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Win streaks face Paris tests; Diamond League preview, stream schedule

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Two of the longest winning streaks in track and field could be tested at the Paris Diamond League, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold on Saturday.

World champions Caster Semenya (800m) and Mariya Lasitskene (high jump) are each undefeated for more than two years. Each faces some of her toughest competition in that span (toughest, in Semenya’s case) on Saturday.

Coverage streams on NBC Sports Gold starting at 12:40 p.m. ET. Olympic Channel broadcast coverage begins at 2.

Elsewhere, two NCAA champions and potential Olympic stars, Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, collide in the 200m in Diamond League debuts.

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

12:40 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:50 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:32 — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:10 — Women’s High Jump
2:12 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:26 — Men’s Discus
2:30 — Men’s 200m
2:39 — Men’s 1500m
2:53 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:03 — Women’s 400m
3:10 — Men’s 800m
3:33 — Women’s 200m
3:42 — Women’s 800m
3:52 — Men’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Triple Jump — 12:50 p.m. ET
Caterine Ibargüen
, Yulimar Rojas and Olga Rypakova, who swept the 2016 Olympic and 2017 World medals, meet for the first time this year. But the top-ranked jumper in 2018 is Tori Franklin, who broke the American record on May 12. While Christian Taylor and Will Claye have dominated men’s triple jumping the last several years, a U.S. woman has never won a Diamond League meet.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 2:03 p.m. ET
Three men with sub-47.5 personal bests are in the same race for the first time since the 2012 Olympic final (Felix Sanchez, Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement). This time it’s Rio gold medalist Clement (47.24), countryman Bershawn Jackson (47.30) and Qatari upstart Abderrahman Samba (47.41). A fourth sub-47.5 man will be at Stade Sébastien Charléty, but Rai Benjamin (47.02 at NCAA Championships) is racing the 200m.

Women’s High Jump — 2:10 p.m. ET
The top six jumpers this season gather, led by Russian Mariya Lasitskene, who has won more than 40 straight meets dating to 2016. She’ll be challenged by her usual rivals but also Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium. In Rio, Thiam’s clearance in the heptathlon would have won the high jump gold medal. Thiam ranks second in the world behind Lasitskene this season, with Paris marking their first head-to-head since September.

Men’s 200m — 2:30 p.m. ET
An intriguing faceoff between Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, teammates at the University of Southern California better known in one-lap races. Norman finished fifth in the Olympic Trials 200m as an 18-year-old, but this year he broke the indoor 400m world record on March 10 (44.52) and clocked the fastest 400m time of the year on June 8 (43.61). Also at NCAAs on June 8, Benjamin tied Edwin Moses with the second-fastest 400m hurdles time ever, lowering his personal best from 47.98 to 47.02. Benjamin represents Antigua and Barbuda but is trying to switch to the U.S., a process held up by the IAAF’s current freeze on nation transfers.

Women’s 800m — 3:42 p.m. ET
The six fastest active women line up in the strongest track event of the meet. South African Caster Semenya has the longest winning streak (by days) on the track, having not lost an 800m since 2015. Semenya’s focus this summer is somewhat diverted to appealing the IAAF’s proposed rule change to limit testosterone levels in female middle-distance runners. That change would go into effect for next season and is expected to affect Semenya. This field also includes Olympic silver and bronze medalists Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, plus world bronze medalist and American record holder Ajeé Wilson.

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Ginny Fuchs hopes to emerge from OCD, tearful Olympic experience

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None of the boxers at this week’s U.S. Olympic Trials competed at a prior Olympics, but flyweight Ginny Fuchs remembers the specifics of her one Olympic experience in Rio.

Fuchs, who won the 2016 Olympic trials but failed to clinch a spot at the Games in international qualifiers, was nonetheless named team captain and brought to Rio as a sparring partner.

She had mixed feelings. Watching from the crowd as Claressa Shields repeated as Olympic champion on the final day of the Games was motivating. Fuchs had toyed with turning professional but, after talking to Shields, decided to forge another four years as an amateur for another chance to become an Olympian.

The Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony, two weeks before that Shields final, was too much for Fuchs to bear. She could not stay in the Athletes’ Village nor march with the U.S. delegation at the Maracana.

“I remember watching the Opening Ceremony at the place I was at with everybody,” she said. “I couldn’t watch. It was hard for me to watch. I went back to my room, cried and went to bed.”

Fuchs is favored to win the 51kg/112-pound division this week at Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, La., with finals streaming live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday (4-7 p.m. ET). It’s one of five women’s Olympic weight classes, up from three in 2012 and 2016, the first two editions of the Games for female boxers.

No boxer can clinch an Olympic spot this week, but failing to make a final would all but end Tokyo hopes.

Fuchs’ toughest opponent in this Olympic cycle — which included an undefeated 2017 and a 2018 World bronze medal among more than 130 fights — may be herself. Fuchs has been open about struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It started in fifth grade.

“I can remember the first time I was on the school bus, and I was looking at the ground and looking at everybody’s backpacks on the floor,” said Fuchs, a 31-year-old from the Houston area. “And an instant thought came in mind, like, Oh my god. Everybody’s backpack is getting contaminated by this dirty floor on the bus.”

She cited a more recent example: spending up to 40 minutes washing her hands searching for that “perfect clean feeling.” Fuchs found boxing via a boyfriend after she was kicked off the LSU cross-country running team as a freshman walk-on for damaging school property in a prank.

She said the disorder hit her hardest this year. In January, she was driving to a Walmart three times a day to buy cleaning supplies, according to The New York Times.

She underwent intensive therapy and skipped October’s world championships, where she could have established herself as a clear Olympic gold-medal favorite.

“I still am going to probably do therapy for the rest of my life,” Fuchs said. “Maybe not as intense as I’m doing it right now, but it’s almost like training for boxing.

“You’ve got to keep training to keep winning in boxing. So I’ve got to keep training my OCD thoughts and how to handle and manage it. … Boxing is giving me hope almost. Like OK, outside the ring and in my room and the bathroom, I feel like [OCD] controls me and feel trapped. But I have this environment in this space in the gym, in the boxing ring, where I can be myself. And not let it attack me in a way where I can still enjoy life and not be trapped.”

Should Fuchs make the final of her division in Lake Charles, she will advance to a January camp and tournament, after which the U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying will be named.

If selected, Fuchs would head to a North and South American Olympic qualifying event in early spring in Buenos Aires to clinch the spot she could not secure four years ago. If necessary, she could get a second chance at a global qualifier in May in Paris.

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Yulia Efimova has lawyer ready if Russia ban affects her

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Yulia Efimova, the Russian swimmer who earned two Rio Olympic silver medals after initially being excluded from the Games for serving a prior doping ban, is bracing for another legal fight after the latest sanctions against her nation.

On Monday, Russia was banned from the 2020 and 2022 Olympics and the next four years of world championships in Olympic sports due to more recent anti-doping violations. However, its athletes can still compete as neutrals, if meeting specific anti-doping criteria, similar to how they did at the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Efimova was initially barred from the Rio Olympics under an IOC mandate that any Russian who previously served a doping ban would be ineligible due to the country’s anti-doping violations at that time.

Efimova appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled that IOC stipulation unenforceable. She went on to earn 100m and 200m breaststroke silver medals and develop a rivalry with American Lilly King, who said Efimova should not have been eligible.

It’s unclear from Monday’s ruling whether Efimova will be allowed to compete as a neutral, should Russia accept the sanctions or any appeal to CAS by the nation be denied.

“I will behave in a similar way,” to 2016, Efimova said, according to RT.com. “I have already hired a lawyer. There is a rule that a person can’t be punished twice for the same offense. If you violate a driving code or instigated a brawl you will not be punished twice for that. I hope it will work, but I cannot be sure of [a positive outcome].

“Right after my race at the Rio Games, I said that this doping controversy was not over, it was just the beginning, and we would have problems in the future. It was quite clear. And with every new year the situation is only getting worse and worse.”

Efimova, 27 and the two-time reigning world 200m breast champion, was banned 16 months between 2013 and 2015 after testing positive for a steroid. A FINA panel ruled that Efimova was not intentionally trying to cheat but was negligent in failing to read the label of a GNC store supplement.

“Yes, long ago I made a doping violation,” Efimova said this week, according to RT. “But there are a great number of U.S. and European athletes who have a similar situation regarding doping, and they are competing without any restrictions. If you want to introduce those regulations, they must be equally applied to all athletes, not only Russian competitors.”

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