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Joss Christensen must battle back from major injury to defend Olympic title

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Olympic ski slopestyle champion Joss Christensen landed awkwardly and felt a pop in his right knee while training three weeks ago.

“The first thought in my mind was, it’s over,” Christensen recalled in a phone interview Thursday.

It’s not.

Christensen, one of the biggest surprises of the Sochi Winter Games, suffered a torn ACL and meniscus, plus an MCL sprain in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on May 10.

He underwent surgery May 18 and had another knee scope last Friday due to excess swelling.

He expects to be off snow for the next five and a half months.

The 25-year-old plans to be competition ready around mid-December, right around the start of PyeongChang Olympic qualifying. No more than four men will earn Olympic berths after a series of selection events.

Christensen’s initial fear that he wouldn’t be able to defend his Olympic title in February has given way to a fighter’s spirit.

“I know that a lot of the other skiers are probably counting me out right now,” he said. “This puts me right back where I like to be. There’s no target on my back this time. I’m the underdog again. I just want to prove everyone wrong.”

Christensen was overlooked going into the 2013-14 Olympic season. He finished eighth and 12th at the first two Olympic qualifiers but won the last selection event for Sochi, wrapping up the final U.S. berth.

Christensen then led a U.S. Olympic ski slopestyle podium sweep with Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper.

He dedicated the surprise victory to his father, who had died of a congenital heart problem six months earlier.

Christensen struggled with injuries after Sochi. There were rabies and tetanus shots after a dog bit him in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He broke his left hand and bruised his left knee and suffered cartilage damage at the 2016 Winter X Games.

Christensen underwent left knee surgery last summer and was off snow for four months.

He returned to finish sixth at X Games last January. More importantly, he ranked second among Americans behind McRae Williams.

Christensen said last fall he expected the 2017-18 season to be his last. Now, he’s not as sure.

“My goal right now is I’m going to keep competing as long as I’m getting invited to the contests,” he said.

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Stars align for historic Diamond League weekend; TV, stream info

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The Diamond League has never had a weekend like this.

Four straight days of competition between two meets for the first time in the series’ nine-year history. Track and field’s established champions — Caster SemenyaElaine ThompsonChristian Taylor — and rising stars — Noah LylesChristian ColemanJuan Miguel Echevarria — dot the fields in Monaco on Thursday and Friday and London on Saturday and Sunday.

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live broadcast coverage, streamed on NBC Sports Gold along with additional events and commercial-free feeds.

Friday — Monaco
Olympic Channel — 2-4 p.m. ET
NBC Sports Gold — 1:35-4

Saturday — London
Olympic Channel — 9-11 a.m. ET
NBC Sports Gold — 8:30-11

Sunday — London
Olympic Channel — 9-11 a.m. ET
NBC Sports Gold — 8:45-11

Following Monaco and London, there will be just one more Diamond League meet (Birmingham, Great Britain, on Aug. 18) before the two-leg Diamond League finals in Zurich and Brussels on Aug. 30-31.

The fallow season (no Olympics, no world outdoor championships) is almost over, but there is plenty to be decided at two of the Diamond League’s strongest annual meets.

Here are the entry lists for Monaco and for London. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Thursday — Monaco
12 p.m. — Women’s Shot Put
1:15 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put

Friday — Monaco
1:35 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
1:45 — Men’s 1000m
2:03 — Women’s 400m
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Men’s High Jump
2:15 — Men’s 800m
2:25 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
2:35 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:50 — Women’s 100m
3 — Men’s 1500m
3:15 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:25 — Women’s 800m
3:35 — Men’s 200m
3:45 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Saturday — London
8:30 a.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
8:33 — Women’s 3000m
9:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
9:09 — Women’s Javelin
9:30 — Women’s Long Jump
9:55 — Men’s 400m
10:05 — Men’s 5000m
10:26 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
10:38 — Women’s 100m
10:50 — Men’s 100m

Sunday — London
8:45 — Women’s Discus
9:04 — Women’s 400m
9:09 — Women’s High Jump
9:31 — Men’s Long Jump
9:37 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
9:48 — Women’s 800m
9:58 — Men’s 800m
10:08 — Men’s 1500m
10:19 — Men’s 200m
10:29 — Women’s 200m
10:39 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
10:49 — Women’s Mile

Here are 10 events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — Friday, 1:35 p.m. ET
A gathering of the top seven women in the world this year (indoors and outdoors). Though U.S. Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris won the world indoor title on March 3, London Olympic champion Jenn Suhr and New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney have been the best outdoors this spring and summer.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — Friday, 2:35 p.m. ET
The 11 fastest women in the world this year in one of the deepest fields in Diamond League history for any event. The headliners are the top four from the 2017 World Championships — U.S. gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs and Kenyans Hyvin Kiyeng and Beatrice Chepkoech. Plus, Kenyan Celliphine Chespol, second-fastest all-time in the event. This could be an opportunity for Coburn and Frerichs to chase the 9-minute barrier, which no North American has broken (Coburn’s American record is 9:02.58). Olympic champion and world-record holder Ruth Jebet has not competed since January due to a reported doping issue.

Women’s 100m — Friday, 2:50 p.m. ET
Missing the top Americans (world champion Tori Bowie and U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs), but it has most of the international stars. That includes Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who hasn’t been the same since she was shockingly fifth at 2017 Worlds and hasn’t won a meet outside of Jamaica this year. Marie-Josée Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast, fastest in the world in 2018 at 10.85, has to be the favorite.

Men’s 1500m — Friday, 3 p.m. ET
First time Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz faces all three 2017 World medalists — Kenyans Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot and Norwegian Filip Ingebrigtsen — since this meet last year. Cheruiyot crushed Manangoi and Centrowitz in the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic on May 26. The 22-year-old has one loss all year, runner-up to Manangoi at the Commonwealth Games, and has the three fastest 1500m times for 2018.

Women’s 800m — Friday, 3:25 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts her near-three-year win streak on the line against the next seven fastest women this year, including Olympic silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba and world bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson. Semenya broke the South African record at this meet the last two years. She’s already chopped .91 off her national record this year to become the fourth-fastest all-time. She is .97 shy of the 35-year-old world record.

Men’s 200m — Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET
U.S. 100m champion Noah Lyles puts his two-year 200m win streak on the line. Challengers include surprise world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, who is 0-3 against Lyles all-time, and Ameer Webb, who won the national title in Lyles’ absence on June 24. Lyles clocked 19.69 seconds in his last two 200m races, tying South African Clarence Munyai (not in the Monaco field) for the fastest time in the world since August 2015. Only six men have broken 19.60 — Usain Bolt, Yohan BlakeMichael JohnsonWalter DixJustin Gatlin and Tyson Gay — but none were as young as the 21-year-old Lyles.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — Friday, 3:45 p.m. ET
All three world championships medalists and the seven fastest in the world this year. None bigger than Olympic and world champion Consenslus Kipruto, undefeated internationally in 2016 and 2017. Not the case this season. Fellow Kenyan Benjamin Kigen beat him at Pre, and then Kipruto was a shocking 12th in Rabat last Friday. Another chance for Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager to become the first sub-8-minute American. He won in Monaco in 8:01.29 last year.

Men’s 100m — Saturday, 10:50 a.m. ET
Christian Coleman, after reasserting his argument as the world’s fastest man, faces another formidable field. U.S. runner-up Ronnie Baker and NCAA champion Cameron Burrell are also here, as is Brit Zharnel Hughes, at 23 arguably the most promising non-American in the world.

Men’s Long Jump — Sunday, 9:31 a.m. ET
Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria is the most exciting long jumper in recent memory after nearly jumping out of the pit last month with the world’s best jump in 23 years. The 19-year-old followed that with two best wind-legal jumps in the world this year at his next two meets. He could be pushed even farther here by the last two Olympic champions — Jeff Henderson and the soon-retiring Greg Rutherford — and every 2017 World medalist — Luvo ManyongaJarrion Lawson and Rushwahl Samaai.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — Sunday, 10:39 a.m. ET
Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, world-record holder Kendra Harrison and fellow American Sharika Nelvis split the last three Diamond League races and split their three head-to-head-to-head meetings this year. A strong win here makes a pretty good argument for best in the world at the moment. McNeal has the top 2018 time of 12.38, but that’s not close to Harrison’s world record of 12.20 from two years ago.

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Rigoberto Uran, runner-up in 2017, out of Tour de France

Rigoberto Uran
NBC Sports
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BOURG-SAINT-MAURICE, France (AP) — Still battered and bruised from a crash on the cobblestones, Colombian rider Rigoberto Uran has withdrawn from the Tour de France ahead of Thursday’s big mountain stage in the Alps.

Uran, who finished runner-up behind Chris Froome last year, crashed on Sunday during the stage to Roubaix, damaging his left leg and arm. He went through a hard day on Wednesday and was 30th overall, more than 31 minutes behind race leader Geraint Thomas.

Uran’s EF Education First-Drapac team said in a statement that he has not fully recovered and can’t pedal properly.

“I didn’t recover after the crash. Yesterday in the first real climb, all day, there was pain in my body,” Uran said.

Stage 12 on Thursday is the most difficult in the Alps this year, featuring grueling ascents including the col de la Madeleine, the col de la Croix-de-Fer and the famed 21 bends to L’Alpe d’Huez ski resort.

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