Five events to watch at Diamond League finals at Zurich

Allyson Felix
Getty Images
1 Comment

Led by one of the greatest women’s sprint lineups of all time on Thursday, the track and field season culminates with two Diamond League finals meets in the next nine days.

Allyson Felix races for the first time since the Rio Olympics in Zurich on Thursday. She returns to her trademark event, the 200m, to face the reigning Olympic and world champions, plus her longtime rival.

Several other Olympic and world champions are in action with Diamond League season titles on the line. More on the Diamond League standings, event by event, is here. Full start lists are here.

Here are five events to watch Thursday:

Men’s Pole Vault — 12:45 pm. ET

The top five from the Olympics are in this field, which means a rematch between gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil and silver medalist Renaud Lavillenie. Remember, Lavillenie was booed in Rio, where he went in as the odds-on favorite. As Braz cleared his personal-best height and became a gold-medal threat, the home crowd got behind him and started audibly rooting against the Frenchman Lavillenie.

Lavillenie later compared the jeers to those Jesse Owens received at the 1936 Berlin Games, but he later apologized and rescinded the comment. The boos continued at the medal ceremony the next day, causing Lavillenie to weep.

Men’s Shot Put — 2:05 p.m. ET

The top seven from the Olympics compete here, led by U.S. gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs. Kovacs, the 2015 World champion, went into the Olympics ranked No. 1 in the world for the year. But Crouser unleashed the three best throws of his life for the upset in Rio.

Crouser and Kovacs went head to head in Paris last Saturday, but the winner was New Zealand Olympic bronze medalist Tom Walsh. Crouser was second, with Kovacs a concerning eighth.

Women’s 200m — 2:34 p.m. ET

The field includes three of the six fastest women of all time — 2012 Olympic champion Allyson Felix, 2015 World champion Dafne Schippers and 2016 Olympic champion Elaine Thompson. Plus, 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown.

It’s the first race since Rio for Felix, who missed the U.S. Olympic team in the 200m by .01 at Trials, when she was slowed by an ankle injury. The Zurich field is certainly more formidable than what Felix faced in the 400m in Rio, where she lost to a diving Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas.

Women’s 800m — 3:02 p.m. ET

All eight from the Olympic final return, led by gold medalist Caster Semenya. As usual, all eyes will be on the South African in her first race since breaking her national record in Rio.

Semenya clocked 1:55.28 at the Olympics, where it was thought she could have challenged the 33-year-old world record of 1:53.28. Semenya has lowered her times consistently this year. She’s now ranked No. 11 all time in the 800m. Another .02 drop from her Olympic clocking will move her into the top 10.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 3:12 p.m. ET

American Keni Harrison has been nearly as dominant as Semenya this year, except for at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where she finished sixth and shockingly missed the Rio team.

Harrison, one of 11 siblings, didn’t let the failure faze her. She broke the world record at her next meet July 22 and then returned after an Olympic break to easily win in Lausanne and Paris. She now owns eight of the nine fastest times in the world this year. Like in Lausanne and Paris, Harrison will not face any of the Rio Olympic medalists — Americans Brianna RollinsNia Ali and Kristi Castlin are sitting out.

MORE: Devon Allen weighs turning pro in track and field

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

0 Comments

Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

0 Comments

One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!