Steeplechase barrier set too high causes chaos at Diamond League

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A barrier set too high marred the women’s 3000m steeplechase at a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday.

A few competitors ran into the barrier. American Emma Coburn, the world champion, made it over clean but then motioned over and over again that something was wrong as she continued the race.

The barrier was wrongly set at the men’s height, which is six inches higher than the women’s height, Coburn and TV commentators said. A similar mishap occurred in qualifying at the 2009 USATF Outdoor Championships.

The runners went through the barrier three times before it was fully fixed. Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng won in 9:09.63, holding off Coburn’s late charge by .07.

“I’m incredibly frustrated that we had to hurdle the men’s barrier on the back straight three times — we were waving around, and it wasn’t solved until my husband [who doubles as her coach] went out onto the track to tell the officials,” Coburn said, according to the IAAF. “It panicked me, but I tried to stay calm and feel as easy as possible from then on.”

Full Oslo results are here.

In other events, Caster Semenya extended the longest winning streak (by days) in the sport, winning the 800m by 1.32 seconds in 1:57.25. Semenya last lost an 800m in 2015 but is expected to be impacted by an IAAF rule limiting testosterone levels in female middle distance runners scheduled to go into effect after this season.

Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba, the breakout of the outdoor season, won the 400m hurdles in 47.60 seconds, breaking a 32-year-old meet record. The 22-year-old Samba debuted in the 400m hurdles last year and is now ranked 14th all-time in the event, having run the fastest time since 2010 in his last meet (47.48).

In the pole vault, Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris won with a 4.81-meter clearance, while Olympic and world gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece no-heighted, failing on all three attempts at 4.41 for last place. Stefanidi has struggled in three outdoor meets this season with a top clearance of 4.64 meters, ranking outside the world top 20.

The 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr, who was not in Oslo, has the highest clearance in the world this season of 4.93 meters.

World champion Tom Walsh won a shot put that included the four men who combined to earn every medal at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. His winning throw of 22.29 meters was a meet record but well off his world-leading 22.67 for the year.

Olympic champion Ryan Crouser said he believed his last throw was near 23 meters, but it was ruled a foul.

The Diamond League moves to Stockholm for a meet Sunday, live on NBCSN and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

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