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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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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