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Stars align for historic Diamond League weekend; TV, stream info

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The Diamond League has never had a weekend like this.

Four straight days of competition between two meets for the first time in the series’ nine-year history. Track and field’s established champions — Caster SemenyaElaine ThompsonChristian Taylor — and rising stars — Noah LylesChristian ColemanJuan Miguel Echevarria — dot the fields in Monaco on Thursday and Friday and London on Saturday and Sunday.

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live broadcast coverage, streamed on NBC Sports Gold along with additional events and commercial-free feeds.

Friday — Monaco
Olympic Channel — 2-4 p.m. ET
NBC Sports Gold — 1:35-4

Saturday — London
Olympic Channel — 9-11 a.m. ET
NBC Sports Gold — 8:30-11

Sunday — London
Olympic Channel — 9-11 a.m. ET
NBC Sports Gold — 8:45-11

Following Monaco and London, there will be just one more Diamond League meet (Birmingham, Great Britain, on Aug. 18) before the two-leg Diamond League finals in Zurich and Brussels on Aug. 30-31.

The fallow season (no Olympics, no world outdoor championships) is almost over, but there is plenty to be decided at two of the Diamond League’s strongest annual meets.

Here are the entry lists for Monaco and for London. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Thursday — Monaco
12 p.m. — Women’s Shot Put
1:15 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put

Friday — Monaco
1:35 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
1:45 — Men’s 1000m
2:03 — Women’s 400m
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Men’s High Jump
2:15 — Men’s 800m
2:25 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
2:35 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:50 — Women’s 100m
3 — Men’s 1500m
3:15 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:25 — Women’s 800m
3:35 — Men’s 200m
3:45 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Saturday — London
8:30 a.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
8:33 — Women’s 3000m
9:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
9:09 — Women’s Javelin
9:30 — Women’s Long Jump
9:55 — Men’s 400m
10:05 — Men’s 5000m
10:26 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
10:38 — Women’s 100m
10:50 — Men’s 100m

Sunday — London
8:45 — Women’s Discus
9:04 — Women’s 400m
9:09 — Women’s High Jump
9:31 — Men’s Long Jump
9:37 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
9:48 — Women’s 800m
9:58 — Men’s 800m
10:08 — Men’s 1500m
10:19 — Men’s 200m
10:29 — Women’s 200m
10:39 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
10:49 — Women’s Mile

Here are 10 events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — Friday, 1:35 p.m. ET
A gathering of the top seven women in the world this year (indoors and outdoors). Though U.S. Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris won the world indoor title on March 3, London Olympic champion Jenn Suhr and New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney have been the best outdoors this spring and summer.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — Friday, 2:35 p.m. ET
The 11 fastest women in the world this year in one of the deepest fields in Diamond League history for any event. The headliners are the top four from the 2017 World Championships — U.S. gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs and Kenyans Hyvin Kiyeng and Beatrice Chepkoech. Plus, Kenyan Celliphine Chespol, second-fastest all-time in the event. This could be an opportunity for Coburn and Frerichs to chase the 9-minute barrier, which no North American has broken (Coburn’s American record is 9:02.58). Olympic champion and world-record holder Ruth Jebet has not competed since January due to a reported doping issue.

Women’s 100m — Friday, 2:50 p.m. ET
Missing the top Americans (world champion Tori Bowie and U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs), but it has most of the international stars. That includes Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who hasn’t been the same since she was shockingly fifth at 2017 Worlds and hasn’t won a meet outside of Jamaica this year. Marie-Josée Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast, fastest in the world in 2018 at 10.85, has to be the favorite.

Men’s 1500m — Friday, 3 p.m. ET
First time Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz faces all three 2017 World medalists — Kenyans Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot and Norwegian Filip Ingebrigtsen — since this meet last year. Cheruiyot crushed Manangoi and Centrowitz in the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic on May 26. The 22-year-old has one loss all year, runner-up to Manangoi at the Commonwealth Games, and has the three fastest 1500m times for 2018.

Women’s 800m — Friday, 3:25 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts her near-three-year win streak on the line against the next seven fastest women this year, including Olympic silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba and world bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson. Semenya broke the South African record at this meet the last two years. She’s already chopped .91 off her national record this year to become the fourth-fastest all-time. She is .97 shy of the 35-year-old world record.

Men’s 200m — Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET
U.S. 100m champion Noah Lyles puts his two-year 200m win streak on the line. Challengers include surprise world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, who is 0-3 against Lyles all-time, and Ameer Webb, who won the national title in Lyles’ absence on June 24. Lyles clocked 19.69 seconds in his last two 200m races, tying South African Clarence Munyai (not in the Monaco field) for the fastest time in the world since August 2015. Only six men have broken 19.60 — Usain Bolt, Yohan BlakeMichael JohnsonWalter DixJustin Gatlin and Tyson Gay — but none were as young as the 21-year-old Lyles.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — Friday, 3:45 p.m. ET
All three world championships medalists and the seven fastest in the world this year. None bigger than Olympic and world champion Conseslus Kipruto, undefeated internationally in 2016 and 2017. Not the case this season. Fellow Kenyan Benjamin Kigen beat him at Pre, and then Kipruto was a shocking 12th in Rabat last Friday. Another chance for Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager to become the first sub-8-minute American. He won in Monaco in 8:01.29 last year.

Men’s 100m — Saturday, 10:50 a.m. ET
Christian Coleman, after reasserting his argument as the world’s fastest man, faces another formidable field. U.S. runner-up Ronnie Baker and NCAA champion Cameron Burrell are also here, as is Brit Zharnel Hughes, at 23 arguably the most promising non-American in the world.

Men’s Long Jump — Sunday, 9:31 a.m. ET
Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria is the most exciting long jumper in recent memory after nearly jumping out of the pit last month with the world’s best jump in 23 years. The 19-year-old followed that with two best wind-legal jumps in the world this year at his next two meets. He could be pushed even farther here by the last two Olympic champions — Jeff Henderson and the soon-retiring Greg Rutherford — and every 2017 World medalist — Luvo ManyongaJarrion Lawson and Rushwahl Samaai.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — Sunday, 10:39 a.m. ET
Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, world-record holder Kendra Harrison and fellow American Sharika Nelvis split the last three Diamond League races and split their three head-to-head-to-head meetings this year. A strong win here makes a pretty good argument for best in the world at the moment. McNeal has the top 2018 time of 12.38, but that’s not close to Harrison’s world record of 12.20 from two years ago.

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Nathan Chen, from flu-ridden on the floor, fights for 4th U.S. title

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Rafael Arutunian showed me a photo on his phone of Nathan Chen sleeping on the floor in a dressing room at Great Park Ice Arena when he was supposed to be practicing earlier this month.

Arutunian said he could have taken the same picture on eight days in the 2 1/2 weeks they spent together at his Irvine, Calif., training base during Chen’s semester break from Yale.

Arutunian would see the flu-ridden and feverish Chen curled up asleep, turn off the light, leave the room and wait until Chen woke up before trying to have him do any training.

In the past, Arutunian said, Chen could train through sickness. This time it was futile.

“He couldn’t move,” Arutunian said.

It wasn’t until about 10 days ago, after Chen returned to college on the East Coast, that he was able to do anything resembling training.

At that point, the coach knew he had to be more hands-on than usual, or as much as he could be from 3,000 miles away.

“This time, I was managing everything, calling every day to give him exactly what he needed to do to get ready for the U.S. Championships,” Arutunian said.

NATIONALS: Full results | World championships team named

What Chen did on the ice Saturday and Sunday left Arutunian shaking his head in admiration.

He landed six clean quads in six attempts, two in the short program Saturday, four in the free skate Sunday. The short program was of the surpassing excellence that forces writers to exhaust the superlatives in our language for accurate portrayals of his skating.

The free skate did not require consulting a dictionary for new ways to say extraordinary. That was not unexpected, given how diminished fitness figured to take a toll over the length of a free skate, four minutes, compared to the two minutes, 50 seconds in the short.

Yet Chen’s overall skating still drew superlatives from Arutunian, not a coach given to gushing.

“I don’t know anybody who could recover and do what he did after that sickness,” Arutunian said.

This time, his performance was one for historians more than lexicographers, making it one for the ages from a different perspective.

Chen, 20, became the first U.S. man to win four straight U.S. titles since Olympic champion Brian Boitano in 1988. Others who have done that since World War II include Olympic champions Scott Hamilton, David Jenkins, Hayes Jenkins and Dick Button, the last a winner of seven straight.

Chen was fifth at his only Olympics so far, in 2018.  He has won 10 straight events since, including two world titles, two Grand Prix Final titles and the third and fourth U.S. titles.

“It’s a huge deal for me to be able to take the next step to not necessarily being one of the legends but to sort of follow their footsteps,” Chen said. “These guys have done amazing things, well beyond what I have accomplished. It’s amazing to have that inspiration in front of you, to see how far I can take myself.”

For the fourth straight year, Chen was far ahead of his contemporaries, even if his winning margin of 37.29 points was less than any of the previous three: 58.21, 40.72, 55.44.

That smaller gap owed less to Chen’s flaws in the free skate than to Jason Brown’s having done what his coach, Tracy Wilson, thought was the best skating of Brown’s career, especially for its interpretive maturity.

Chen finished with 330.17 points to 292.88 for Brown and 278.08 for Tomoki Hiwatashi, who had a breakthough performance. World bronze medalist Vincent Zhou, who has had only a few weeks of good training after taking a leave from Brown University and moving to Toronto, was fourth at 275.23.

“A couple jump landings were a little shaky,” Chen said. “I wasn’t as controlled and calm as I was in the short program.”

Chen, Brown and Zhou were named to the U.S. team for the March world championships in Montreal. Better results over the past year, notably the world bronze, gave Zhou the third spot over Hiwatashi.

Brown, 25, once again failed to land a quadruple jump, with his quad toe attempt ending in a downgrade and two-footed landing. But he did everything else so brilliantly in a mesmerizingly beautiful performance to music from “Schindler’s List” that his individual grade of execution marks were higher than Chen’s. This was a Brown at a level he had not approached since his 2014 Olympic season.

“I think that was just a glimpse of what’s to come,” Brown said. “One hundred percent, it’s probably the best skating I have done. I think I still have a long way to go as far as the technical aspect as well as the skating skills, but as far as being strong and confident, I really feel things coming together.”

Chen, on the other hand, felt as unprepared as he ever had been for a nationals because of the illness. So he was “absolutely pleased” with his performance to music from the Elton John biopic, “Rocketman.”

“I was able to make good use of the week I had relatively healthy to sort of get myself back in check before this competition,” Chen said.  “I’ve had a lot of experience over the past few years competing in different sorts of situations, and that helped me here in how to still keep myself in a positive, confident mindset.”

Chen’s concession to his physical condition was no quad Lutz. His execution of three of the four quads he did, two toes, a salchow and a flip, was exceptional – especially the opening flip in combination and the final toe. The judges also rewarded him with 15 perfect component scores, six for composition and five for interpretation. 

As much as he impressed the judges, Chen impressed his coach more.

“Amazing,” Arutunian said. “Who else could do this?”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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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. 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.

Nathan Chen wins fourth straight U.S. figure skating title in dominant fashion

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Nathan Chen has leaned on Brian Boitano during times of crisis and injuries. At the U.S. Figure Skating Championships the last two days, Chen showcased not only his jumps — six quads between two programs — but some of the mental strength gleaned from the 1988 Olympic champion.

Chen, who said he competed on one week of full training after a flu bout, was his usual standout self, becoming the first man to win four straight national titles since Boitano in 1988.

He distanced runner-up Jason Brown by 37.29 points, totaling 330.17. Chen won all of his national titles by at least 37 points. No other skater, pair or dance couple has won by more than 33 points since the Code of Points was instituted in 2006.

Chen landed a pair of quad toe loops, a quad flip and a quad Salchow in his Elton John-themed free skate.

“I was, again, pretty worried about my stamina coming into this competition, but the audience really helped me get through it,” the Yale sophomore told Andrea Joyce on NBC.

NATIONALS: Full results | World championships team named

Boitano and Scott Hamilton, the other most recent man to win four straight, sat together inside the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum.

“It’s a huge deal for me to be able to take the next step to, not necessarily becoming one of these legends, but sort of follow in their footsteps,” Chen said. “These guys have done amazing things well beyond what I’ve already accomplished. It’s amazing to be able to have that sort of inspiration in front of you and have something to look forward to.”

Besides Chen, five of the six men to earn four straight U.S. titles since World War II went on to earn Olympic gold, which Chen will aim for in 2022. He’s undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics with a disastrous 17th-place short program followed by a leading free skate. He was arguably the favorite for gold.

Chen now heads to March’s world championships for another matchup with two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. Chen routed Hanyu twice in 2019, by 22.45 points at worlds and 43.87 at December’s Grand Prix Final.

“If I start focusing too much on the results, and I start trying to focus on going to this competition because I want to continue this quote-unquote streak, it will probably be the end of it,” Chen said. After his Grand Prix Final romp, Chen called Hanyu a “skating god” and said the Japanese megastar was still capable of outperforming him.

Brown, skating Sunday to music from “Schindler’s List,” earned his best nationals finish since winning the title in Greensboro five years ago.

He did so without a clean quad, having his one attempt in the free skate downgraded. Brown has never landed a quad in competition. Still, he beat Chen in artistic scores in the short program, coming back from a preseason concussion in a car accident.

“It’s probably the best skating that I’ve done,” said Brown, a 2014 Olympian who changed coaches after missing the PyeongChang Olympics, moving to Brian Orser‘s group in Toronto.

Tomoki Hiwatashi, the world junior champion, jumped from fifth after the short program onto the podium in third. He landed a pair of quads in a clean free skate, making his case to be named to the three-man world championships team.

But that spot was instead given by a U.S. Figure Skating committee to fourth-place finisher Vincent Zhou.

Zhou, the world bronze medalist, finished fourth with one quad in his free skate. Zhou had minor jump landing errors, competing after not training properly for the entire autumn while a freshman at Brown. He moved to Toronto in late December, changed coaches and resumed training a month before nationals.

Andrew Torgashev, the surprise third-place skater from the short program, fell twice on quad attempts and dropped to fifth.

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MORE: Why retired Adam Rippon was at nationals 

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. 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.