Caster Semenya wins Brussels 400m in personal best

Caster Semenya
AP
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Caster Semenya should definitely be taken seriously in the 400m.

Semenya, the scrutinized Olympic 800m champion, won a 400m race in a massive personal best in the final Diamond League meet of the season in Brussels on Friday.

The South African clocked 50.40 seconds, taking .34 off her personal best set earlier this year. It was her first time racing 400m against a top-level international field.

Semenya came from behind in the race and beat the Rio Olympic third- and fourth-place finishers, collapsing to the track after crossing the finish line. Video is here.

“This was a cheeky one,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF. “I had to come back from behind because I’m not used to run this distance in really important meets. But I’m happy of course with my PB.”

Her time would have placed fifth in Rio, but well behind gold medalist Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas (49.44) and silver medalist Allyson Felix (49.51).

Neither Miller nor Felix was in Friday’s race.

Semenya said on July 15 that she planned to race both the 400m and 800m in Rio, setting a potential anticipated clash with Felix, but she ended up entering just the 800m, as her coach had predicted in the spring.

Full Brussels results are here.

Earlier Friday, Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson won the 100m in 10.72 seconds (video here). Thompson now owns the three fastest times in the world this year — her national-record-tying 10.70 at the Olympic Trials, 10.71 in Rio and 10.72 on Friday.

“Honestly, I wanted faster this year, but OK, I won,” Thompson said, according to the IAAF.

Thompson became the third woman to clock sub-10.75 for the 100m at least three times in one year, joining Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988) and Marion Jones (1998).

U.S. Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris became the third woman ever to clear five meters in the pole vault, joining 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva and 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. She then took three attempts at a world-record height of 5.07 meters.

“Next season I’ll try longer poles and adept my grip to a higher grip,” Morris said, according to the IAAF. “If I master this new situation I’m sure I will break the world record soon.”

Morris then sang a line from Anna Kendrick‘s “Cups” in the post-meet news conference.

Shannon Rowbury broke Molly Huddle‘s two-year-old American record in the 5000m, finishing fifth in 14:38.92.

VIDEO: Car beats Kenyan in Diamond League race

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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