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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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Emily Sisson a U.S. Olympic marathon trials favorite, thanks to Ireland

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Emily Sisson didn’t think she would become a professional runner until her last year of college. Now, at 28, she goes into the U.S. Olympic marathon trials as a contender for one of three Tokyo spots, if not the overall favorite.

“I’ve only done one marathon, so I definitely don’t feel like I’m an experienced marathoner,” Sisson said by phone last week from her Arizona base. “That’s the one question mark I’ve had all build-up.”

Predicting a marathon can be a crapshoot, but a Podiumrunner.com experts panel pegged Sisson to win. She is younger than any female U.S. Olympic marathoner since Anne Marie Lauck in 1996 (though fellow contender Jordan Hasay is a month younger).

Confidence stems from last April 28. Sisson clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow. She finished sixth — behind five East Africans. She crossed 3:25 ahead of sometimes training partner and mentor Molly Huddle, also a headliner at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (12 p.m. ET, NBC).

“We wanted to run faster,” Sisson said that day in London. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Sisson later mentioned a pre-race scare on the “Keeping Track” podcast. She tripped over a carpet jogging back from a bathroom, banged both knees 15 minutes before the start and got checked out physically by a chiropractor and mentally by her husband, who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Sisson then covered the final half of that marathon alone, a foreign feeling for the longtime track runner. At one point, she thought about having never before run more than 23 miles.

Her mind could have also wandered to sports memories that led her to the world’s strongest marathon: Attending a 1999 Women’s World Cup match and seeing her hero, Mia Hamm. As a soccer-playing teenager, being asked by a friend to join a track relay team. Or being told during a record-breaking high school career that she was reminiscent of 2004 Olympic marathoner Jen Rhines.

Sisson, whose dad ran and mom did gymnastics at the University of Wisconsin, transferred after one year in Madison to Providence. She had a best NCAA Championships finish of fourth going into her last year. Before that final season, Sisson was prepared to leave competitive running once her NCAA eligibility exhausted in pursuit of an MBA.

“I had been going through a bit of a funk with running,” she said. “I was getting a little tired.”

Things changed the summer before her senior year. She vacationed with then-boyfriend/now-husband Shane Quinn, a fellow Providence runner, in Quinn’s native Ireland. At one point, they altered training, ditching tempo runs for local road races. Sisson never before competed on the roads. She doesn’t remember the distances being exact. She does remember winning.

“That was a new, fun thing that kept the sport kind of fresh for me,” she said. “You finish, and you go into a local pub and have sandwiches.”

Providence coach Ray Treacy put Sisson in more road races that fall. The opportunity was right. She had no cross-country eligibility left while she readied for the winter and spring track seasons. She went on to win the 2015 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 5000m, a springboard to the pros (while still going after the MBA).

Sisson was set back by injury in 2016 and placed 10th in the Olympic trials 10,000m. She kept training under Treacy, and perhaps just as important, with Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m. Huddle, seven years older than Sisson, made her marathon debut after the Rio Olympics.

“Emily really looks up to her and is inspired by her,” Treacy said. “Molly has helped her out in numerous ways in training. … Making sure she’s not going overboard with the training, not running too fast. She kind of keeps her under control.”

Sisson made the last two world championships teams in the 10,000m, but Treacy thought marathon since 2015. They signed her up for the 2019 London Marathon, in part because Huddle was going to race it as her third career 26.2-miler. And in part to get Sisson ready for the Olympic trials in 10 months’ time.

The build-up was better than ideal. Sisson ran the second-fastest half marathon in U.S. history (on a record-eligible course) in January. She became the third-fastest U.S. woman all-time at 10,000m in March.

Come April, Treacy was impressed again just by watching Sisson after she crossed the London finish line in what would be the second-fastest marathon for a U.S. woman in 2019.

“It didn’t look like it took anything out of her,” Treacy said. “She recovered really fast. Within minutes, she was feeling pretty good. That was a good sign.”

Sisson returned home to Quinn and their golden retriever, Desmond, who has 1,400 Instagram followers. She skipped a fall marathon to compete in the 10,000m at track worlds in Doha, placing a respectable 10th.

The recent marathon build-up for trials went just as well, if not better, than the training for London.

“I’m definitely putting a bit of pressure on myself with this one,” Sisson said. “But at the same time, I don’t get caught up in so much what other people say. I don’t really read the articles about who’s the favorite or what chance you have of making the team.”

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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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