Shelby Houlihan stars, Noah Lyles outduels Michael Norman in Lausanne (video)

Leave a comment

Noah Lyles and Michael Norman were supposed to author the race of the year at the Diamond League meet in Lausanne on Thursday, but the most impressive performance of the night came from Shelby Houlihan.

Houlihan, an Olympic 5000m runner who has surged in the 1500m this season, won her third straight major 1500m, lowering her personal best by 1.72 seconds, clocking 3:57.34 and beating a field that included Caster Semenya. Houlihan kicked from fourth place with 150 meters left, while Semenya was already out of it, finishing sixth.

In all, Houlihan has dropped her 1500m personal best by 6.05 seconds in the last month and a half, winning the Prefontaine Classic on May 26 and the USATF Outdoor Championships on June 23.

“I didn´t have many expectations coming into the race today and was actually a bit worried as I was not feeling very well,” Houlihan said, according to race organizers. “I had to talk to myself during the race to stay in a comfortable position and the incredible crowd here brought my home during the last 200 meters.”

Houlihan is now the fourth-fastest U.S. woman in history in the 1500m behind Shannon RowburyMary Slaney and Jenny Simpson.

Minutes after Houlihan crossed the line, Lyles matched his personal best and the fastest time in the world this year to win the 200m in 19.69 seconds. Norman was second in 19.88.

“Yesterday I said I want to be an icon, being consistent is the first step towards that,” Lyles said. “19.69 is great, but you can always improve. I feel I can do a lot better. I need to improve my technique on the bends and who knows. I don’t want to put a limit on myself. My life goals are big. I want to be as good if not better than Michael Johnson and Justin Gatlin.”

Lyles and Norman raced each other for the first time since they finished fourth and fifth in the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m as 18-year-olds. Both were undefeated in outdoor 200m races since trials, though neither raced at 2017 Worlds.

Full Lausanne results are here.

The Diamond League next moves to Rabat, Morocco, on July 13 with live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold.

In other events, Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire continued her undefeated season in the 100m, winning in 10.90 seconds. Olympic champion Elaine Thompson was second in 10.99, while U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs did not start in what would have been her senior international debut.

In the men’s 5000m, Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha nearly pulled countryman Selemon Barega down by his shorts coming around the final turn. Kejelcha failed and ended up falling himself. Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew won in 13:01.09, the fastest time in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi cleared 4.82 meters in the pole vault to beat 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr on count back. Seven women cleared 4.72 meters in a competition for the first time in history, according to the IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov beat Olympic and world 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica for the second time this week, clocking 12.95 seconds. McLeod was fifth in 13.41. Shubenkov has the four fastest times in the world this year and is the only man to break 13 seconds in 2018.

U.S. champion Shamier Little won the 400m hurdles over a field that included Olympic gold and bronze medalists Dalilah Muhammad and Ashley Spencer. Little clocked 53.41, well off the fastest time in the world this year held by Sydney McLaughlin (52.75), who was not in the Lausanne field.

MORE: Olympic, world champion sprinter retires

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!