taiwo (DNF), Trey Hardee (DNF)

Outlook: Eaton provided perhaps the greatest moment of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials when he broke the world record in Eugene. He did it again at the 2015 World Championships and shouldn’t be challenged here. Hardee, if healthy, is a solid runner-up favorite as the last man to beat Eaton at a global meet (2011 Worlds). But he reportedly dislocated a foot in January after dropping out during the 2015 Worlds with a back injury.

Long Jump
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Will Claye (silver), Marquise Goodwin (10th), George Kitchens (first round)
2015 Worlds: Jeff Henderson (ninth), Michael Hartfield (12th), Marquis Dendy (first round)

Outlook: Goodwin is the story here. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver will try to become the first person to play in the NFL regular season and then qualify for a Summer Olympic team. Goodwin was with the University of Texas when he competed in London. He took nearly three years off from the long jump before returning last summer. This year, he has the two best jumps in the world. Watch out for Henderson, who had the three best jumps in the world last year but had a disastrous World Championships final.

100 Meters
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Justin Gatlin (bronze), Tyson Gay (fourth), Ryan Bailey (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Justin Gatlin (silver), Trayvon Bromell (bronze), Mike Rodgers (fifth), Tyson Gay (sixth)

Outlook: Gatlin, while recently slower than his torrid spring pace from last year, is the clear favorite. Bromell, the 20-year-old future of U.S. sprinting, is a serious question mark due to an Achilles injury. The Trials will mark Bromell’s first race in one month. Luckily for him, he can still make the Olympic team in the relay by finishing top six. The joint-second-fastest American this year, Ameer Webb, curiously scratched to focus on the 200m.

Triple Jump
July 7-9
2012 Olympics: Christian Taylor (gold), Will Claye (silver)
2015 Worlds: Christian Taylor (gold), Omar Craddock (fourth), Marquis Dendy (first round), Will Claye (first round)

Outlook: After his Olympic title, Taylor struggled a little and then decided to change his takeoff leg. The risky upheaval paid dividends in 2015, when he recorded the second-best triple jump of all time, one cigarette shy of Jonathan Edwards’ world record from 1995. Taylor owns the two best triple jumps in the world this year. He’s followed by Claye, Chris Benard and Craddock all in the world top six.

1500 Meters
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Leo Manzano (silver), Matthew Centrowitz (fourth), Andrew Wheating (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Matthew Centrowitz (eighth), Leo Manzano (10th), Robby Andrews (11th)

Outlook: Centrowitz’s international standing took a hit last year. He had previously finished fourth or better at the 2011 Worlds, 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, but never won. Still, he is the cream of the American crop. Manzano has looked less impressive since London, which means two berths are likely up for grabs behind Centrowitz.

110 Meter Hurdles
July 8-9
2012 Olympics: Aries Merritt (gold), Jason Richardson (silver), Jeff Porter (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Aries Merritt (bronze), David Oliver (seventh), Aleec Harris (semifinals), Ronnie Ash (first round)

Outlook: The world-record holder Merritt is the story here, after earning bronze at Worlds with kidney function at less than 20 percent. He is coming back from a Sept. 1 kidney transplant (and a follow-up procedure in October). Incredibly, Merritt has returned to rank third in the U.S. so far this year, behind Oliver and Ash.

MORE: Lolo Jones scratches out of Olympic Trials

Loena Hendrickx on the rise, making Grand Prix debut at Skate America

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Belgian teenager Loena Hendrickx made her Winter Olympic debut in PyeongChang, and began her short program with the aim of becoming the first from her country to qualify for a ladies’ singles free skate since Katrien Pauwels in 1988.

Fresh off a 14th place finish in the men’s event, brother Jorik sat in the stands. He looked away as the music – a cool arrangement of Madonna’s “Frozen” – began, and covered his eyes as the 18-year-old set up for a planned triple lutz, triple toe combination.

Eight years younger than her two-time Olympian elder brother, Hendrickx knew the feeling.

“I get nervous when he competes, too,” she explained after winning a bronze medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy, an ISU Challenger Series event. “I might be even more nervous watching him than when I have to skate myself, because I don’t know how he’s feeling on the ice, and I can’t control his skate.”

She ultimately landed the combination – albeit under-rotated – and bested Pauwels’ result from Calgary by one place, finishing 16th overall. Even stronger skates were to come at the world championships in Milan, where she beat reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova in the free skate to earn a Top 10 total score and qualify for her first-ever Grand Prix events in the upcoming season.

“I’m very excited because that’s something you wish for. The first one is immediately in Skate America, so it’s very exciting. I’ve never been to the States before!”

Jorik was initially scheduled to skate alongside his sister at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash., but opted to withdraw and spend the start of the season working with other athletes, including Loena.

“He is working with me sometimes. I really can learn a lot from him because he has the knowledge and experience. I think he can teach me a lot.”

While the siblings work primarily with coach Carine Herrygers, Jorik assisted Loena in selecting her “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” short program music, another ’90s hit by Céline Dion.

“I really liked my program [“The Prayer” by Dion and Josh Groban] from two years ago, and so I think I chose the same style. I researched more of her music, and it was my brother who found this song. I didn’t like it at the beginning because I had another song I liked more.

“In the end, Jorik convinced me to take this one because it’s more powerful and I can skate better to powerful music.”

Hendrickx debuted the program in Oberstdorf, earning personal best scores to make the podium alongside Zagitova and Mai Mihara. More importantly, she achieved her pre-season goal of landing the lutz-toe combination – with positive Grades of Execution – in both phases of the competition.

While most of her competitors made waves as juniors, the Belgian struggled with multiple injuries – a 2016 stress fracture in her back, later a bone bruise on her landing knee – that kept her from eliciting the buzz many top skaters get on the Junior Grand Prix.

“After I healed, I was very happy to begin building back up again. For a long time, I worked on my fitness to make my back and body stronger. That made my jumps stronger and helped me perform better, more consistently.”

In a field that includes two-time world medalist Satoko Miyahara and U.S. national champion Bradie Tennell, Hendrickx heads to Skate America armed with a competitive technical arsenal, and a dose of inspiration imparted by her brother on the ice.

“In Belgium, there are fewer opportunities to be successful when you’re younger because it’s very difficult to combine skating with school. Jorik taught me that you never have to give up on your dreams. If you work hard, you’ll see where you can go.”

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Chris Mazdzer adds doubles luge after Olympic medal

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Olympic luge silver medalist Chris Mazdzer is doubling up this winter.

Mazdzer has decided to compete in both singles and doubles in World Cup events, in large part because USA Luge didn’t have another option to partner with Olympic doubles veteran Jayson Terdiman.

If the Americans didn’t have a senior doubles team ready for the World Cup, they wouldn’t have been able to compete in team relays this winter — and Terdiman effectively would have been forced into retirement.

“It’s a lot of motivation,” Mazdzer said Monday from Lake Placid, New York, where he and Terdiman took five training runs together at Mount Van Hoevenberg on the season’s opening day for sliding at USA Luge’s home track. “I like when people are like, ‘Chris, you won’t be able to do that.’ This hasn’t been done successfully in two-plus decades. But why not now?”

The move also brings Mazdzer back to his roots. He and Terdiman were successful as a junior team, medaling twice at world championships and winning USA Luge’s team-of-the-year honors for the 2007-08 season.

“It could be something,” Terdiman said. “We’re hoping we’re able to find that magic. It’s asking a lot, but we have a lot of confidence in our own abilities.”

Mazdzer became the first American men’s singles luge athlete to win an Olympic medal, grabbing the silver at the PyeongChang Games earlier this year. Terdiman is a two-time Olympian in doubles, going in 2014 with Christian Niccum and this year with Matt Mortensen. Niccum retired after the 2014 Olympics, and Mortensen retired after PyeongChang.

So Terdiman spent the summer without a partner, and a couple of hours before former USA Luge teammate Megan Sweeney’s wedding, he and Mazdzer got together for coffee.

“I thought about retirement a lot this summer,” Terdiman said. “It was going to be forced if I didn’t have anybody to slide with, and that was a very real thing until Chris and I sat down a couple hours before Megan’s wedding. We talked about him doing both. The confidence he has in himself is very large. He’s going to give it a shot and we’ll see what happens.”

Mazdzer understands that this means he will have a most unusual winter.

There are nine World Cup races this season, and six of those call for the men’s race and the doubles race to be contested on the same day — so Mazdzer will be logging very long hours at the track. There also were International Luge Federation rules to consider about training runs; sliders typically get five or six runs at a track before a World Cup, and Mazdzer will be permitted to get the full allotment of training in both disciplines.

“I’m really pumped about this,” Mazdzer said. “Having the team relay is a huge part of being on the U.S. team. I want to see the U.S. win team relays. I think we’re capable. We have a fantastic team and if doubles works out, we’ve got a shot.”

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