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U.S. steeplechase stars reunite at Oslo Diamond League; stream info

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The last time Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs raced a steeplechase together, they produced one of the greatest moments in U.S. track and field history.

“Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming?” Frerichs repeated to Coburn on the track that day.

Nearly 10 months later, the reality is that Coburn and Frerichs are headliners. The steeple is one of the marquee events at Thursday’s Diamond League meet in Oslo, live on NBCSN at 2 p.m. ET and streaming commercial-free on NBC Sports Gold at 12 p.m.

It’s the second steeplechase of the season for the world champion Coburn, who was in contention for the win in Rome last Thursday when she fell on a water jump, for the first time in her life, on the last lap.

It’s Frerichs’ first steeple since August, when the 11th-place finisher from Rio chopped 15 seconds off her personal best to take silver behind the Olympic bronze medalist Coburn at worlds.

They’re joined in the Oslo field by the other medalist from worlds, Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng, who won in Rome last week in a field including the three fastest Kenyans of all time and Coburn.

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

12 p.m. ET — Women’s javelin
12:30 — Women’s Pole Vault
1:10 — Men’s 10,000m
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
2:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:05 — Men’s High Jump
2:10 — Men’s 1500m
2:17 — Women’s Triple Jump
2:20 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:35 — Women’s 100m
2:45 — Women’s 800m
2:50 — Men’s Discus
2:58 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
3:10 — Men’s 200m
3:25 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
3:40 — Women’s 400m
3:50 — Men’s Mile

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 12:30 p.m. ET
Katerina Stefanidi 
of Greece and American Sandi Morris go head-to-head for the 30th time, according to Tilastopaja.org. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Words, but Morris has been better in all three of their head-to-heads this season. The field does not include world leader Jenn Suhr, but it does have Cuban Yarisley Silva, the 2015 World champion in her first Diamond League meet of the year.

Men’s Shot Put — 1:15 p.m. ET
The four men who combined to earn every shot put medal at the most recent Olympics and worlds convene for the second time in three Diamond League meets: Ryan Crouser (Olympic gold), Joe Kovacs (Olympic silver, world silver), Tom Walsh (Olympic bronze, world gold) and Stipe Žunić (world bronze). Tack on two-time world champion David Storl and world fourth-place finisher Tomáš Staněk, and it becomes the most decorated field in Oslo. Walsh has the world’s farthest throw this season, but Crouser broke the meet record in winning the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 2:20 p.m. ET
Coburn and Frerichs are underdogs here, given their lack of races since worlds and Kiyeng’s win in Rome with the fastest time in the world this year. But Coburn may well have beaten Kiyeng had she not crashed coming out of the water jump on Thursday. Coburn is the only U.S. woman to win a Diamond League steeplechase, doing so four years ago when the top East Africans let her go because they thought she was a pacer.

Women’s 800m — 2:45 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts the sport’s longest win streak (by days) on the line, one that dates to 2015, against her closest definition of a rival, plus some unusual foes. Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi has finished second or third behind Semenya in 13 straight head-to-heads, including silvers at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. Brit Laura Muir and American Brenda Martinez both raced the 1500m at the Olympics. Muir, who was fourth in the 1500m at 2017 Worlds, races a Diamond League 800m for the second time in three years. Though Martinez made her only Olympic team in the 1500m, she has primarily raced the 800m overall, including earning bronze at the 2013 Worlds. But she and Semenya have met in just one 800m final since June 2014.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 3:25 p.m. ET
Featuring the Olympic champion (Kerron Clement) and world champion (Norway’s Karsten Warholm), plus another man who made both podiums (Yasmani Copello of Turkey). But the man to watch is Qatari Abderrahman Samba, who didn’t race in Rio and was seventh at worlds. But in his last two races, Samba ran the fastest time ever recorded that early in a year — national record 47.57 on May 4 and Asian record 47.48 last Thursday, the latter the fastest time in the world in eight years. If Samba can break 47.30, he will move into the top 10 400m hurdlers of all time. He ranked No. 87 all time at the end of 2017.

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WATCH LIVE: Simone Biles returns to U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Simone Biles‘ comeback continues at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Friday night.

Biles enters her second meet since the Rio Olympics, where she earned four gold medals.

She is a clear favorite to win her fifth U.S. all-around title, which would break the record she currently shares.

LIVE STREAM: U.S. Gym Championships — 8 p.m. ET (for Olympic Channel subscribers)

Biles showed her comeback was for real at her first meet back three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic despite an uneven bars fall. Her all-around score was the highest in the world since Rio.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of Biles’ first national title, when she was a braces-wearing, first-year senior gymnast oozing with talent but also unproven. She became so dominant that the prevailing notion was that everyone else was competing in a non-Simone division.

A new generation of women go up against Biles in the two-day meet that concludes Sunday.

That includes Ragan Smith and Morgan Hurd, who won the U.S. and world all-around titles in Biles’ absence last year, and Riley McCusker, who led the U.S. Classic going into the final rotation.

Gymnasts are competing to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

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Ragan Smith defends U.S. gymnastics title, competing through pain

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BOSTON — When Ragan Smith won the U.S. all-around title last August, her margin of victory was greater than Simone Biles‘ average the previous four years.

At the world championships in October, Smith fell off the balance beam in qualifying and still posted the second-highest all-around score, just .001 off the lead. If Smith hit all four routines in the final, she would be crowned the world’s greatest gymnast of 2017 (during Biles’ break from the sport).

But as the all-around final began at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Smith crutched out of the training gym. She suffered three torn left ankle ligaments on a warm-up vault, according to the Dallas Morning News, that needed four to five months to heal.

Smith is expected to compete in the all-around at the U.S. Championships on Friday and Sunday (broadcast schedule here), looking to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

The ankle still hurts sometimes. So do her three or four broken toes. Smith doesn’t know the exact number because she doesn’t like to get medical check-ups before meets. She would think too much about the diagnosis.

In fact, Smith said she felt pain in practice every day for the last year.

“Everything starts hurting worse because we’re getting older,” said Smith, who turned 18 last week. Smith added that a coach joked to her recently, “You already have a 100-year-old body.” 

“Everybody I feel like has injuries here and there,” she said. “Everybody’s like banged up right now. We [gymnasts] are so strong mentally and physically that I feel like we push through it.”

Back home in the Dallas area, Smith marks her goals on a dry-erase board. The chief one for her two summer meets is this: Be the best Ragan I can be.

“That’s all I’m really striving for this competition,” she said Wednesday.

Smith did not do the all-around at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago, skipping floor exercise because she wants to debut it as a surprise this week. She called Classic “a practice run,” where her best result was third on beam.

Only two gymnasts per nation can compete in a world all-around final. If Biles is one of them, then Smith has to beat out Morgan Hurd (who won the 2017 World all-around title after Smith’s injury) and Riley McCusker (second to Biles at the U.S. Classic).

Smith, the youngest Rio Olympic alternate, is determined to compete on the elite level through 2020. She can take motivation from her bedroom wall and that dry-erase board, both of which had the same quote posted — “She believed she could so she did.”

“These coming up years, it’s definitely who’s in the game the longest. It’s definitely who’s not injured,” she said. “That’s pretty much who they pick, I feel like. You’re training your whole life for one year of gymnastics because that’s when you have to be at your highest peak. I definitely feel like it’s who’s in the game the longest and who can survive and who can help their body the best.”

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