Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Noah Lyles, Michael Norman finally meet again; Diamond League preview

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Neither Noah Lyles nor Michael Norman has been to an Olympics or world championships, but their race in Lausanne is arguably the most anticipated sprint of the season.

The men’s 200m headlines Thursday’s Diamond League meet, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA (2-4 p.m. ET) and NBC Sports Gold (1:10-4).

The last time Lyles and Norman went head-to-head was the 2016 Olympic Trials, where they finished fourth and fifth in the 200m, just missing the three-man Olympic team as recent high school graduates.

Since, Lyles has gone undefeated in outdoor 200m races, but he missed last year’s world championships due to injury. Lyles, who turned pro after trials, also won the U.S. 100m title two weeks ago in the fastest time in the world for 2018 (9.88, since matched by countryman Ronnie Baker).

Norman, meanwhile, broke the indoor 400m world record on March 10 (44.52) running for the University of Southern California. He followed that with the fastest outdoor 400m time in the world this year (43.61) at the NCAA Championships on June 8.

Lyles and Norman both entered the 200m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships two weeks ago, but Lyles chose not to race it while Norman withdrew before a final delayed three hours by a thunderstorm.

The Lyles-Norman show may become the premier act in track and field in the post-Bolt era. The sport’s other sprint names are either winding down their careers (Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix) or injured (Wayde van Niekerk and Christian Coleman).

Lausanne marks their first race together of this Olympic cycle and, hopefully, the first of many.

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

1:10 p.m. — Women’s Javelin
1:15 — Women’s Long Jump
1:20 — Men’s Shot Put
2:02 — Women’s 400m
2:12 — Women’s 200m
2:15 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:22 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
2:30 — Men’s High Jump
2:32 — Women’s 800m
2:42 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:52 — Women’s 100m
3:02 — Men’s 5000m
3:18 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
3:28 — Women’s 1500m
3:38 — Men’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 2:15 p.m. ET
The top six women in the world this year (indoors or outdoors) meet in a rematch of sorts of the Prefontaine Classic on May 26. Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champion, won at Pre, but then took third at USATF Outdoors behind Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte. Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece as well as New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney cleared season-best heights since Pre.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 2:22 pm. ET
Russian Sergey Shubenkov injected some life into this event on Monday by clocking 12.92 seconds, the second-fastest time in the world since Aries Merritt‘s world-record 19.80 on Sept. 7, 2012. Shubenkov, the 2015 World champion, will try to beat not only Merritt here, but also 2016 Olympic and 2017 World champion Omar McLeod. Plus Ronald Levy, who won Jamaican nationals in McLeod’s absence and then won at the last Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday. U.S. champion Devon Allen is also in this field.

Women’s 100m — 2:52 p.m. ET
U.S. and NCAA champion Aleia Hobbs tests herself against Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and the fastest women in the world this year in her senior international debut. Hobbs leads the world with seven sub-10 clockings in 2018, but Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire has the two fastest times (10.85 and 10.88). World and U.S. 200m champions Dafne Schippers and Jenna Prandini also line up here.

Women’s 1500m — 3:28 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya is always a must-see, but what she did Saturday was eye-popping even by her standards. The South African Olympic and world champion lowered her 800m personal best by .91 in Paris, clocking the fastest time in the world in 10 years. Semenya is undefeated at 800m since September 2015 and also perfect at 1500m this year, having clocked the then-fastest time in the world for the season at her last two outings in April and May. If Semenya is to do that again, she’ll have to beat world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba‘s 3:56.68 from June 8. Dibaba is unfortunately not in this field, but Semenya could have her hands full with U.S. champion Shelby Houlihan, Brit Laura Muir and Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, who lowered her personal best by nearly two seconds to win in Stockholm on June 10 in the world’s No. 2 time this year.

Men’s 200m — 3:38 p.m. ET
Lyles and Norman are each undefeated at 200m outdoors since the Olympic Trials, though Norman rarely raced it for USC. Each man has comfortably broken 20 seconds. They are the favorites here. But watch out for Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards, the world bronze medalist who had the fastest split in the 4x400m at worlds to help upset the U.S.

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Lin Dan, badminton legend, retires: ‘It is very difficult to say goodbye’

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Lin Dan, arguably the greatest badminton player in history, announced retirement Saturday, citing “pain and injuries” in bowing out a year before the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

“I have been with the national team from 2000 to 2020, and it is very difficult to say goodbye,” 36-year-old Lin wrote to his four million Weibo fans, according to Badminton World Federation (BWF) translation. “Pain and injuries no longer allow me to fight with my teammates. I have gratitude, a heavy heart and unwillingness.”

Lin, nicknamed “Super Dan,” won Olympic singles titles in 2008 and 2012, plus five individual world titles. It’s the greatest resume for any badminton player from China, which owns twice as many medals as any other nation in the sport that debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

He competed at the last four Olympics, won the sport’s Super Grand Slam (nine major titles) and had his own wax figure at Madame Tussauds in Shanghai.

Lin’s outbursts on and off the court led to some calling him the John McEnroe of badminton, but he is revered. In 2015, he was the second athlete on Forbes China‘s most popular celebrities list behind tennis player Li Na.

Lin’s pursuit of a fifth Olympics in Tokyo was looking out of reach. He dropped to No. 26 in the Olympic qualifying rankings, trailing four countrymen, including No. 5 Chen Long (Rio Olympic champion) and No. 11 Shi Yuqi (2018 World silver medalist). A nation can qualify a maximum of two individual players per gender for the Games.

“From where came his mastery? In short, his prowess was essentially due to the completeness of his game – in skill, physical ability and mental strength,” the BWF wrote in a press release. “Such was his craft that even well into his 30s, normally considered an advanced age for men’s singles, he could outplay younger and fitter opponents.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

MORE: Who is China’s greatest Olympian?

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MyKayla Skinner’s motivation for Tokyo: her Rio Olympic experience

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MyKayla Skinner remembers the little room at the SAP Center in San Jose. She remembers the wait, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.

After the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials, the competitors (14 total performed) assembled while a selection committee convened in another space.

The committee finalized the five-woman Olympic team (plus three alternates), marched into the athletes’ room and delivered the verdict.

“They say the first four names, and then there’s that one spot left,” Skinner recalled. “I’m like, is it going to be me? You’re so tense just waiting there. All of us holding each other’s hands in the room. We’re all sitting there. It’s just, like, frozen dead silent. Then they say that fifth spot.”

Skinner doesn’t remember who was the fifth name. Just that it wasn’t her.

“I just broke down crying,” she said in a recent interview. “All that hard work I put in still wasn’t good enough. Even though it was. It’s just who they needed for the team.”

Skinner placed fourth in the all-around at those Olympic Trials, the highest finisher who was not named to the Olympic team. She was one of three alternates. If the Olympic team was chosen by all-around standings, a selection committee would not be necessary. Instead, gymnasts are puzzle pieces, chosen as who best fits the Olympic format: three gymnasts per apparatus in the team final and up to two per nation per individual final.

Skinner’s mind raced while she waited for the committee’s decision. She eventually settled on a gut feeling, that she would not make the team.

“I thought that it should be enough, but at the same I didn’t think that it would be,” said Lisa Spini, Skinner’s coach at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, Arizona. “I thought the team was already decided before the Olympic Trials.”

Spini said it was her toughest night as a gymnastics coach.

“Being an alternate is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in gymnastics,” said Skinner, who traveled to Brazil and, with fellow alternates Ashton Locklear and Ragan Smith, trained separately from the Olympic team. “The whole time I was in Rio, I probably cried every single night

“The Olympics should be something so special, but I feel like it was definitely miserable at times. It was really hard to enjoy being an alternate. With this comeback, that has pushed me so hard just because I was so close.”

You may have read about Skinner back in the spring, after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.

It’s a devastating delay for a female gymnast, whose peak often lasts for one Olympic cycle (sometimes even shorter). Skinner is an exception, excelling for the better part of a decade on different levels.

She made her first world championships team in 2014. After Rio, she matriculated at the University of Utah, where she was twice an NCAA all-around runner-up and hit an NCAA record 161 straight routines without a fall. In 2019, she decided to come back to international competition — for an Olympic run — with one year left of NCAA gymnastics.

She is 23, the oldest of the 16-woman U.S. national team. She is trying to become the oldest woman to make a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team since 2004. And the first with NCAA experience to do so since Alicia Sacramone in 2008.

“The reason why a lot of college gymnasts couldn’t come back and do it is they’ve been so injured over the years,” Spini said. “Their body wouldn’t hold up. She’s been really lucky that way.”

Skinner could have easily followed the path of so many other stars who signaled the end of an elite career by going to college, where training and routines are less demanding.

She questioned herself often after the Tokyo postponement whether it was worth it to return to elite training. The Olympic team event roster size has been cut from five to four. Simone Biles is an overwhelming favorite to earn one spot. In the face of those odds, Skinner can’t shake a memory from Rio.

“I just go back to the moment of when I was sitting in the stands,” watching the Final Five earn gold, Skinner said. “I was so close to making the team. This has been my dream ever since I went to Desert Lights when I was 12.”

Skinner’s comeback is already a success. Last year, on three months of elite training, she placed eighth at the U.S. Championships. She was convinced to accept an invitation to the world championships selection camp, where six women would make the traveling team (one later named an alternate).

Like in 2016, Skinner placed fourth in the all-around competition before the roster was chosen.

Again, the gymnasts gathered for the announcement. This time, Skinner made the cut as the sixth woman named. Biles, the other 20-something at the camp and a friend, jumped in excitement.

The team traveled to Germany in late September. After training, one woman had to be designated the alternate. High performance team coordinator Tom Forster took Skinner aside one day on the way to lunch. She knew what was coming and broke down in tears, flashing back to 2016.

“Simone was like, hey, let’s go to the bathroom. She helped talk me through it and helped me calm down and definitely made me a feel a lot better,” said Skinner, who supported Biles and the U.S. team that competed in Stuttgart. She then wed Jonas Harmer in November and decided what must be done to make the Olympic team.

“We’re going to try to add in some big skills, which will put her difficulty level, probably, second only to Simone,” Spini said.

Skinner is documenting her last year-plus in elite gymnastics on a YouTube channel with 29,000 subscribers. She has been fortunate during the coronavirus pandemic to train at her gym if no more than 10 people were present. Many other gymnasts — and athletes across Olympic sports — spent weeks or months out of their facilities.

“I definitely don’t think I would have been able to have that much time off,” she said. “That’s really hard with gymnastics because you feel like, you take two days off, and it’s like you had a year off.”

One day this spring, Skinner’s mom called, in tears, fearing for her life with an illness that turned out to be the coronavirus. Both of her parents, in their 60s, had it and briefly lost their senses of taste. Her mom had breathing problems, but they recovered.

One night last month, Skinner had a dream about next year’s Olympic Trials. The Final Five all came back to compete, and Skinner was again named an alternate. She woke up. Skinner doesn’t know how she would handle that kind of disappointment in real life, again.

“So it’s kind of scary,” she said. Then Skinner thinks back to Rio, and that burning she felt while watching the Final Five win gold medals.

“This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I’m meant to do is elite gymnastics,” said Skinner, who was born via life-threatening, early-labor C-section, needing to be revived by doctors. “I think it’s cool that I can have this opportunity to go and push myself one last time so I can reach that end goal.”

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