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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Nathan Chen hopes to hip hop his way to Skate America crown

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LAS VEGAS — In Las Vegas on Friday, an elegant Nathan Chen performed a romantic short program to Charles Aznavour’s “La Boheme,” earning 102.71 points and a 6.14-point lead at Skate America.

When the two-time world champion takes the ice for his free skate on Saturday, he’ll pop and lock to music from the Elton John biopic Rocketman — for the last 30 seconds or so of the program, he’ll be a hip hop dancer on skates.

After choreographer Marie-France Dubreuil presented Chen with the idea, it took him a while, or at least a couple of minutes, to get used to it.

“Originally, she just said Rocketman and I said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s fine,’” Chen said. “Then she threw in the hip hop. I said, ‘Wait a minute.’ She didn’t tell me until I got there and she played the music.”

“I figured it would be fine,” he added. “My issue was telling [coach] Raf [Arutunian]. I didn’t tell him until I got back to California, but when I did tell him he was actually totally on board with it.”

Whatever concerns the coach may have had vanished when Chen showed him the steps, created with Dubreuil’s collaborator Samuel Chouinard.

“First of all, it looks like it’s professionally done and he executes it professionally,” Arutunian said. “I was watching ice dance last year and many of couples (were) doing hip hop dancing, and I think he would be one of the best at it. If you do something, you should do well, and he is doing it so professionally, you cannot feel he has blades on. He manipulates his feet like he is in shoes.”

This isn’t exactly Chen’s first try at hip hop. He touched on it last season in his “Land of All” free skate, also created with Dubreuil and Chouinard.

“I was actually pretty cool with it because I worked with Sam last year. We did a tiny bit of hip hop to incorporate (into the program), it wasn’t truly hip hop,” Chen said. “I knew that’s (Sam’s) specialty, that’s what he’s great at, and I figured it would be fine.”

Chouinard, a Montreal-based choreographer and dancer, has created hip hop programs for other skaters, including Canada’s two-time Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Many ice dancers incorporated hip hop into their short dances for the 2016-2017 season. But as Chen notes, trying it in men’s singles competition is a different story.

“I did consider that,” he admitted. “I haven’t seen much of this. I know (U.S. skater) Philip Warren has done something like it this year and other kids have, and of course dancers did it. It wasn’t something that is never done, but rarely do you see it with the top six guys (in the world).”

MORE: Nathan Chen calls 3 quads at Skate America ‘a given’

Chen has to be encouraged by the reaction of spectators at his practices here, who screamed and clapped when the skater busted his moves.

“It’s a judged sport and the way the audience reacts to the program has some influence on how the judges interpret your performance,” he said. “I think we don’t want to stick to one demographic in terms of the fan base, the audience. It’s nice to incorporate everything. It’s cool to see all the guys competing have completely different styles, so each program new, unique and fresh.”

Now a sophomore at Yale University, Chen’s balancing act between studies as a Statistics and Data Science major and elite figure skater competitor, is getting a bit trickier.

“Homework is time consuming, each homework assignment takes six to 12 hours to finish and I have a couple per week, so that’s a lot,” he said. “It’s mostly exam times that are really challenging, right now is a little bit easier time for me at school. Obviously it’s going to pick up. It’s tough, but as much as I’m in the situation, I just have to manage as best I can.”

Fortunately, Skate America takes place during an academic break. Japan Open earlier this month was another story; the trip caused him to miss a midterm exam, which he later made up.

“Competition after competition keeps me motivated, knowing I have to achieve a certain goal at each competition,” Chen said. “That’s what drives me through practices.”

MORE: How to watch Skate America

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Check out a free trial of the Figure Skating Pass during Skate America from Oct. 18-20. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Nathan Chen holds commanding lead over Skate America men’s field

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Nathan Chen is on his way to winning his third Skate America title this weekend in Las Vegas to open the 2019-20 Grand Prix season. The two-time world champion hasn’t lost a Grand Prix event since his silver medal at the Grand Prix Final in 2016, and is about to make that list longer.

(In case you were wondering, Todd Eldredge has the most Skate America wins from the ’90s, with five.)

Chen, a sophomore at Yale University, scored 102.71 points in Friday’s short program and was the only man to break the 100-point barrier. Chen opened his short program, set to “La Boheme,” with a quadruple Lutz, followed by a triple Axel and a quad toe-triple toe combination.

Skate America results are here.

“I’m not entirely happy with how the program went, however, since this is the first outing, I’m pretty okay with how things went,” Chen said through U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m looking forward to competing tomorrow and hopefully cleaning up some of the mistakes I made today and keep moving forward.”

Russia’s Dmitry Aliev is in second place heading into Saturday’s free skate, trailing Chen at 96.57 points. His short program also included a quad Lutz and a quad toe. Canada’s Keegan Messing notched a personal best short program score with 96.34 points and is in third place.

2014 Olympian Jason Brown finds himself in fourth place with 83.45 points. Brown popped his triple Axel attempt into a single, which received zero points.

“It was a lapse of focus in the moment,” Brown said of his Axel attempt. “I should not have missed it; I have not missed one all week. I’m very irritated with myself. In the moment, you have to try not to relive it. Whether I was trying to stay relaxed about it or whether I was trying to attack it, I can’t remember. But I remember a moment of something right before [it happened]. I just said, ‘Don’t show emotion, just keep going.’ I think my experience definitely serves me well when it comes to making mistakes and having to pick back up like nothing happened. But that irritation doesn’t go away.”

The third American man in the field, Alex Krasnozhon, is in 10th place with 72.30 points.

MORE: How to watch Skate America

China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang, fourth at worlds last year, took a slim lead in the pairs’ short program earlier Friday. They told a 1.48 point lead over Russia’s Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, who sit in second place.

U.S. reigning national champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc are third with 68.20 points. The other two American teams in the field, Haven Denney and Brandon Frasier and Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson, are fourth and fifth, respectively.

“We’re building toward the world championships, and we’ve been very outspoken about our goal to be in the top five at worlds,” LeDuc said through U.S. Figure Skating. “Salt Lake was the first step, this is another. We’re building, and I think we’re really right on track for what we want. To have a big mistake in the program and still have a 68 is really awesome. We’re in a good place and excited to go into the free skate as well.”

Skate America continues Friday with the rhythm dance and ladies’ short programs, followed by the free skates in all disciplines on Saturday from Las Vegas. All of it can be seen live with the NBC Sports Gold “Figure Skating Pass,” which is offering a free trial for Skate America.

MORE: Nathan Chen calls 3 quads at Skate America ‘a given’

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Check out a free trial of the Figure Skating Pass during Skate America from Oct. 18-20. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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