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Oslo Diamond League preview, broadcast schedule

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Caster Semenya and Andre De Grasse headline a Diamond League meet in Oslo, live on Thursday starting at 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and 2 p.m. on NBCSN.

The Olympic champion Semenya puts her 16-meet winning streak on the line in the 800m against the Rio silver and bronze medalists.

De Grasse, a three-time Olympic medalist for Canada, could be the top challenger to Usain Bolt in Bolt’s final individual race at the world championships in August. But De Grasse finished fourth and fifth in his first two Diamond League 100m races this season. He needs a win in Oslo to stay in the gold-medal conversation.

U.S. athletes in Oslo are preparing for the national championships in Sacramento, Calif., next week. At nationals, the top three per event will qualify for worlds.

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

12:15 p.m. — Women’s pole vault
1:57 — Men’s discus
1:57 — Women’s discus
2:03 — Men’s 400m
2:12 — Men’s high jump
2:17 — Women’s 100m hurdles
2:20 — Women’s long jump
2:45 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
3:03 — Men’s 100m
3:10 — Women’s 800m
3:25 — Men’s 400m hurdles
3:40 — Women’s 200m
3:50 — Men’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s/Women’s Discus — 1:57 p.m. ET

The men’s and women’s discus events are held simultaneously this season for the first time. The last four Olympic champions are represented in Oslo — German brothers Robert and Christoph Harting and Croatian Sandra Perkovic, the 2012 and 2016 women’s gold medalist.

Neither Harting has been particularly impressive in limited action so far this season. Instead, Jamaican Fedrick Dacres owns the two best throws of 2017. Jamaica reigns in the sprints, but it has never had a Diamond League winner in a throwing event.

Perkovic puts her 15-meet winning streak on the line against Rio silver medalist Mélina Robert-Michon of France and Rio bronze medalist Denia Caballero of Cuba.

Men’s High Jump — 2:12 p.m. ET

The best field of the meet. The top five from the Rio Olympics are entered, led by gold medalist Derek Drouin of Canada. But Drouin no-heighted in his 2017 Diamond League debut in Shanghai.

Instead, the favorite Thursday is Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim. The Rio silver medalist has won all four of his competitions this year, clearing heights that nobody in the world has matched in 2017.

Men’s 100m — 3:03 p.m. ET

De Grasse, the Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, could really use a win here. Only one man in the field has broken 9.90 in his career or 10.0 this season, and it’s not the Canadian phenom. It’s veteran Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut.

In De Grasse’s favor: His fourth- and fifth-place 100m finishes earlier this season were against stronger fields, and he’s coming off a 200m win last week in Rome. He may be rounding into form as the Canadian Championships approach in early July.

Women’s 800m — 3:10 p.m. ET

The scrutinized Semenya hasn’t lost since 2015, but she’s looking vulnerable. Kenyan Margaret Wambui, who took bronze in Rio 1.6 seconds behind Semenya, closed the gap in their first two meetings this season.

Wambui made Semenya run hard through the line in Doha (losing by a respectable .42) and then scared Semenya in Eugene three weeks later (losing by one tenth of a second). This time last year, Semenya was winning races by one second, so relaxed it looked like she could have gone one or two seconds faster.

Now, Wambui is a worthy challenger in Oslo.

Women’s 200m — 3:40 p.m. ET

Olympic silver medalist Dafne Schippers is the class of the field. Nobody else is ranked in the top 35 in the world this year, so the Dutchwoman is more racing against the top 200m times posted elsewhere in 2017.

The target will be to get near Tori Bowie‘s world-leading 21.77 seconds set at the Pre Classic, where Schippers was fourth in 22.30, her lowest 200m finish in five years.

A more realistic goal for Schippers would be to break 22 seconds, which she did in winning Oslo last year.

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Amy Cragg to withdraw from U.S. Olympic marathon trials

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Defending champion Amy Cragg will miss the Feb. 29 U.S. Olympic marathon trials with an illness, according to her social media.

“The Trials are the reason I have shown up every day for the last four years, so this has been an extremely difficult decision,” was posted on her social media. Cragg later said she had Epstein-Barr virus, according to multiple reports.

Cragg, 36, was among the favorites to grab three Olympic spots at trials in Atlanta, despite not having competed over 26.2 miles since the February 2018 Tokyo Marathon.

She withdrew from the 2018 Chicago Marathon with a hamstring injury and also scratched a month before the 2019 Chicago Marathon, citing signs pointing to needing more time after the previous year’s injury.

Cragg, fourth at the 2012 Olympic trials, relegated Des Linden and Shalane Flanagan to second and third at the 2016 trials. Linden and Flanagan went on to win the Boston and New York City Marathons, respectively, ending long U.S. women’s victory droughts.

Cragg went on to finish ninth in Rio and earn a 2017 World bronze medal, the first world championships marathon podium finish for an American woman since the first worlds in 1983.

Cragg could still make the Tokyo Olympic team in the 10,000m if she races at track trials in June. She won the 2012 Olympic trials 10,000m but hasn’t raced the distance on the track since May 2017.

“Right now my only goal is to get healthy so that I can train at the level needed to be competitive,” Cragg said in an emailed message from her agent. “That being said, the reason I am still in this sport is because of the Olympic Trials and Olympics. It is what excites me more than anything, so it is something I would still love to do.”

With Cragg absent and Flanagan retired, Linden is the only woman in next week’s field with Olympic marathon experience.

Other favorites include Olympic 10,000m runner Molly Huddle, world championships 10,000m runner Emily Sisson and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history.

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Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

Galen Rupp
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As Galen Rupp bids for a fourth Olympics, and perhaps become the first man or woman to win the Olympic marathon trials twice outright, he found some rare familiarity these days on the roads Feb. 8.

“Feeling like my old self again,” Rupp said Wednesday of winning a low-key half marathon in Mesa, Ariz., his first completed race in 16 months and since parting from now-banned, career-long coach Alberto Salazar. “It’s obviously been a long year and a half.”

Rupp clocked 61 minutes, 19 seconds on a downhill course. It’s faster than any half marathon by an American recorded by World Athletics since the start of 2019. Granted the downhill, but Rupp also said he was instructed by new coach Mike Smith to make it a controlled effort.

“He didn’t want me to run all-out, didn’t want me to really push and put myself in a big hole,” Rupp said, noting he was still in heavy training. “You don’t want to break that [training] up and put yourself in a deficit by having a massive effort.”

Mesa answered questions about Rupp’s readiness for the Olympic trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (NBC, 12-3 p.m. ET). Even to the two-time Olympic medalist himself. Rupp said he started the half marathon with a little bit of doubt — given recent left ankle and calf injuries — but felt early on that everything would be fine.

“It really put my mind at ease,” he said. “I’m going to be good for the marathon.”

His last two marathons did not go well.

At the 2018 Chicago Marathon, Rupp dropped from the leaders around mile 19 and finished fifth in a title defense. An Achilles injury flared up near the end. He underwent surgery later that month for two tears. Doctors said the ankle had been “a ticking time bomb.”

“They said I was really lucky to have as good of health as I had and manage it as I did,” Rupp said.

He went a full year before racing again, at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, 12 days after Salazar’s ban was announced. Even that was a rushed comeback, Rupp said after dropping out around mile 23 with a calf injury.

“I’m not going to say it was a wake-up call,” Rupp said, “but I think I was a little bit stubborn before Chicago.”

Rupp said he ran through pain in training to get to the start line four months ago. He had trouble walking for several days after the abbreviated race and focused on physical therapy for about two months. He resumed normal, pain-free training in December.

By early January, Runner’s World reported that Oregon-based Rupp found a new Flagstaff-based coach in Smith, who leads a Northern Arizona University program that won the last three NCAA men’s cross-country titles.

“The biggest thing to me was Mike’s philosophy in coaching was very similar to the program that I was under for so many years,” said Rupp, who was for more than a decade part of the Nike Oregon Project, which was shut down last fall after Salazar’s ban for doping violations (which he appealed). Rupp wasn’t implicated by USADA and has a clean drug-testing record. “What I love most about it was Mike’s honesty and how forthright he was about everything. You could tell he wasn’t just saying what I wanted to hear or say, ‘We’re just going to do whatever you’ve been doing and try and replicate that.’ You’ve got to keep evolving and trying new things.”

Smith declined an interview request through NAU until after trials. He agreed to coach Rupp after about a month of communication and hard questions, according to Runner’s World.

“Because of its timing and the headlines I was reading like everyone else at the time, this was not a road I wanted to go down,” Smith said, according to the report. “To be honest, it was just easiest to turn it down. I’m actually — as crazy as this sounds — really proud I did not.

“What I found out by getting to know Galen was that there was much more going on than the picture portrayed of him, and I wish the world knew that. I have never seen someone more all-in in my life.”

Rupp, asked his toughest moment of the last two years, said he moves forward.

“Throughout any hardships and setbacks, I felt a lot of gratitude that I had as good of a run as I did with my health and everything going well for as long as I did,” he said. “It can be easy to get angry and get down, like why me, but I do believe that things always work out. There’s a reason behind all this stuff.”

Which brings Rupp to Atlanta next week for the first time in his life, aside from airport layovers. The race is unlike any other he has contested. The course is unusually hilly. The format — Americans only, top three make the Olympic team — makes for different tactics than the World Marathon Majors that Rupp is used to.

In 2016, Rupp entered as a favorite but without any marathon experience. He won convincingly, pulling away from now-retired Meb Keflezighi by 68 seconds.

The field is deeper this year. Seven Americans broke 2:11 in 2019. Only one did in 2015. But Rupp, at his best, is in his own class.

His personal best 2:06:07, from his last healthy marathon in 2018, is 1:49 faster than the second-fastest in the trials field in this Olympic cycle (Leonard Korir). The next-fastest, Scott Fauble, is more than three minutes behind by personal bests.

“I can confidently go in and say that I’ve put in the work for this, just like I know that I put in the work in 2016,” Rupp said. “Of course, you want to go in and have good races, feeling confident and being on a roll like I was several years ago. But I think that’s why that race in Mesa was so important to show, more to myself, that hey, you’re ready to go. You can still run well. You haven’t lost everything. Surgery didn’t wipe you out.”

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