Christian Coleman runs world’s fastest 100m in three years

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Christian Coleman sprinted to take something at the Diamond League final in Brussels. He got it.

The world’s best sprinter since Usain Bolt‘s retirement ran the world’s fastest 100m in three years, 9.79 seconds into a headwind on Friday night. Adjusting for wind and altitude, it may have been the best sprint ever outside of the Bolt era.

“Mine,” Coleman repeated in a head-shaking, chest-thumping, finger-pointing celebration.

Coleman, a Rio Olympic 4x100m prelim runner, capped a roller-coaster season following his breakout 2017, when he ran a 40-yard dash one tenth faster than the NFL Combine record and beat Bolt to a 100m silver medal at the world championships behind Justin Gatlin.

He returned in the winter indoor season to three times run under the 60m world record. Coleman then struggled with hamstring problems in the spring and lost his first two 100m races.

Coleman took June off from meets to heal up. When he returned, Coleman won a pair of 100m races in July and August, but each time the runner-up clocked the same time to the hundredth. Coleman also developed a tendency to start strong, with the rest of the field gaining on him in the last half.

Not so Friday.

Coleman stormed out of the blocks as usual, but he kept enough of a lead that he eased crossing the finish ahead of countryman Ronnie Baker, who had the world’s fastest time of 2018 (9.87). Coleman won by .14, with Baker losing nearly a tenth freezing in the starting blocks.

“I came into the whole week with a chip on my shoulder that people had stopped talking about me,” Coleman said, according to Reuters. “They forgot everything I did last year and at the indoors. I mean you can’t blame them.”

Full Brussels results are here.

The outdoor track and field season concludes in earnest with the IAAF Continental Cup next weekend, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold and airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

In other events Friday, Ethiopian Selemon Barega ran the sixth-fastest 5000m in history, a 12:43.02.

American revelation Shelby Houlihan lost a 1500m for the first time this season, unable to catch Brit Laura Muir in the final straightaway of the 1500m. Muir clocked 3:58.49, edging Houlihan by .45.

Houlihan, 11th at the Olympics and 13th at the 2017 Worlds in the 5000m, this year won two Diamond League 1500m races, plus swept the 1500m and 5000m at the U.S. Championships and broke the American 5000m record.

Olympic champion Brianna McNeal edged world-record holder Kendra Harrison in the 100m hurdles, 12.61 to 12.63, to cut Harrison’s lead in their 2018 head-to-head to 3-2.

Double Olympic gold medalist Christian Taylor was beaten by Cuban-born Portuguese rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump. Pichardo is set to end Taylor’s three-year reign as the year-end world No. 1. Taylor chose the non-global championship year to focus on trying to break 45 seconds in the 400m.

Mondo Duplantis, the recent Louisiana high school graduate pole vaulter for Sweden, surprisingly bowed out at 5.83 meters. Two weeks ago, Duplantis cleared 6.05 meters at the European Championships. Russian Timur Morgonov won Friday by clearing 5.93 meters.

Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser won the 400m in 49.33, topping world champion Phyllis Francis and U.S. champion Shakim Wimbley. The field lacked Olympic gold and silver medalists Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Allyson Felix.

Miller-Uibo owns the fastest time in the world of 2018 (48.97). Felix has scarcely competed in this non-global championship season.

Kenyans went one-two-three in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, led by world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech in 8:55.10. World champion Emma Coburn of the U.S. was fourth in 9:05.61.

Croatian Sandra Perković finished outside the top two of a discus competition for the first time since 2014. The Olympic and world champion was bettered by Cuban Yaime Perez (65 meters) and Brazilian Andressa de Morais (64.65).

Olympic triple jump champion Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia added a Diamond League season title in the long jump, though the final lacked Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta and world champion Brittney Reese.

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With four former champions in the mix, who can claim U.S. Championships pairs’ title?

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There have been four different U.S. pairs’ champions in the past four years. All four of those teams are in the field at this week’s U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. With that in mind, who could get the nod to compete at the world championships in March?

The U.S. has two spots to fill, thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, who finished ninth at last year’s worlds.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier had the best fall of any U.S. pair, winning two bronze medals on the Grand Prix Series. Denney and Frazier finished with silver medals at last year’s national championships, too. The team has previous experience at the world championships (2015: 12th; 2017: 20th).

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc won the national title last year after a season that was nearly sidelined by Cain-Gribble’s concussion in December 2018. As the solo U.S. representatives at the world championships, they succeeded in earning back two world berths for 2020.

This season, they won two B-level competitions and finished fourth and fifth at their Grand Prix assignments. LeDuc said last week that despite their win at Golden Spin in December, “there was a little bit of room for improvement, which is exactly what we want from a competition going into nationals.”

“We feel like we’ve improved a lot as far as what we’re able to take on mentally because we know that this is going to be an intense week,” Cain-Gribble said. “We’re prepared for that. We’ve never had to do this before, where we’re coming in and we’re already the reigning champions. We’ve never come in with that title before. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about it and what that feeling is, but overall their main thing was, ‘Be prepared. Prepare yourself beyond what you can even imagine. When you get there, just go on autopilot and do your thing.’”

PyeongChang Olympic team event bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim haven’t been in top form since the Games. Later in 2018, they split from short-lived coach Aljona Savchenko in Germany and moved to California.

They finished an all-time low of seventh at last year’s nationals and were not assigned to any events later in the season. In their off-season, Chris underwent wrist surgery. The couple also added Rafael Arutunian to their coaching team to address their jumping abilities. Their season consisted of a silver medal at a B-level competition, followed by two Grand Prix assignments where they finished fourth and seventh.

“We feel that many people probably have kind of written us off, because we’re an old married couple and we’re kind of labeled ‘can’t get it together,’” Scimeca Knierim said after finishing fourth at Skate Canada this fall. “That’s almost an advantage, because I feel like for so long, we were considered the front-runners. I still believe we are. We’re trying to show we can get it together.”

The last time the Knierims competed at a nationals in Greensboro, in 2015, they won the first of their two titles. That year, they notched their highest placement (seventh) across five total trips to the world championships.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea won their national title in 2016 and were also sent on their only trip to the world championships where they finished 13th. In 2017, Kayne underwent knee surgery, but they returned to the national podium in 2018 and won silver. Last year, they finished fourth after a disastrous free skate.

This season, they collected a silver medals and a fourth place finish at two B-level competitions as well as a pair of sixth-place finishes on the Grand Prix.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

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.

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Maddie Bowman, first Olympic ski halfpipe champion, ends competitive career

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Maddie Bowman knows she has been very fortunate. She just turned 26 years old and has already accomplished everything she wanted in her sport, halfpipe skiing.

Bowman, who won the event’s Olympic debut in Sochi in 2014, recently decided to retire from competition.

“I’ve really given the sport everything I could that was positive, and I knew the sport would be in great hands when I walked away,” she said. “So I decided it was my time to be done.

“I just felt like I couldn’t give anything else to the sport because I was a little bit afraid [of injury], but also it’s mentally exhausting. It drained my mental health for sure, but I loved doing it, and I still love skiing. Competition just isn’t for me anymore.”

The decision weighed on the South Lake Tahoe native last season. She competed at the Winter X Games for the last time, taking fifth place. She earned medals each of the previous seven years, including five golds, despite undergoing two major knee surgeries in that span.

“I was thinking [last year] that this is really hard, and I don’t know if I want to keep doing this,” she said. “It was really hard for me to get into the right mental state again. It’s painful. My knees hurt, but I was torn. I was torn between wanting to walk away and the love I had for the people I was around, people I competed against and just the lifestyle. I worked really hard on opening up other doors for myself besides skiing, which is making my transition a lot smoother.”

Those opportunities include activism, spreading awareness around climate change for Protect Our Winters. Bowman wants to finish her college degree and teach high school biology and health. She aims to continue public speaking regarding motivational talks and mental health.

Bowman struggled with depression between the Sochi and PyeongChang Olympics. She is equally proud of her second Olympic performance — finishing 11th in South Korea — as her landmark gold medal in Russia. While in PyeongChang, she believed it would likely be her last Olympics.

“I had doubts if I would even make it to PyeongChang, and making it there was one of my huge accomplishments,” Bowman said. “It was such a special event. Even though I only got 11th, I skied my freakin’ heart out. I gave it everything I had.”

Bowman, the daughter of two former professional skiers, took gold in Sochi as the youngest finalist. She landed back-to-back 900s for the first time in her career (by accident after having to improvise her opening run). She did so in front of family that included 78-year-old Lorna Perpall, who wore a T-shirt that read “badass grandma.”

Afterward, Bowman spoke about friend Sarah Burke, the Canadian ski halfpipe pioneer who died after a training accident in 2012.

“It means so much for us to be able to show the world what our sport is,” Bowman said that night in Russia. “She’s here with us.

“I sure hope I, and everyone else, made her proud because we would not be here without her.”

Bowman has her own place in history. No matter how long ski halfpipe is in the Olympics, she will always be the first woman to earn gold.

“I know as our sport gets more solidified into the Olympic Games, it can become pretty national, cutthroat and competitive,” she said. “I would love to see it stay this free-spirited work of art, something beautiful like that.”

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