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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David Boudia adjusts diving event, goal for world championships

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David Boudia earned diving medals at his last three world championships and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but that was on the platform. He competes on the global stage on the springboard for the first time at worlds this week.

“I don’t have a lot of high hopes,” Boudia, who is still learning the springboard after switching to it in the last year, said in a phone interview from South Korea, where he begins competition Wednesday (TV schedule here). “But I think my biggest goal is to walk away with an Olympic spot.”

An Olympic spot not necessarily for himself, but for the U.S.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, and any other American will clinch 2020 Olympic quota spots by placing in the top 12 in their respective individual events this week. Those spots, and any others earned at later competitions in the next year, will be filled at trials in June in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter believes Boudia, who left the sport to sell homes in 2017 and came back and suffered a concussion off the platform in 2018, can meet his goal of making Friday’s 12-man final in Gwangju.

“He would have to dive well, but not better than he’s been diving,” she said. “His springboard is really well-timed, rhythmic, and he’s for a long time known how to go into the water without making a splash.”

But challenging Rio Olympic gold and silver medalists Cao Yuan of China and Jack Laugher of Great Britain, plus defending world champion Xie Siyi of China would be very tough.

Boudia lacks their degrees of difficulty, for now. He hopes to switch out two of his six dives before his first competition of 2020, though he could insert one of them should he make the world final.

“I need a good six months, so from August to December is when we’re kind of really drilling the fundamentals of learning those new dives and getting them perfected,” he said.

Boudia rallied to beat Rio Olympic springboard diver Michael Hixon for the title in May at nationals, where the top two per event earned world berths. But Boudia competed there with about a month of competition dive practice, about half as long as he would prefer.

“Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five,” at worlds, Boudia said in May, according to TeamUSA.org.

Boudia is the lone U.S. diver to earn an individual world medal in an Olympic diving event since 2009.

The U.S. produced breakthroughs at worlds so far. Sarah Bacon became the first American woman to earn a world title since 2005, taking the non-Olympic 1m springboard event. Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young bagged bronze in synchronized platform, ending a decade-long medal drought in any synchro event.

But Boudia’s goal must be shared among the whole team — as many top-12 finishes individually and top three in synchro events to gobble up Tokyo 2020 quota spots. The U.S. failed to qualify full teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the top 12 in the four individual Olympic events is the big deal right now,” Potter said. “Whether you are on the awards stand or not, that would be icing on the cake for a lot of these divers.”

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Anita Wlodarczyk, one of track and field’s most dominant, sidelined

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Poland hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the only woman to win the last five combined Olympic and world titles in a track and field event, will not go for a fourth straight world championship this fall.

Wlodarczyk had season-ending, arthroscopic left knee surgery on Monday, according to Polish media citing her coach.

Wlodarczyk, 33, has the top 15 throws on the IAAF’s all-time list, and 27 of the top 29. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history. She originally took silver at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds but was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Lysenko was stripped for doping.

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017, then suffered three losses in 2018 and two so far this year in three lower-level meets before the operation.

Americans DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. A U.S. woman has never finished in the top five of an Olympic or world championships hammer throw, which debuted at worlds in 1999 and the Olympics in 2000.

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