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Five women’s races to watch at world track and field championships

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Not that Allyson Felix needs any more superlatives, but she is likely to finish these world championships with the most medals of any athlete in history.

Felix has 13 career world medals, tied with Usain Bolt and one shy of retired Jamaican Merlene Ottey‘s record. Bolt will race in two events at his last worlds. Felix will race at least two and possibly three, if she is placed on the 4x100m relay as has traditionally been the case.

Felix’s focus is on her opener, the 400m, where she has the most anticipated head-to-head showdown out of the women’s events at the London meet that runs from Friday through Aug. 13.

In Rio, Felix was edged at the finish line by a diving Shaunae Miller-Uibo. The move caused many to cry foul at the Bahamian, though it was perfectly legal and Felix did not criticize it.

Felix and Miller-Uibo are once again the class of the 400m this year.

Familiar faces dot the other key women’s events. None more scrutinized than South African Caster Semenya, who is eight years removed from her 2009 Worlds breakout and subsequent gender-testing controversy.

Semenya hasn’t lost an 800m race in nearly two years, but she has been pushed this season and is tacking on the 1500m at worlds for the first time.

WORLDS: TV Schedule | 5 Men’s Races to Watch | 5 Women’s Races

Five women’s races to watch in London:

100 Meters
Sunday, 4:50 p.m. ET on NBC

Elaine Thompson has not lost a 100m race that she has finished since May 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org. It is the longest stretch of 100m dominance since Marion Jones‘ four-year winning streak from 1997 to 2001 (the last year invalidated and the entire streak dubious due to doping). Aside from Jones, you have to go back at least 30 years.

This season, Thompson is the only woman to break 10.80 seconds. She’s done it twice. Olympic silver medalist Tori Bowie beat Thompson in the Pre Classic 200m, but her best wind-legal 100m time this year is 10.90. Rio bronze medalist Dafne Schippers has four times broken 11 seconds in 2017, but none faster than 10.95.

1500 Meters
Monday, 4:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No clear favorite here. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon is the Olympic champion. Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba is the world champion and world-record holder. Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan has the three fastest times in the world this year.

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya is also entered in this event, but she hasn’t raced an international 1500m in six years. There’s also Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World champion and Rio bronze medalist. Plus British hope Laura Muir, who has the fastest time in the world since Dibaba’s record run two years ago.

400 Meters
Aug. 9, 4:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo haven’t gone head-to-head over 400m since Miller-Uibo’s famous dive across the finish line to win by .07 in Rio. This year, each is undefeated at 400m, though Felix has raced just twice and Miller-Uibo three times.

Still, Felix has the fastest time in the world in 2017. Miller-Uibo’s times rank Nos. 3, 4 and 5 behind Felix and U.S. champion Quanera Hayes. Felix is looking to join Cathy Freeman as the only women to win multiple world 400m titles.

100 Meter Hurdles
Aug. 12, 3:05 p.m. ET on NBC

Keni Harrison‘s only defeat since the start of 2016 was at the Olympic Trials (where she shockingly failed to make the Rio team). In that span, the middle child in a family of 11 kids has run the 11 fastest times in the world in this event out of those in the world championships field. That includes breaking a 28-year-old world record last year. She’s an even bigger favorite with Olympic champion Brianna Rollins suspended for missing three drug tests.

The pick for silver may be Australian Sally Pearson, who came back from a broken wrist in 2015 and torn hamstring in 2016 to post her fastest time since winning the 2012 Olympic title. Pearson and defending world champion Danielle Williams of Jamaica will try to keep the U.S. from sweeping the medals as it did in Rio.

800 Meters
Aug. 13, 3:10 p.m. ET on NBC

This event got a lot more interesting on July 21, when Ajee’ Wilson shattered the American record to become the first woman to disrupt Rio medalists Caster SemenyaFrancine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui in nearly two years. Wilson got third in that race, .34 behind Semenya and .14 behind Niyonsaba as Wambui faded to ninth.

Now, Wilson looks to continue her ascent since turning pro out of high school in 2012. In 2013, she placed sixth at worlds. In 2014, she won the U.S. title and two Diamond League races. In 2016, she finished second at the world indoor championships (behind Niyonsaba and ahead of Wambui). Rio did not go as hoped as she was eliminated in the semifinals.

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Who is Italy’s greatest Olympian?

Alberto Tomba
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Italy ranks sixth on the total Olympic medal list, thanks in large part to its fencers. Italian fencers have won a leading 125 medals, more than double the nation’s total in any other sport. The Italians are known for their personalities, from La Bomba to the Cannibal, with six of their best detailed here …

Deborah Compagnoni
Alpine Skiing
Three Olympic Gold Medals

The only Alpine skier to earn gold at three straight Olympics. Compagnoni overcame a broken knee as a junior racer and life-saving surgery to remove 27 inches of her intestine in 1990 to win the Albertville 1992 super-G by 1.8 seconds. It remains the largest margin of victory in the discipline for either gender since 1968. The following day, Compagnoni tore knee ligaments in the giant slalom. She returned to win the GS at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Compagnoni ended her Olympic career with the biggest rout in a GS at a Winter Games, prevailing by 1.41 seconds in Nagano.

Klaus Dibiasi
Diving
Three Olympic Gold Medals

The only diver to win the same individual event three times. The Austrian-born Dibiasi took platform silver in 1964 at age 17, then three straight golds through 1976. Dibiasi was coached by his father, who was 10th on platform at the 1936 Berlin Games. In his final Olympics, Dibiasi held off a 16-year-old Greg Louganis, who would go on to challenge, if not overtake, Dibiasi as the greatest male diver in history.

Eugenio Monti
Bobsled
Six Olympic Medals

Regarded by many as the greatest bobsled driver in history. Monti captured two silver medals in 1956, missed the 1960 Winter Games that didn’t include bobsled, then two bronzes in 1964 and a pair of golds at age 40 in 1968. On top of that, the nine-time world champion is remembered for an act of sportsmanship in 1964. In between runs, Monti lent a bolt off his own two-man sled to a British team whose sled was damaged. The Brits took gold, ahead of both Italian sleds.

Alberto Tomba
Alpine Skiing
Three Olympic Gold Medals

“La Bomba” dazzled by sweeping the giant slalom and slalom at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, after dubbing himself the “Messiah of Skiing“ beforehand. Known for his man-about-town ways, Tomba offered one of his gold medals to East German figure skater Katarina Witt should she fall short in her event. After Witt repeated as gold medalist, the story goes that Tomba showed up with a bouquet of roses and an autographed picture of himself, made out out to “Katerina.” “I used to have a wild time with three women until 5 a.m.,” Tomba once said. “Now I live it up with five women until 3 a.m,”

Valentina Vezzali
Fencing
Six Olympic Gold Medals

An 18-year-old Vezzali was an alternate for the 1992 Olympics, forced to watch on TV as the Italian women took team foil gold. Vezzali made the next five Olympics, winning medals in all nine of her events, including three straight individual titles, the last as a mom. Vezzali finished her career with nine total Olympic medals, 25 world championships medals, a flag bearer honor at the 2012 Opening Ceremony and as a member of Italy’s parliament.

Armin Zoeggeler
Luge
Six Olympic Medals

“The Cannibal” retired in 2014 as the first athlete to earn a medal in the same individual event at six straight Olympics. Zoeggeler earned silver and bronze medals in 1994 and 1998, then overtook German legend Georg Hackl for gold in 2002, followed by winning at home in Torino in 2006. He held on for bronze medals in 2010 and 2014, behind the new German luge star, Felix Loch, who would be coached by Hackl. Growing up on top of a steep hill, Zoeggeler began sledding at age 7 to catch the school bus at the bottom.

GREATEST OLYMPIANS: Germany | Liechtenstein | Japan

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Kurt Angle recalls devastation, exultation of Olympic wrestling gold medal

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Kurt Angle doesn’t remember much from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but he won’t forget that moment of deep emotional pain.

In the 100kg final, Angle and Iranian Abbas Jadidi were tied 1-1 after regulation and an overtime period.. Eight total minutes of wrestling. They also had the same number of passivity calls, forcing a judges’ decision to determine the gold medalist.

After deliberation, the referee stood between each wrestler in the middle of the mat. He held each’s wrist, ready to reveal the champion to the Georgia World Congress Center crowd — and to the athletes. Angle, now 51, has rarely watched video of the match. But he distinctly remembers, in his peripheral vision, Jadidi’s left arm rising.

“I thought I lost,” Angle said by phone this week. “So right away, I was like, s—, four more years.”

Turns out, the Iranian was raising his own arm. An instant later, the referee suppressed Jadidi. He lifted Angle’s right arm. The wrestler sobbed.

“I had so much emotion because I was devastated and then I was told that I won,” Angle said. “It was a very odd experience. I didn’t know how to handle it. It felt like my father died all over again. That’s how much grief I had. Then, all of a sudden, you won.”

Angle thought of two people immediately after he won, falling to his knees in prayer. First, his father, David, who died in a construction accident when Angle was 16. Second, the 1984 Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz, his coach who was murdered by John du Pont six months before the Games.

Angle went on to become one of the most famous U.S. gold medalists of the Atlanta Games, due largely to a two-decade career as a professional wrestler, including as a world heavyweight champion with the WWE.

It would have been different if the referee kept Jadidi’s arm in the air. Angle went into the Olympics knowing it would be his last competition, but only if he took gold. Anything less, and he would continue on, perhaps into his 30s and the 2000 Sydney Games. Despite everything Angle went through just to get to Atlanta.

In the year leading up to the Olympics, Angle lost Schultz, broke his neck at the U.S. Open and, five minutes before each match at the Olympic Trials, received 12 shots of novocaine to numb the pain long enough to advance to the next round. Angle later developed a painkiller addiction.

Angle, a Pennsylvania native, was part of the Foxcatcher club when du Pont shot and killed Schultz. Angle said he wasn’t consulted for the 2014 film “Foxcatcher,” but he thought it was well done save a few instances of dramatic license.

“Unfortunately, I hate to admit this, but if it weren’t for Team Foxcatcher, I probably wouldn’t have won my gold medal,” Angle said. “I probably wouldn’t have known Dave Schultz, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did. It sucks because, to have to thank John du Pont for the ability of allowing me to pay me to wrestle full time and win a world championship [in 1995] and Olympic gold medal, that was huge, but he killed Dave Schultz. The club would have thrived to this day. It just sucks it turned out the way it did, because it made me the best wrestler in the world. Dave Schultz had a lot to do with that, but a lot of wrestlers that followed could have not had to worry about money and could have trained and competed.”

Angle shared his gold medal with, he estimated, thousands of people before housing it in a safe.

“The gold was wearing off,” Angle said. “One kid, I remember, I was at an elementary school, and he grabbed my medal by the ribbon and started twirling it around real fast. He let go of it, and it hit the wall. There’s a big dent in my gold medal. That was the last time I brought it to an elementary school.”

Angle announced in 2011, at age 42, that he was training to come back for the 2012 Olympic Trials. He never made it, calling it off with a knee injury.

“But I trained hard for it,” Angle said, noting he still kept up appearances with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. “I will tell you this, I wouldn’t have made the team. My goal was to place in the top three. I just missed the [thrill of] competition.”

It meant that Angle’s last match remained that Olympic final. His last moment as a freestyle wrestler having his arm raised.

“All I wanted to do was win a world championship and an Olympic gold medal, and I did them both,” Angle said, sobbing, just off the mat that night in Atlanta. “If I died tonight, I’d be the happiest man in the world.”

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