Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles
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U.S. sprint show in Rabat; Diamond League preview, TV schedule

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The world’s four fastest men since the Rio Olympics gather for a 100m showdown on Friday. They’re all Americans.

Christian ColemanNoah LylesRonnie Baker and Mike Rodgers headline a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, live on NBC Sports Gold at 1:55 p.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 3 p.m.

The question when Usain Bolt retired last year was who would succeed him as the world’s fastest man. Bolt is irreplaceable in the sport, so, fittingly, it has been a group effort. Though none of these Americans have come close to Bolt’s world record 9.58.

Coleman came first. In 2017, he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds, one tenth faster than the NFL Combine record. Then he clocked 9.82 seconds at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships, which remains the fastest time in the world since the Rio Games. Then he beat Bolt in the semifinals and final of the 2017 Worlds, taking silver to Justin Gatlin overall.

This past winter, Coleman ran faster than the 60m world record three times in the indoor season. He looked like the next sprint king — especially given Gatlin is 36 years old — until slowed by a hamstring injury in the spring. Rabat marks Coleman’s first race since May 31.

Lyles and Baker took the baton from Coleman this outdoor season. Baker, who grew up running cross-country backdropped by moose in Alaska, beat Coleman in back-to-back May meets.

Lyles, fourth in the 200m at the Olympic Trials shortly after his high school graduation, dropped down to the 100m at USATF Outdoors last month and won in the fastest time in the world this year, edging Baker. Baker responded by matching Lyles’ 9.88 a week later.

Rodgers, a 33-year-old veteran without any global championship 100m medals, has clocked his best times in three years in a bit of a resurgent season.

There are no world championships this summer. Looking ahead, Coleman, Lyles and Baker have the credentials and the youth to be early favorites for the 2019 Worlds and 2020 Olympics.

Jamaica’s men’s sprint program has tumbled like the bizarre end to Bolt’s career. They have no men in the top 20 in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada just prematurely ended his season for a second straight year due to hamstring injuries.

Maybe somebody else comes along — Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes (personal best 9.91) must be mentioned — but for now the U.S. owns the 100m for the first time in a more than a decade. That will be clear to anybody watching Rabat on Friday.

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

1:55 p.m. — Men’s Long Jump
2:07 — Women’s High Jump
2:23 — Women’s Shot Put
2:30 — Men’s Pole Vault
3:04 — Men’s 400m
3:12 — Women’s 800m
3:21 — Men’s 1500m
3:32 — Women’s 200m
3:34 — Men’s Javelin
3:39 — Men’s 3000m
3:42 — Women’s Triple Jump
3:57 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
4:05 — Women’s 5000m
4:30 — Men’s 100m
4:38 — Women’s 1000m
4:46 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Pole Vault — 2:30 p.m. ET
London Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks even split their six head-to-heads so far this season, with Lavillenie holding a 16-14 career heat-to-head, according to Tilastopaja.org. The last time both men entered a meet and neither won was the Rio Olympics. That gold medalist, the struggling Thiago Braz of Brazil, hasn’t won an international outdoor competition since the Games and ranks No. 92 in the world this outdoor campaign. All are in the Rabat field.

Women’s 200m — 3:32 p.m. ET
Six women could realistically win this. Like rising Harvard senior Gabby Thomas, who was runner-up at the NCAA Championships on June 9, then won the Lausanne Diamond League 200m last Thursday. The Rabat field is clearly tougher, with Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, world indoor 60m champion Murielle Ahoure of Cote d’Ivoire and U.S. champion Jenna Prandini

Men’s 3000m — 3:39 p.m. ET
This field has just about every 5000m star one could hope for, minus Selemon Barega, the Ethiopian who was grabbed by the shorts by countryman Yomif Kejelcha in the Lausanne 5000m last Thursday. Kejelcha is in this field, but their grudge match must wait. Also here: Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, who took advantage of the Ethiopian exchange to win in Switzerland. And world champion Muktar Edris of Ethiopia, plus Olympic and world medalist Paul Chelimo of the U.S.

Women’s 5000m — 4:05 p.m. ET
World champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya takes on a diverse field. Start with Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world-record holder who ranks fourth all-time in the 5000m and handed Obiri her first defeat at the distance since 2016 at the Pre Classic on May 26. There’s also Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, once arguably the world’s top 1500m runner who was third in the 5000m at 2017 Worlds. Then there’s American Molly Huddle, who has transitioned to the marathon but makes her Diamond League season debut here.

Men’s 100m — 4:30 p.m. ET
The key will be Coleman’s health. The Coleman from last summer and winter beats Lyles and Baker. If Coleman is not 100 percent, things get interesting. Coleman and Baker are excellent starters — Coleman a bit better than Baker — while Lyles should be in chase mode. He had enough track to pass Baker at nationals and win by .02.

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Yuzuru Hanyu wins Autumn Classic despite shaky performance

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Yuzuru Hanyu won his third Autumn Classic International crown in Oakville, Ontario on Saturday, but it was a bumpy ride.

The two-time Olympic champion’s debut of his “Origin” free skate, inspired by Yevgeni Plushenko’s famous “Tribute to Njinsky” program, had many fine elements: opening quadruple loop and toe loop jumps, plus two triple axels in the program’s second half; a pair of superb closing spins with fittingly baroque positions; and promising step and choreography sequences that preserved Plushenko’s flair, while adding a touch more refinement and control.

But a face-forward fall on a quad salchow, followed by a popped quad toe, meant Hanyu’s 165.91 points put him second in the free skate to his 16-year-old training partner, Junhwan Cha of South Korea. His total score, including Friday’s short program, was 263.65 points, just under four points higher than Cha’s second-place total.

At this point in the season, many other skaters – not including Plushenko – would have shrugged  off the imperfections in the challenging program and been happy to put a few miles on the choreography. But the 23-year-old Hanyu’s perfectionism runs year-round.

“My first competition of the season is always this level, unfortunately,” he said, as translated from Japanese. “I wanted to skate my short and free without any regrets here, and I was not able to do that.”

Hanyu likely remembers this event last season, when a mistake-riddled free skate put him second to longtime rival Javier Fernandez of Spain. This time around, the Japanese superstar, who trains at Toronto’s Cricket Skating and Curling Club under Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson, was especially disappointed that his jump glitches meant he could not attempt a quad-triple axel sequence, a combination that might have been worth some 20 points.

“I was not strong enough to skate this program yet,” he said. “I feel fine, I am not injured. Another program, maybe (last season’s) ‘Seimei,’ I might have been able to do well, but not this program. I am just not ready.”

Just as he did after Friday’s short program, where a botched spin cost him several points, Hanyu vowed to work harder.

“This is where I am right now, and I need to practice more,” he said.

Hanyu has plenty of time: his first Grand Prix event is in Finland on November 2.

The skating world may best remember this event as the week Cha came into his own. The Korean teen, who landed a quad salchow in his short on Friday, hit a quad toe to start his free to “Romeo and Juliet” – just the second time he has landed the jump in competition. While his quad salchow was judge under rotated, he went on to land two triple-triple combinations and two triple axels, all done with style and maturity beyond his years. The program earned 169.22 points to win the day.

“Last season, I didn’t skate so well. I had some hip and back (injuries) and boot problems,” Cha, who also said he had recently had a growth spurt, said. “Now I feel much stronger, and I have been working hard.”

Asked if he had a skating idol – perhaps his training partner, Hanyu – Cha demurred.

“I don’t have just one idol,” he said. “I like many different skaters, for different reasons. I will like one skater for his jumps; another skater for his spins.”

MORE: Tennell upsets Medvedeva at Autumn Classic

Canada’s Roman Sadovsky, fourth after the short program, stepped up to win the bronze medal with 233.86 points after landing two quads, a salchow and toe, in his free skate.

Jason Brown may be disappointed in his fourth-place finish here, but it cannot have come as a big surprise: the 2015 U.S. champion has said that since moving to Toronto this spring to train under Orser and Wilson, he has been re-learning his jump technique. He called the move “a four-year project.”

“I cannot speak more highly of Brian, Tracy, Lee (Barkell) and Karen (Preston), the whole team at Cricket Club,” Brown, 23, said. “They have been really been patient with me and worked with me methodically. … We’re starting from the ground up. Each day I’m learning something new, each day they are helping me work through something, whether that me a mental thing, physically getting a jump,  or the pacing of a program.”

The debut of Brown’s free to a medley of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends” and “Hazy Days of Winter” was bittersweet: his blades sung during spins, step sequences and transitions, but the jumps weren’t there. An opening quad salchow was doubled; a triple axel, popped into a single. He earned 144.33 points to place fifth in the free and fourth overall with 233.23.

Wilson, though, said they are just getting started.

“Let’s face it, he is a brilliant skater and he’s gotten close to the top of the world,” Wilson said of Brown, who was fourth in the world in 2015. “It’s a fine line trying to find room for improvement, and so that’s what we are trying to do. We are throwing a lot at him. We’re going to pull back a little.”

“What he brings, though, cannot be ignored,” she added. “My husband can be in the rink and know nothing about skating, and be mesmerized by what Jason does. He could teach clinics for every step sequence and position details. He is integral to what the sport needs.”

MORE: Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje debut free dance tribute to Denis Ten

Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje debut free dance tribute to Denis Ten

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Sometimes, you have to follow your heart, even if it makes you sad.

That’s what Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje thought when they chose to perform their free dance to “SOS, d’un terrien en detresse” this season. The tender Kazakh ballad was used by their friend, Denis Ten, who trained alongside them in Hackensack, New Jersey for a time. Ten died on July 19 in his home city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, after being stabbed by robbers attempting to vandalize his car.

“He was our dear friend. We found this music when we went to Kazakhstan and (saw) him skate to it this summer,” Weaver said. “We couldn’t get it out of our heads.  We came home and built a program around a different version (by Los Angeles: The Voices).”

The debut of the sensitive, yearning program earned Weaver and Poje 120.74 points and the title here in Oakville.  Canada’s world bronze medalists gained six Level  4 elements, the most valuable in figure skating’s scoring system, and judges also awarded high scores for interpretation and performance.

“When the tragedy struck, we knew our mission in this program was to do it for Denis,” Weaver said. “It’s about a person who is in distress and has a guardian there to care for him, and in the end,  they both understand it’s (the guardian’s) time to go. It’s the tragic sweetness and acceptance of it we’re trying to feel and portray.”

Doesn’t repeatedly training a program with such tragic connections get draining?

“That was the hardest thing,” Poje said. “But all of the memories we have of Denis bring us such joy. We had great laughs, especially the year we trained together. It made us feel at peace with going out there. We know how much he has touched people around the world.”

“This is our medium, our form of expression,” Weaver said. “We felt we needed to use it to pay tribute. We are able to channel our feelings into art, and that’s our way to deal with the tragedy.”

The free dance was choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo, who coached Weaver and Poje for several years at the Detroit Skating Club. Although Nikolai Morozov, who works in Hackensack, remains the couple’s primary coach, they also work with Camerlengo and Igor Shpilband in Novi, Michigan.

Morozov thinks this arrangement of high-powered ice dance honchos is a trio made in heaven.

“They love to work with Pasquale, and Igor is very excited to work with them,” he said. “We are just happy because to us, it is most important that they are getting better. I don’t think we have egos any more. We are just happy to work with great skaters. It’s been very easy.”

Autumn Classic was Weaver and Poje’s first and only fall competition this season. They next compete at the 2019 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. Tomorrow, they join rehearsals for the upcoming “Thank You Canada Tour” across the nation, along with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir; Patrick Chan; Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford; Kaetlyn Osmond; and other figure skating stars. The couple will alternate performing their competitive rhythm dance, a romantic tango, with their free dance.

“Whatever the feeling is in the morning, short or free, is what we’ll do,” Poje said.

“We will definitely get both programs out there in front of the audiences,” Weaver added.

Two teams training at Gadbois Center in Montreal, Quebec under Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice LauzonAdrian Diaz and Olivia Smart of Spain, and Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu of China – placed second and third, respectively.

MORE: Tennell upsets Medvedeva at Autumn Classic