Abderrahman Samba runs second-fastest 400m hurdles ever (video)

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Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba clocked the second-fastest 400m hurdles ever, headlining the Paris Diamond League on Saturday.

Samba, 22, won in 46.98 seconds, becoming the second man to break 47 after Kevin Young, whose world record the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is 46.78.

Samba debuted in the 400m hurdles last year and was seventh at the world championships. This year, he has lowered his personal best from 48.31 and gone undefeated.

“I told it even before — I want to become the fastest man in the world, and I work hard to achieve it,” Samba said, according to the IAAF. “It definitely did not feel like under-47 race today. I made a small mistake at the start, lost my balance on the first hurdle, so I did not expect to run so fast. But it feels great to be the second-fastest man in the history. The world record is getting close, but I just want to improve step by step and to run fast. I improved my technique since last year, and who knows, maybe I can be one second faster next year. I am speechless now.”

Samba’s time came two weeks after Rai Benjamin clocked 47.02 at the NCAA Championships, then matching Edwin Moses for No. 2 in history. Benjamin also competed in Paris, but in the 200m, taking second to USC teammate Michael Norman in his Diamond League debut.

Norman, who on March 10 broke the indoor 400m world record, won Saturday’s 200m in 19.84 into a .6 meter/second headwind, breaking 20 for the first time. Benjamin also broke 20 for the first time, clocking 19.99.

The Diamond League moves to Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday with live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at NBC Sports Gold.

MORE: Full Paris Diamond League Results

Caster Semenya ran the fourth-fastest women’s 800m ever, stepping on the gas like never before to clock 1:54.25, a personal best by .91. Only Olympic and world silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba was within a half-second of Semenya after one lap, and the only runner within 1.83 seconds of her at the finish.

Semenya, undefeated at 800m since September 2015, may be chasing the world record of 1:53.28 before a proposed IAAF rule limiting testosterone levels in female middle-distance runners would go into effect after this season. Semenya is challenging the rule to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I am not a very emotional person, and I was always about chasing records,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF. “This season is about trying good things, new challenges and to see what you are capable of.”

American Ronnie Baker won the 100m in a personal-best 9.88, matching U.S. champion Noah Lyles‘ fastest time in the world this year. None of Lyles, world champion Justin Gatlin and world silver medalist Christian Coleman were in Saturday’s race.

World silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain routed the 400m in an Asian record 49.55, beating a field that included world champion Phyllis Francis, world indoor champion Courtney Okolo and U.S. champion Shakima Wimbley. Wimbley and Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo share the fastest time of 2018 of 49.52.

In the women’s 3000m steeplechase, Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech recorded the fifth-fastest time ever in 8:59.36. Chepkoech was fourth at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet of Bahrain has the two fastest times ever, including the world-record 8:52.78, but the Rio Olympic champion has not competed since January due to a reported doping issue.

Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who went one-two at 2017 Worlds ahead while Chepkoech and Jebet missed the medals, were not in the Paris field.

World silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya clocked the world’s fastest 1500m since last July — 3:29.71. Neither Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz nor world champion Elijah Manangoi was in Saturday’s race.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov, the world’s fastest in the 110m hurdles this year (12.99), false started out of Saturday’s final. Jamaican Ronald Levy won in 13.18 in a race that lacked countryman and Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod.

Russian Mariya Lasitskene extended her high-jump win streak to 45 meets dating to 2016, according to Tilastopaja.org. The world champion cleared 2.04 meters, while three others combined to miss nine attempts at 2 meters, including Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium. Lasitskene then missed on three attempts at 2.08, one centimeter shy of the 30-year-old world record.

World champion Sam Kendricks cleared 6.01 meters to win the pole vault over recent Louisiana high school graduate Armand Duplantis of Sweden. Kendricks then failed at three attempts a would-be American record 6.05.

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Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

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