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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VIDEO: Tearful Dawn Harper-Nelson reflects after last USA Champs

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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