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Justin Gatlin faces Olympic, world medalists in Shanghai; preview

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The American contingent is deep and scattered at Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Shanghai, capped by Justin Gatlin‘s first top-level race since August.

NBC Sports Gold will air live coverage on Saturday at 6:10 a.m. ET. NBCSN’s live broadcast starts at 7 a.m.

Gatlin headlines the last event of the meet, the 100m, the sprint he won over Usain Bolt at the world championships on Aug. 5.

With Bolt retired, Gatlin was set to face the world’s other most decorated sprinters on Saturday — world silver medalist Christian Coleman and triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse. Though Coleman withdrew, De Grasse remains in the field that also includes world 200m champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey.

Gatlin isn’t the only intriguing American in action.

Christian Taylor, the two-time Olympic triple jump champion, makes his Diamond League 400m debut. World champion pole vaulter Sam Kendricks renews his rivalry with Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie. Olympic and world medalist Paul Chelimo seeks his first international win against a 5000m field with Ethiopian stars. World-record holder Aries Merritt faces perhaps the strongest competition of the day in the 110m hurdles. And Olympic gold medalist Brianna McNeal and world-record holder Kendra Harrison meet for round 2 of a budding 100m hurdles head-to-head.

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

6:14 a.m. — Women’s Triple Jump
6:15 — Women’s High Jump
6:17 — Women’s Shot Put
6:47 — Men’s Pole Vault
7:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
7:13 — Men’s 5000m
7:35 — Men’s 400m
7:36 — Men’s Long Jump
7:40 — Women’s Javelin
7:46 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
7:53 — Men’s 1500m
8:04 — Men’s 800m
8:14 — Women’s 200m
8:25 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
8:34 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
8:53 — Men’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Pole Vault — 6:47 a.m. ET
The standout field event in Shanghai renews the rivalry between French world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks. Lavillenie holds a 14-12 edge in their head-to-head, but Kendricks finished higher in all seven of their shared meets in 2017, according to Tilastopaja.org. Lavillenie relegated Kendricks to silver at the world indoor championships and goes into Shanghai with the highest clearance in the world this year — 5.95 meters.

Men’s 5000m — 7:13 a.m. ET
One of the best 5000m fields you will find outside of an Olympics or worlds. Every reigning Olympic and world medalist is here save Mo Farah, who is now focused on road racing. American Paul Chelimo took silver at the Olympics and bronze at worlds and is looking for his first international win. He must beat a trio of Ethiopian stars — world champion Muktar Edris, Olympic bronze medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet and Dejen Gebremeskel, who has the fastest PR of any active 5000m runner. Plus Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champ.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 7:46 a.m. ET
The five fastest Americans over the last 13 years are in the field for a second straight week — world-record holder Kendra Harrison, 2016 Olympic champion Brianna McNealSharika NelvisJasmin Stowers and 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson. In Doha, it came down to Harrison and McNeal, with Harrison coming back to win by .05 after McNeal hit hurdle eight. Harrison’s only defeats since the start of 2016 were at the Olympic trials and world championships.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 8:25 a.m. ET
The only event in Shanghai featuring the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Jamaican Omar McLeod, the 2016 Olympic and 2017 World champ, competes internationally for the first time since he led off the Jamaican 4x100m team in Usain Bolt‘s last race at worlds. He was entered in the 200m in Doha but withdrew with abductor soreness. In Shanghai, McLeod gets Rio silver medalist Orlando Ortega of Spain, world silver medalist Sergey Shubenkov of Russia and American Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder.

Men’s 100m — 8:53 a.m. ET
This was to be the first head-to-head between Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman since they went one-two in the 2017 World Championships 100m final, beating Bolt in Bolt’s last individual race. But Coleman withdrew last weekend due to “precautionary reasons,” his coach said, according to Reuters. Gatlin, 36, will still have his hands full in his first top-level international meet since Aug. 24. Olympic 100m bronze medalist Andre De Grasse and surprise world 200m champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey are also in the field. De Grasse has looked rusty in his return from a hamstring strain that kept him out of worlds in August. Only one man has broken 10 seconds this year — American Ronnie Baker (9.97). Gatlin clocked 9.92 in Shanghai in 2014 and 9.94 in 2016.

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Alina Zagitova wins Rostelecom Cup; Gracie Gold withdraws

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova dominated the Rostelecom Cup, while Gracie Gold withdrew before Saturday’s free skate at her first competition in 22 months, citing emotional stress.

Zagitova skated a flawed free, but still totaled 222.95 points and prevailed by 24.94 over countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Zagitova qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international competition, which takes the top six skaters from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Gold, coming back from treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder, was in last place of 10 skaters after struggling with jumps in Friday’s short program.

Gold, a Sochi Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, later tweeted that she withdrew because competing in the free skate would be damaging to her mental health and confidence.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture,” was tweeted from Gold’s account. “Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition. I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it. I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months.”

The Grand Prix season continues next week with Nathan Chen headlining Internationaux de France, the last event before the Grand Prix Final.

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Zagitova, 16, is undefeated in three events this season and owns the world’s top overall score (238.43) by a whopping 14.12 points. However, Japanese 16-year-old Rika Kihira has the highest total on the Grand Prix of 224.31.

Zagitova struggled Saturday with the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination and doubled a flip at the end of her free skate.

Her primary rival last season, countrywoman Yevgenia Medvedeva, has finished second or third in her four competitions in the last year and likely must reach the podium next week in France for a chance at the Grand Prix Final and her first matchup with Zagitova since PyeongChang.

It’s likely that no U.S. woman makes the Grand Prix Final for a third straight year, after never previously going back-to-back years without a qualifier. U.S. champion Bradie Tennell likely must win in France to reach the Final.

Earlier Saturday, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s event, hours after twisting his right ankle in a hard practice fall. Hanyu hopped on a crutch backstage and said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals later in December. More here on Hanyu’s day.

Russian favorites Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the pairs’ and ice dance titles, respectively, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

Tarasova and Morozov, two-time world medalists, posted 220.25 points, moving up to No. 2 in the world behind French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who were not in the Rostelecom field. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing this fall. Earlier Saturday, Tarasova received five stitches after cutting her chin in a practice crash into the boards.

In dance, Stepanova and Bukin tallied 199.43, keeping them close to U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue in the world rankings. Those two couples face off for the first time this season at the Grand Prix Final.

The top returning couple this season, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, competes next week at the top international level for the first time since winning a third world title in March. They are not eligible for the Grand Prix Final after withdrawing from last week’s NHK Trophy due to Cizeron’s back injury.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Yuzuru Hanyu wins Rostelecom Cup, hops on crutch to press conference

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Yuzuru Hanyu won Rostelecom Cup by nearly 30 points, then hopped on a crutch backstage.

The double Olympic champion twisted his right ankle in a hard practice fall Saturday morning, then several hours later had the highest-scoring free skate with three quadruple jumps.

Hanyu said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final in three weeks — and a showdown with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and, likely, world champion Nathan Chen according to The Associated Press.

“It really hurts,” Hanyu said, according to Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “This injury made me change my program, and sadly I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. I could have done better.”

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Hanyu apologized to a TV camera following his free skate, after falling and popping an Axel on his last two jumps.

Last November, Hanyu damaged right ankle ligaments in a practice fall, forcing him off the ice for more than a month. He said this injury is not as bad. Still, coach Brian Orser said “it was a big question” whether Hanyu would withdraw before the free skate, according to Olympic Channel.

Hanyu endured, taking out the quadruple loop that he fell on in practice but still adding 10 points to his lead from Friday’s short program. For the first time in nine seasons, Hanyu won his two Grand Prix Series qualifying events, cruising into December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

Georgian Morisi Kvitelashvili took second, followed by Japanese Kazuki Tomono.

Two other men who came to Moscow with Grand Prix Final hopes — Russian Mikhail Kolyada and Canadian Keegan Messing — struggled in Friday’s short program and could not get onto the podium, placing fourth and fifth. They won’t be at the Final, assuming Chen finishes in the top six at next week’s event in France.

Rostelecom Cup continues later Saturday with the free programs for ice dance, pairs and women, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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