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17 Olympic sports events to watch in 2017

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There are no Olympics in odd-numbered years, but a large majority of major sports will hold world championships in 2017. Plus, there’s that key date of Sept. 13 that could impact the Olympic movement for many years to come.

A look at 17 Olympic sports events to watch in 2017:

1. World Luge Championships
Innsbruck, Austria, Jan. 26-29

Germany swept the gold medals in Olympic events again at the 2016 World Championships, but U.S. sliders continue to gain ground. Erin Hamlin won the first U.S. Olympic singles medal in Sochi and has since been part of a group of sliders to make World Cup podiums, including Emily Sweeney, Summer Britcher, Chris Mazdzer, Tucker West and the doubles team of Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman.

2. Winter X Games
Aspen, Colo., Jan. 26-29

The world’s best winter action sports stars will jostle for Olympic favorite status at their biggest annual gathering. The event could include Chloe Kim, a 16-year-old who won the last two women’s snowboard halfpipe titles, and Shaun White, who was controversially missing from last year’s X Games for the second time this millennium. Other potential PyeongChang stars with X Games experience include freeskiers Maddie BowmanGus Kenworthy and Kelly Sildaru and snowboarders Jamie Anderson, Sage Kotsenburg and Mark McMorris.

3. World Alpine Skiing Championships
St. Moritz, Switzerland, Feb. 6-19

In 2015, the World Alpine Skiing Championships brought together the greatest collection of U.S. Alpine talent in history. Those skiers since went very separate ways. Mikaela Shiffrin is the only U.S. Olympic medalist with a World Cup podium finish this season, and she has seven of them (with six wins). Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety have all missed substantial time in the last two years due to injuries. And Bode Miller will not be racing in St. Moritz, but he’s not quite done yet.

VIDEO: Vonn details most painful injury of career

4. World Biathlon Championships
Hochfilzen, Austria, Feb. 6-19

The recent Russian doping problems have impacted biathlon more than most sports, but the stars to watch remain the same. France’s Martin Fourcade was 2.8 seconds shy of sweeping the four individual events at 2016 Worlds. Motivated, he’s already won seven of the first eight World Cup events this season. Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, owner of a record 13 Winter Olympic medals, continues to contend at age 42. He earned four medals at 2016 Worlds and ranks fourth in this season’s overall standings. He’s married to Belarus’ Darya Domracheva, a three-time 2014 Olympic champion who is competing in January for the first time since March 2015 after a break due to mononucleosis and childbirth.

5. World Single Distance Championships
Gangneung, South Korea, Feb. 9-12

The 2018 Olympic venue will host speed skating’s biggest competition of the year. The U.S. team memorably flopped in Sochi, but only the Netherlands has earned more medals at the last two world championships combined. Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma lead the U.S. charge, while Shani Davis gears up for one more Olympic run.

6. World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships
Koenigssee, Germany, Feb. 13-26

This event was originally awarded to Sochi, but the recent reports of Russian doping violations (and boycott threats) saw them stripped and handed to the world’s sliding sports power in Germany. The U.S. has medal threats in every event. The biggest story in the sport may be the rise of South Korea, which boasts World Cup winners in two-man bobsled and men’s skeleton, though the South Koreans aren’t focused on Koenigssee but PyeongChang.

MORE: Olympic skeleton champion suspended

7. World Nordic Skiing Championships
Lahti, Finland, Feb. 22-March 5

World champions will be crowned in cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined. Eyes could be on Norwegian champion skiers who have dealt with different challenges since Sochi — Petter Northug (jail sentence), Marit Bjoergen (pregnancy) and Therese Johaug (suspension) — provided they make it to Lahti.

8. World Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard Championships
Sierra Nevada, Spain, March 7-19

This will award more medals in Winter Olympic sports events than any other global competition in 2017. Though some top snowboarders and freeskiers are usually absent, the aerials and moguls results in particular will be telling for PyeongChang medal predictions. In 2018, the U.S. could be in line to earn more Olympic medals in aerials than moguls for the first time since 1998.

9. World Short Track Championships
Rotterdam, Netherlands, March 10-12

Short track is a national sport in South Korea, so it will be among the hottest tickets at the PyeongChang Winter Games. The world championships will provide a glimpse into where the Olympic host nation’s athletes stand relative to the rest of the world. If Olympic medals were awarded based on current World Cup standings, five different South Koreans would make individual podiums across the six events.

10. World Figure Skating Championships
Helsinki, March 29-April 2

The competition will determine how many spots each nation earns in each discipline at the PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. men and women will be under scrutiny to grab the maximum three Olympic berths. To do that, the two best American results per event must add up to no greater than 13 (if, say, Ashley Wagner finished sixth and Gracie Gold seventh). The U.S. entries for worlds will be named after the national championships in Kansas City from Jan. 19-22.

MORE: New U.S. skating star performed at 2010 U.S. Champs at age 10

11. World Women’s Hockey Championship Final
Plymouth, Mich., April 7

The U.S. and Canada have played in all 17 world championships gold-medal games, so let’s just jump ahead to the final day of the event. The rivalry story is a familiar one. Canada has dominated the Olympics (four straight titles). The U.S. has dominated worlds (six of the last seven titles). The winner in Plymouth becomes the PyeongChang 2018 favorite.

12. World Aquatics Championships
Budapest, July 14-30

These will be the first worlds or Olympics since 1998 with neither Michael Phelps (retired) nor Ryan Lochte (suspended). The headliners should be Olympic champions Katie Ledecky, Katinka Hosszu, Ryan Murphy, Adam Peaty and Kosuke Hagino.

13. World Beach Volleyball Championships
Vienna, Austria, July 28-Aug. 6

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross were unable to take Olympic gold, but perhaps their first world title together will come in 2017. Both players have captured world crowns with their previous partners (Misty May-Treanor and Jennifer Kessy), but Walsh Jennings’ shoulder injury hampered them at the 2015 Worlds, where they were bounced in the round of 16.

14. World Track and Field Championships
London, Aug. 4-13

Usain Bolt has said he will retire after this season (but maybe compete in 2018), so worlds sets up to be his final global championship meet. It also shapes up to be a farewell of sorts for Mo Farah, who is expected to switch to the marathon, and possibly Ashton Eaton, who may retire in 2017 but definitely won’t compete in the 2020 Olympics.

MORE: Bolt says why he won’t unretire like Michael Phelps

15. 130th IOC Session
Lima, Peru, Sept. 13-17

IOC members are scheduled to vote to choose the 2024 Olympic host city on Sept. 13. The finalists are Budapest, Los Angeles and Paris, with LA seeking to end the longest U.S. break between hosting Olympics since 1960. The IOC president has not ruled out awarding the 2024 and 2028 Olympics this year, with LA and Paris both reported as strong 2024 candidates.

16. World Gymnastics Championships
Montreal, Oct. 2-8

A new queen of gymnastics should be crowned, as it appears Olympic all-around gold and silver medalists Simone Biles and Aly Raisman will not compete in 2017. It’s unknown when Final Five teammates Gabby Douglas and Laurie Hernandez will return, or if Douglas comes back at at all.

There is no team event at worlds this year, so the all-around crowns will be the most coveted. Biles won the last three world titles on the women’s side, while Japan’s Kohei Uchimura took the last six men’s titles. There’s no reason to believe Uchimura won’t go for No. 7.

17. U.S. Olympic Curling Trials
Omaha, Nov. 12-19

The first athletes named to U.S. Winter Olympic teams are typically curlers. The Olympic Trials for PyeongChang are again held early in the winter sports season. The U.S. is in position to qualify men’s, women’s and mixed doubles teams for PyeongChang at the world championships in March and April. Mixed doubles makes its Olympic debut in 2018.

VIDEO: PyeongChang 2018 Olympic venue tour

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman, green teens at Olympic Trials, now stars

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Noah Lyles remembers all of it. Michael Norman is a little hazy on the details.

Even if they compete in different sprints (as they are at this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships), Lyles and Norman will always be linked by the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m final.

Both 18-year-olds. Both racing in high school singlets. Neither was expected to contend for the U.S. Olympic team at the start of the 10-day meet. But each won his 200m semifinal at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus two years ago.

The next day, the top three men in the 200m final would make the U.S. Olympic team. Lyles and Norman conversed in the call room before the race.

“Talking about how we were just doing this last year,” Lyles said, referencing his 200m win over Norman in the 2015 U.S. Junior Championships, also at Hayward. “I can’t believe we’re here, high schoolers, trying to bring a whole new generation.”

They entered the stadium.

“I remember walking down the track,” Lyles continued. “I can’t remember which race was going on, but I remember seeing Galen Rupp there, so it had to be the 5000m [it was, and perhaps the greatest race of the meet]. I remember everybody going wild for the distance race. All the people slamming on the front of the stands. Just starting to get hyped.”

Norman settled in lane six. Lyles in lane four. The starter’s gun fired.

“I remember running at the end,” Lyles said. “I had no idea what place I was in. I just saw LaShawn [Merritt] and Justin [Gatlin, a pair of Olympic champions] in front of me. That’s all that I saw, so I was really hoping I got third.”

Lyles didn’t see Ameer Webb in lane seven. Webb got third in 20.00 behind Gatlin and Merritt. Lyles was fourth in 20.09 (a national high school record). Norman was fifth in 20.14 (personal best).

Lyles and Norman just missed becoming the youngest U.S. man to make an Olympic track and field team in 32 years. Both left Eugene satisfied, though.

“That would be the only opportunity that both me and Noah Lyles will be able to go into the Olympic Trials with zero expectations and zero pressure,” Norman said this week.

Lyles and Norman are already U.S. Championships headliners at the midpoint of this Olympic cycle. Part of that is due to the absences of Gatlin, Merritt and Christian Coleman. But also what Lyles and Norman have done since those Olympic Trials.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Entries | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Lyles is a co-favorite in Friday’s 100m, a complementary event for a man who signed a reported eight-year contract with Adidas shortly after the Olympic Trials.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Lyles is the son of Seton Hall track and field athletes. His first Olympic memory is watching Usain Bolt‘s record-breaking performances at the 2008 Beijing Games. He ran in R2-D2 socks on May 4, is a sneaker artist, dancer and Lego lover and apparently has “ICON” tattooed on his side.

Since Olympic Trials, Lyles is undefeated in outdoor 200m races. He broke 20 seconds in May 2017 but suffered a hamstring tear during that race and withdrew during the U.S. Championships the next month. He watched the August world championships from his Florida home, then beat the surprise world champion Ramil Guliyev at the Diamond League final three weeks later.

This year, Lyles set personal bests in the 100m (9.93, .02 off the fastest in the world this year) and 200m (19.69, tied for fastest in the world this year) and ran the fastest indoor 300m of all time.

Norman is expected to win Sunday’s 200m in his first meet since announcing he would turn professional after the NCAA Championships. Norman is forgoing his final two years at the University of Southern California.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Norman also has former college runners as parents. His dad went to Ball State, then transferred to a junior college before joining the Navy. His mom said she was once the fastest Japanese middle school 100m runner of all time. Norman has no evidence, but he has seen pictures.

Like Lyles, Norman’s first Olympic memory was Bolt in 2008. He races in a headband after being inspired by 2015 World 100m bronze medalist Trayvon Bromell. Norman has “22” in his social media handles because it shares a keyboard piece with the @ symbol.

Norman was also slowed by injuries in that post-Olympic Trials season as he became primarily a 400m runner at USC.

Shin splints. A stress reaction in his back. A hamstring strain that he reinjured in practice five weeks later. Norman did compete at the 2017 U.S. Championships, but not at full fitness, and finished seventh, missing the world championships 4x400m pool by one spot. He said this week is about “self redemption.”

Norman’s sophomore year at USC was a healthy one. Norman broke the 400m indoor record on March 10. He has taken .99 of a second off his outdoor 400m personal best, winning the NCAA title in 43.61. That’s the fastest time in the world since Wayde van Niekerk‘s world record 43.03 at the Rio Olympics. Norman is now the sixth-fastest 400m runner ever.

“I see myself as both a 200m and 400m runner,” said Norman, who hasn’t raced the 200m at a significant meet since winning the world U20 title two weeks after the Olympic Trials.

Norman and Lyles chose to room together at the 2016 World U20 Championships in Poland. They joked who would be put on the 4x400m relay (Norman led off, Lyles anchored, and the U.S. beat Japan by .08). Unlike trials, Norman has a better memory of the experience.

“Before [Lyles] raced his 100m final, he was talking to a sports psychologist,” he said. “I didn’t really know that people did that.”

Norman also remembers that Lyles is 2-0 in their all-time head to head. They could have raced this week, but Lyles chose the 100m. They are both entered in a 200m at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne on July 5.

“That’s one of my huge goals for the year, race Noah Lyles,” Norman said at the Olympic Trials.

They haven’t raced against each other since that day in Eugene. Norman had a dry-erase board at his USC dorm room on which he scribbled goals,. Though he never wrote anything about Lyles, he is certainly looking forward to their next meeting.

“It brings some more light to the sport, having rivalries like this may pique other people’s interest,” said Norman, who has gone about a year without ice cream but will indulge a Baked Bear double-decker ice-cream sandwich at the end of the season. “As long as it doesn’t become a negative, where we’re not conversing or being friendly, it will be beneficial to track and both of our careers.”

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Five men’s events to watch at USATF Outdoor Championships

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The featured men’s events at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships have a bit of everything.

Dominance from Olympic medalists Ryan Crouser (shot put) and Paul Chelimo (5000m). Promise in the form of Noah Lyles (100m), Michael Norman (200m) and Grant Holloway (110m hurdles). Overcoming adversity — Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) and Clayton Murphy (800m).

A Lyles-Norman showdown in the 200m would have enough spice to headline this meet on its own, but Lyles decided against the double. That enhances the likelihood that the biggest story in Des Moines could come from one of many events on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

There is no Olympic or world championships team to qualify for this year, which is why established stars like Justin GatlinChristian Coleman and LaShawn Merritt are out.

But their absences could yield the emergence of first-time national champions. Just look at 2014, when that list included Tianna BartolettaKori CarterJeff HendersonSam Kendricks and Joe Kovacs, all of whom have since won Olympic or world titles.

USATF Outdoors: TV Schedule | Entries | Women’s Preview | Men’s Preview

Five men’s events to watch this week:

100m (Final — Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBC Sports Gold)
World gold and silver medalists Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman are missing, but two more impressive sprinters this outdoor season go head-to-head. Noah Lyles, who finished fourth in the 200m at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 18 and is since undefeated in that event, drops down for his first 100m at a major meet as a professional. Lyles has the joint-fastest 200m in the world this year. He chose the 100m this week for two reasons — he can improve more in the 100m than the 200m over three rounds and to try something different given his race schedule the rest of the summer is tailored for the 200m. Lyles is forgoing a matchup with Michael Norman in the 200m this week, but he should have his hands full with Ronnie Baker. Baker, who grew up running cross-country and avoiding the moose in Alaska, has been the most impressive American in the 100m this year. Baker beat a slightly injured Coleman at consecutive Diamond League meets in May and, with favorable wind, should improve on his personal best of 9.93 and overtake the fastest time in the world this year (Zharnel Hughes‘ 9.91). As should Lyles, who also has a personal best of 9.93.

Shot Put (Saturday, 3:45 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports Gold)
All four men from Rio and the 2017 Worlds are here, including Olympic gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs. Crouser, whose father, two uncles and two cousins were elite throwers, has won 13 of his last 14 head-to-heads with Kovacs, who was taught to throw by his mom in his Pennsylvania high-school parking lot. Crouser also won his last 13 of 14 head-to-heads with Rio Olympian Darrell Hill, according to Tilastopaja.org. Crouser also has the top 23 throws by an American this year out of his 24 total legal throws in 2018 competition, according to Tilastopaja.

1500m (Final — Saturday, 5:40 p.m. ET, NBC)
Is Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz vulnerable? He was upset at nationals last year by Robby Andrews. Centrowitz revealed afterward that he competed on 10 days of training after a series of health problems that included an emergency-room visit with a viral infection. Then at worlds, a listless Centrowitz finished last in his first-round heat and said he was unable to get more than two straight weeks of healthy training all season. The 28-year-old heads into Des Moines ranked behind Andrews and Johnny Gregorek on best times this season. At last month’s Pre Classic, Centrowitz was beaten by a countryman (Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy, not racing the 1500m this week) at a major race at Hayward Field for the first time in five years.

800m (Final — Sunday, 4:13 p.m. ET, NBC)
Maybe the deepest field at nationals. The six fastest Americans since the start of 2016 are here. Clayton Murphy took bronze at the Rio Olympics but withdrew during 2017 Nationals with sore hamstrings and missed worlds. Boris Berian went from flipping burgers at McDonald’s to winning the 2016 World Indoor title and placing second at the Olympic Trials. He didn’t race at all in 2017 (Achilles) and ranks 186th in the U.S. this year. Donavan Brazier won the 2017 U.S. title and 2018 U.S. Indoor title at age 20 but hasn’t raced outdoors this year. Drew Windle took silver at world indoors on March 3. NCAA champion Isaiah Harris and Erik Sowinski are the fastest Americans this outdoor season.

110m Hurdles (Final — Sunday, 5:52 p.m. ET, NBC)
An intergenerational group with 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt, 2016 Olympic Trials winner Devon Allen and Grant Holloway, a rising University of Florida junior who won all four NCAA hurdles titles his first two years and ranks second in the world this season. Merritt underwent a kidney transplant in 2015, then missed the 2016 Olympic team by .01 and missed a national title in 2017 by .07 behind Aleec Harris (who is also in this field). Allen, the former University of Oregon wide receiver, looked primed to break 13 seconds after he won the trials in 13.03, but that remains his personal best. Holloway clocked his personal best of 13.15 on May 13 and is the only American to break 13.20 this year. It’s been nearly three years since an American broke 13 seconds, the longest drought in more than two decades.

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