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Justin Gatlin, Andre De Grasse face off at Diamond League opener

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If a sprinter is to beat Usain Bolt at his world championships farewell in August, it will likely be one of the men in the 100m field at the Diamond League opener in Doha on Friday.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Justin Gatlin and Andre De Grasse headline the first of 14 meets in the Diamond League season that runs to Sept. 1.

Universal HD will air live coverage Friday from noon-2 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Gold streaming the action from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Gatlin and De Grasse will each line up for an individual outdoors race for the first time since the Rio Olympics. They’ll be joined by former world-record holder Asafa Powell and South Africa’s Akani Simbine, who owns five of the eight fastest times in the world this year.

Doha start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

11 a.m. — Women’s shot put
11:15 — Women’s pole vault
11:45 — Men’s high jump
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:05 p.m. — Men’s javelin
12:14 — Men’s 1500m
12:25 — Women’s 800m
12:35 — Women’s 200m
12:45 — Men’s triple jump
12:50 — Women’s 100m hurdles
1:05 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
1:25 — Men’s 100m
1:35 — Men’s 400m hurdles
1:45 — Men’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s pole vault — 11:15 a.m. ET

Olympic gold and silver medalists Ekaterini Stefanidi (Greece) and Sandi Morris (U.S.) renew their rivalry. In 19 career meetings, Stefanidi holds a 10-9 edge, but Morris has won three of the four since Rio, according to Tilastopaja.org. The top outdoor clearance in the world this year is from 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr at 4.83 meters, but Suhr is not in the Doha field.

Women’s 800m — 12:25 p.m. ET

Ethiopian 1500m world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba picked an extremely difficult race for the first outdoor 800m of her career. Dibaba, who was upset by Kenyan Faith Kipyegon for Rio 1500m gold, will take on all three Olympic 800m medalists in Doha — South African Caster Semenya, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan Margaret Wambui.

Given there are three days between the 1500m and the 800m at the world championships in August, it’s conceivable that Dibaba could try to race both events in London.

Women’s 200m — 12:35 p.m. ET

The Rio gold and silver medalists duel here, too, with Jamaican Elaine Thompson and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers. Both will be chasing 22.09 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year set by Rio bronze medalist Tori Bowie last Friday. Bowie is not in the Doha field. Neither Thompson nor Schippers has ever run that fast this early in a year.

Women’s 3000m steeplechase — 1:05 p.m. ET

Olympic champion and world-record holder Ruth Jebet of Bahrain and Olympic bronze medalist and American record holder Emma Coburn make their season debuts.

Though Coburn shared the Rio podium with Jebet, the gap is large. Jebet’s world record set after the Olympics is 8:52.78, six seconds faster than the next-fastest clocking of all time. In fact, Jebet ran under Coburn’s American record (9:07.63) four times in 2016, including three times under 9 minutes.

Men’s 100m — 1:25 p.m. ET
In perhaps the highlight of the IAAF World Relays two weeks ago, De Grasse easily passed Gatlin on a 4x100m preliminary heat anchor leg. The Canadian De Grasse, 22, looked spry. Gatlin, 35, looked unable to find the extra gear he showed in spring 2014 and 2015.

One preliminary relay leg in April is far from a suitable sample size, but De Grasse is certainly promising at the moment. Keep in mind though that De Grasse does not have a history of blazing (wind-legal) times in the spring. In 10 races before the Rio Olympics in 2016, he had a best of 9.99 seconds.

It’s likely going to take faster to win in Doha. Not necessarily because of Gatlin, but the South African Simbine, who has raced at three meets this season and posted the following wind-legal times — 9.93, 9.98, 9.92, 9.94 and 9.95. Simbine was fifth in Rio behind Bolt, Gatlin, De Grasse and Yohan Blake.

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Mexico snatches Olympic baseball spot from U.S., which must now wait

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The U.S. was three outs from clinching a spot in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years. Instead, Mexico will play for an Olympic baseball medal for the first time, forcing the Americans to wait until March.

The Mexicans scored once in the ninth inning and walked off in the 10th, taking a winner-goes-to-the-Olympics game 3-2 at the Premier12 at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday.

Mexico joined Japan, Israel and South Korea in the six-team 2020 Olympic baseball tournament. Baseball returns to the Games in July for the first time since it was voted off the Olympic program following the 2008 Beijing Games. Baseball will not be on the Paris 2024 program but could return again for Los Angeles 2028.

Mexico, managed by former MLB infielder Juan Castro, rallied to deny what would have been an improbable U.S. run to the lone Olympic berth available for teams from the Americas at Premier12.

The U.S. needed four straight game results to go its way to remain in Olympic qualifying contention. From Wednesday through Saturday, the U.S. beat Chinese Taipei, Japan and South Korea beat Mexico and Chinese Taipei beat Australia.

On Sunday, the Americans were up 2-1 in the ninth inning. They were in prime position to qualify for the Olympics for the fifth time in six tries since it was added as a medal event in 1992.

Then Mexican designated hitter Matt Clark, who played for the U.S. at the 2011 Pan American Games and for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, smacked a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth. In extra innings, runners are placed on first and second to start each half-inning. Efren Navarro ended the game in the 10th on a walk-off single.

While Mexico celebrates its first Olympic baseball berth, the U.S. focus shifts to an Americas qualifier in March in Arizona (and, if necessary, a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei).

The roster at Premier12 included many double-A and triple-A prospects, but it remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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Alexandra Trusova qualifies for Grand Prix Final after win at Rostelecom Cup

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Alexandra Trusova, the Russian 15-year-old, won Rostelecom Cup in Moscow on Saturday to earn a spot in December’s prestigious six-skater Grand Prix Final. And notably, Russia swept all four disciplines on home ice.

Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva, also of Russia, earned the silver. Meanwhile, American Mariah Bell won the third Grand Prix medal of her career, a bronze.

Trusova fell on her opening quadruple Salchow attempt, but landed a quad Lutz and a quad toe, triple toe combination to follow. She also landed a quad toe, Euler, triple Salchow combination but fell on the next jumping combination, a triple Lutz, triple loop attempt.

Despite two falls, Trusova’s free skate earned 160.26 points, giving her enough to leapfrog Medvedeva for the title at 234.47 points. Trusova is into the Grand Prix Final by virtue of her wins in Moscow and at Skate Canada.

“I made some mistakes in short and free program and I’ll continue to work to skate two clean programs next time,” Trusova said via the International Skating Union (ISU). “I would like to compete with the men, because they can do a quad in the short program and we are not allowed to. Also, it would be interesting to compete with skaters that do many quads in the programs,” she added.

Medvedeva skated a clean program to the “Memoirs of a Geisha” soundtrack, including seven triples and two double Axels. The 19-year-old Russian laid her head on coach Brian Orser‘s shoulder and said “I’m tired” with a chuckle as she waited in the Kiss and Cry for her scores to be announced: 148.83 in the free skate for 225.76 total points.

“It is in my plans to learn a quad, I am working on the quad Salchow, but at the same time I need to make sure I stay healthy,” Medvedeva said through the ISU. “I’ll do everything I can for it and I hope to put it out there as soon as possible.”

Bell’s bronze is the third Grand Prix series medal of the her career, and second this season after another bronze at Grand Prix France. She skated without any major errors to K.D. Lang’s “Hallelujah.”

Earlier Saturday in the men’s event, Alexander Samarin, Dmitri Aliev, and Makar Ignatov completed a podium sweep for Russia. The last time three Russian men swept the podium at Rostelecom Cup was 1998, when Alexei Urmanov, Yevgeni Plushenko, and Alexander Abt completed the feat.

Samarin opened his free skate on Saturday with a quad Lutz, triple toe combination and only erred on his triple flip, which was called with an unclear edge. He earned 171.64 points in his free skate for a total score of 264.45 points.

Aliev, though, attempted two quad toes (one in combination) and earned positive Grades of Execution on both. His only major error came from an invalid triple Lutz as part of a jumping sequence in the second half of the program, which scored 169.42 points. He tallied 259.88 total points.

Both Samarin (silver at Grand Prix France) and Aliev (bronze at Skate America) have won medals this season during the Grand Prix series. Entries to December’s Grand Prix Final will be determined after the conclusion of NHK Trophy in Japan next weekend.

Ignatov’s free skate included a quad Salchow and a quad toe, both called clean. He scored 252.87 total points to edge Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno from Japan for the bronze by 0.63 points.

The lone U.S. men’s entry, Alex Krasnozhon, finished 10th.

The standings in ice dance did not change between the rhythm dance and the free dance. Russia’s Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov held on to their gold medal position and scored 126.06 points in the free dance for 212.15 total points. As last weekend’s winners at Cup of China, they solidified a berth to the Grand Prix Final.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada finished in second with a free dance score of 125.08 points for 207.64 points. They were surprise winners of Skate Canada, but have not definitively qualified for the Final. Spain’s Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin finished third with 185.01 total points. The U.S. did not have an ice dance entry.

Also Saturday, Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy of Russia won the pairs event after scoring 149.34 in the free skate to tally 229.48 points overall. Russia’s Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (two-time European champions and three-time World medalists) captured the silver medals with 216.77 total points. Russia sat in first, second, and third after the short program, but the third Russian pair in the field, Ksenia Stolbova and Andrei Novoselov, fell from third to fifth overall.

Germany’s Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nolan Seegert took the bronze with 186.16 total points, rising from sixth place after the short.

The last time one nation swept all four disciplines at a Grand Prix was Russia at this competition in 2005.

Rostelecom Cup Results
Women
1. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 234.47
2. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 225.76
3. Mariah Bell (USA) — 205.67
4. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 192.42
5. Ekaterina Ryabova (AZE) — 187.77
6. Yuhana Yokoi (JPN) — 182.68
7. Alexia Pagani (SUI) — 179.69
8. Chen Hongyi (CHN) — 175.77
9. Nicole Schott (GER) — 172.08
10. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 170.03
11. Stanislava Konstantinova (RUS) — 156.94
12. Emmi Peltonen (FIN) — 152.50

Men
1. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 264.45
2. Dmitri Aliev (RUS) — 259.88
3. Makar Ignatov (RUS) — 252.87
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 252.24
5. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 246.20
6. Deniss Vasiljevs (LAT) — 241.09
7. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO) — 237.59
8. Kazuki Tomono (JPN) — 237.54
9. Michal Brezina (CZE) — 236.47
10. Alex Krasnozhon (USA) — 216.28
11. Vladimir Litvintsev (AZE) — 209.07
WD. Daniel Samohin (ISR) — 56.94 (Short program only)

Pairs
1. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 229.48
2. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 216.77
3. Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert (GER) — 186.16
4. Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer (AUT) — 182.02
5. Ksenia Stolbova/Andrei Novoselov (RUS) — 177.51
6. Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 168.96
7. Rebecca Ghilardi/Filippo Ambrosini (ITA) — 162.76
8. Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov (USA) — 153.61

Ice Dance
1. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 212.15

2. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 207.64
3. Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 185.01
4. Natalia Kaliszek/Maksym Spodyriev (POL) — 178.70
5. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 175.43
6. Anastasia Shpilevaya/Grigory Smirnov (RUS) — 172.93
7. Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (CAN) — 169.90
8. Adelina Galyavieva/Louis Thauron (FRA) — 164.79
9. Anastasia Skoptcova/Kirill Aleshin (RUS) — 164.64
10. Jasmine Tessari/Francesco Fioretti (ITA) — 154.44

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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