Allyson Felix
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Elaine Thompson beats Allyson Felix in Zurich; Diamond League recap

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Allyson Felix‘s return to her trademark event, the 200m, ended in defeat at a Diamond League finals meet in Zurich on Thursday.

Felix was beaten by Jamaican Elaine Thompson in a matchup of the last two Olympic 200m champions and Felix’s first race since the Rio Games.

Thompson won in 21.85 seconds (video here), the fastest time in Diamond League history, her second victory in as many races since sweeping the Olympic 100m and 200m titles in Rio.

The Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers was second, .01 behind, one year after beating Thompson by .03 in the world championships 200m.

Felix took third in 22.02 seconds on Thursday. She was nearly even with Thompson coming around the curve, but the Jamaican opened up a short lead at the start of the final straight. Felix was unable to close the gap.

Felix improved mightily on her Olympic Trials 200m time of 22.54 seconds, when she was slowed by a toe injury and missed the Olympic team by .01.

Had Felix ran 22.02 at the Olympic Trials, she would have finished second and made the Olympic team in that event. Had Felix ran 22.02 in Rio, she would have earned bronze behind Thompson and Schippers.

Of course, Felix won the 400m at the Olympic Trials and went on to take silver in Rio behind diving Bahamian Shaunae Miller.

Full Zurich Diamond League results are here.

In other events, South African Olympic champion Caster Semenya won the 800m in 1:56.44, leading the final lap and holding off silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi by .32. Semenya’s time in Rio, a national record, was 1:55.28.

Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.63, well of her world record of 12.20.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Shannon Rowbury won the 1500m with a late surge and post-finish-line dive in 3:57.78 (video here), beating Great Britain’s Laura Muir by .07. U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson was fourth. Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya was seventh.

U.S. Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Evan Jager led for much of the 5000m but was caught on the final lap and finished third. Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet won in 13:14.82, following up his Olympic 5000m silver medal. Two-time Olympic champion Mo Farah of Great Britain was not in Thursday’s race.

New Zealand’s Tom Walsh won the shot put among a field that included the top seven from Rio. Walsh, the Rio bronze medalist, beat U.S. Olympic gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs for the second time in six days.

The Diamond League season concludes in Brussels on Sept. 9.

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Elaine Thompson, Dafne Schippers, Allyson Felix

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s first Olympic track and field medalist, has coronavirus

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Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s lone Olympic track and field medalist, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to World Athletics and an Iranian news agency.

“We’ve received word from several Asian journalists that Iranian discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi has tested positive for coronavirus,” according to World Athletics. “[Hadadi] trains part of the year in the US, but was home in Tehran when he contracted the virus.”

Hadadi, 35, became the first Iranian to earn an Olympic track and field medal when he took silver in the discus at the 2012 London Games. Hadadi led through four of six rounds before being overtaken by German Robert Harting, who edged the Iranian by three and a half inches.

He was eliminated in qualifying at the Rio Olympics and placed seventh at last fall’s world championships in Doha.

Jordan Larson preps for her last Olympics, one year later than expected

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Whether the Tokyo Olympics would have been this summer or in 2021, Jordan Larson knew this: It will mark her final tournament with the U.S. volleyball team, should she make the roster.

“I’m just not getting any younger,” said Larson, a 33-year-old outside hitter. “I’ve been playing consistently overseas for 12 years straight with no real offseason.

“I also have other endeavors in my life that I want to see. Getting married, having children, those kinds of things. The older I get, the more challenging those become.”

Larson, who debuted on the national team in 2009, has been a leader the last two Olympic cycles. She succeeded Christa Harmotto Dietzen as captain after the Rio Games. Larson started every match at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

As long as Larson was in the building, the U.S. never had to worry about the outside hitter position, said two-time Olympian and NBC Olympics volleyball analyst Kevin Barnett.

“She played as if she belonged from the start,” he said. “They will miss her all-around capability. They’ll miss her ability to make everyone around her better. She’s almost like having a libero who can hit.”

Karch Kiraly, the Olympic indoor and beach champion who took over as head coach after the 2012 Olympics, gushed about her court vision.

“It’s a little dated now, but somebody like Wayne Gretzky just saw things that other people didn’t see on the hockey rink,” Kiraly said in 2018. “And I remember reading about him one time, and the quote from an opposing goalie was, oh my god, here he comes, what does he see that I don’t see right now? She sees things sooner than most people.”

Larson grew up in Hooper, Neb., (population 830) and starred at the University of Nebraska. She was a three-time All-American who helped the team win a national title as a sophomore. She had the opportunity to leave Nebraska and try out for the Olympics in 2008 but chose to remain at school for her final season.

She earned the nickname “Governor” as a Cornhusker State sports icon.

Larson helped the U.S. win its first major international title at the 2014 World Championship. She was also part of the program’s two stingers — defeats in the 2012 Olympic final and 2016 Olympic semifinals, both matches where the U.S. won the first set (and convincingly in 2012).

“It just gives me chills thinking about it now,” Larson said of the Rio Olympic semifinals, where Serbia beat the U.S. 15-13 in the fifth. “That team, we put in so much. Not just on the court but off the court working on culture and working on how are we best for each other. How can we be the best team? How can we out-team people? Certain teams have a better one player that’s a standout that we maybe didn’t have or don’t have. So how can we out-team the other teams? We had just put in so much work that was just heartbreaking.”

Larson and the Americans rebounded to win the bronze-medal match two days later.

“I don’t know anybody that didn’t have their heart ripped out. It was just a soul-crusher of a match,” Kiraly said of the semifinal. “More meaningful was what a great response everybody, including Jordan, mounted to the disappointment of that loss.”

The U.S. took fifth at worlds in 2018 and is now ranked second in the world behind China.

Larson spent the past club season in Shanghai. The campaign ended in mid-January. She hadn’t heard anything about the coronavirus when she took her scheduled flight back to California, learning days later that LAX started screening for it. Now, she’s working out from her garage.

Larson is in line to become the fifth-oldest U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball player in history, according Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Her decade of experience could go a long way to help the next generation of outside hitters, led by three-time NCAA champion and Sullivan Award winner Kathryn Plummer.

“If you’re coming into the USA program as an outside hitter, in the next year or the quad or the quad after that,” Barnett said, “the measuring stick is going to be Jordan Larson.”

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