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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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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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