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Mo Farah leads Olympic champs, world-record chasers; London preview

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Mo Farah, Allyson Felix and Elaine Thompson headline a Diamond League meet in London on Sunday, while world-record watch is on for two athletes who aren’t Olympians.

NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 7:20 a.m. ET. Universal HD’s broadcast is at 9 ET.

Farah, Felix and Thompson, who own a combined 12 Olympic gold medals, are ramping up for the world championships from Aug. 4-13, also at London’s Olympic Stadium.

Also keep an eye on American Keni Harrison, who broke the 100m hurdles world record at this meet one year ago, two weeks after shockingly failing to make the U.S. Olympic team. Harrison’s recent form suggests another world record is possible Sunday.

Then there’s Russian high jumper Mariya Lasitskene, who was locked out of Rio due to the Russian track and field ban that is still in effect. But Lasitskene, the 2015 World champion, is now competing as a neutral athlete after appeal to the IAAF with a sufficient clean doping record.

On Thursday, Lasitskene had the highest clearance in the world since 2011 and then took three failed attempts at a world record at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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

7:20 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
7:25 a.m. — Women’s 400m Hurdles
7:30 a.m. — Men’s Discus
8:03 a.m. — Men’s Long Jump
8:14 a.m. — Men’s 400m
8:40 a.m. — Women’s 800m
8:50 a.m. — Men’s 1500m
9:03 a.m. — Men’s 400m Hurdles
9:10 a.m. — Women’s High Jump
9:13 a.m. — Men’s 200m
9:27 a.m. — Women’s Javelin
9:37 a.m. — Women’s Long Jump
9:40 a.m. — Women’s 100m
9:49 a.m. — Women’s 400m
9:58 a.m. — Men’s 800m
10:07 a.m. — Men’s 100m
10:17 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles
10:28 a.m. — Men’s 110m Hurdles
10:38 a.m. — Women’s Mile
10:48 a.m. — Men’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s High Jump — 9:10 a.m. ET
Russian Mariya Lasitskene went on a tear after being shut out of the Olympics due to Russia’s anti-doping problems. Lasitskene, who hasn’t had any public doping issues of her own, is the only woman to clear two meters outdoors this year, which she has done nine times, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Lasitskene had the highest clearance for any woman since 2011 in Lausanne on Thursday and has taken six attempts at a world record in the last month. In London, Lasitskene faces U.S. champion Vashti Cunningham (ranked No. 2 in the world outdoors this year) and Olympic champion Ruth Beitia of Spain.

Women’s 100m — 9:40 a.m. ET
The three fastest women in the world this year face off in a potential world championships preview — Olympic champion Elaine Thompson (10.71), Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye (10.82) and Ivorian Murielle Ahoure (10.83).

Thompson puts a two-year, 15-meet 100m winning streak on the line (save one race she did not finish). She could take a crack at her shared national record of 10.70 seconds. An interested spectator could be Olympic silver medalist Tori Bowie, who has not decided which race(s) she will enter at worlds.

Women’s 400m — 9:49 a.m. ET
This is Allyson Felix‘s last scheduled meet before worlds in August. It also marks her second 400m since she took silver in Rio behind a diving Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas.

Miller-Uibo isn’t in the London field. Neither are any of the three U.S. women who will join Felix on the world team. With the world’s four fastest women this year absent, Felix has a fine opportunity to win, but it will definitely take faster than the 50.52 she clocked in Kingston on June 10.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 10:17 a.m. ET
The top three from the USATF Outdoor Championships headline, led by world-record holder Keni Harrison. Harrison shockingly missed the Rio Olympic team and clocked the world record 12.20 two weeks later at the London Olympic Stadium.

This season, Harrison’s first six races were between 12.54 and 12.60, all victories but far off her unbeatable form. Then came Tuesday, when she ran 12.28 in Hungary with miniscule tailwind. Another world record in London could be in the cards.

Men’s 3000m — 10:48 a.m. ET
Mo Farah is the only individual British Olympic medalist competing in London with the retirement of Jessica Ennis-Hill and injury to long jumper Greg Rutherford. This will mark one of Farah’s final track races, as he prepares to move to road racing and marathons after worlds in London in August.

The field here sets up well for a Farah victory. It doesn’t include Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha, whom Farah held off by a half-second to win the Pre Classic 5000m on May 27. No Ethiopians at all, actually. Nor anybody who has shared an Olympic or world championships podium with Farah.

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Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

MORE: World’s top skater leaves famed coach

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

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