Getty Images

Diamond League kicks off with focus on women’s 800m; TV/stream info

Leave a comment

The Diamond League season starts Friday with scrutiny on an event that will no doubt see significant change this season — the women’s 800m.

A landmark sports court ruling Wednesday is expected to force some top stars — including Olympic gold and silver medalists Caster Semenya of South Africa and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi — to take measures to reduce abnormally high testosterone for women’s events.

In that case, they would have to sit out international competition through the summer, while continuously keeping testosterone levels below the imposed limit, if they want to return to any event between the 400m and 1500m at the world championships in Doha in late September.

Friday’s Diamond League opener, also in Doha and the first of 14 stops over the next four months, will be the last one held before the testosterone-reducing rule goes into effect. Olympic Channel will air live coverage at 12 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Gold streaming commercial-free coverage at 11 a.m.

The women’s 800m field is among the strongest, including Niyonsaba, Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui of Kenya and world bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson, the American record holder. Semenya, undefeated at 800m the last three seasons, is not entered.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Caster Semenya a late entry into Doha

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

11:20 a.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
11:35 — Men’s Discus
11:55 — Women’s High Jump
12 p.m. — Women’s Long Jump
12:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
12:15 — Men’s 800m
12:27 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:37 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
12:56 — Men’s 200m
1 — Men’s Shot Put
1:07– Women’s 800m
1:19 — Men’s 1500m
1:34 — Women’s 200m
1:46 — Women’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 800m — 12:15 p.m.
While David Rudisha has been out injured for nearly two years, fellow Kenyan and former UTEP star Emmanuel Korir has emerged as the world’s best two-lapper, winning all but one of his meets in 2017 and again in 2018. In Doha, Korir’s competition includes the second-fastest man each of the last two years, Botswana’s Nijel Amos. Amos, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was the only man to bear Korir in 2018.

Watch out for American Donavan Brazier, who ascended the international rankings until an injury-shortened 2018. Already in 2019, Brazier broke the American indoor 800m record and ran the fastest indoor 600m in history.

Men’s Shot Put — 1 p.m.
Strongest field of the meet? The top seven men from the world last year. All three 2016 Olympic medalists, highlighted by Americans Ryan Crouser (gold) and Joe Kovacs (silver). Plus 2017 World champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand. The world record could be under threat given Crouser two weeks ago launched the world’s best throw since the bar was set 29 years ago.

Women’s 800m — 1:07 p.m.
Wilson, coming off an American indoor 800m record in February, eyes her first Diamond League win since 2015. Much has changed in the women’s 800m in the last four years, with the biggest tremor coming with Wednesday’s court ruling. Wilson has never won a race with Niyonsaba in the field but is now one of, if not the favorite for gold at worlds.

Men’s 1500m — 1:19 p.m.
Kenyans Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi traded the world’s fastest times the last two years, and they meet again here. While Manangoi is the world champion, Cheruiyot has lost only twice since London 2017, taking runner-up to Manangoi at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 African Championships. They are the only men to break 3:30 since the Rio Olympics. Gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz is sitting this one out.

Women’s 3000m — 1:46 p.m.
Another juicy head-to-head featuring Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world-record holder, and Hellen Obiri, the 5000m world champion and fastest 3000m runner in the last 25 years. Toss in steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, and it’s one of the most unique headlining fields to open a Diamond League season.

MORE: Why Ryan Crouser postponed an NFL tryout

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Roger Federer saves 7 match points; next: Novak Djokovic in Australian Open semifinals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer was not going to go gently, of course, no matter how daunting the number of match points — his opponent accumulated seven! — no matter how achy his 38-year-old legs, no matter how slow his serves, no matter how off-target his groundstrokes.

Federer still plays for the love of these stages and circumstances. Still yearns for more trophies, too. Down to his very last gasp, time and again, against someone a decade younger, 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren of the United States, Federer somehow pulled off a memorable comeback to reach the Australian Open semifinals for the 15th time.

Despite all sorts of signs he was not quite himself for much of the match, Federer beat the biceps-baring, hard-hitting, court-covering Sandgren 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3 on Tuesday in a rollicking quarterfinal that appeared to be over long before it truly was.

“For the most time there, I thought that was it. Of course, there’s little sparkles where maybe not. Then you’re like, ‘No, it IS over,’” said Federer, who only once before had won after facing as many as seven match points, equaling his personal best from all the way back in 2003. “Only maybe when I won that fourth set did I really think that, maybe, this whole thing could turn around.”

He said afterward that it had been his groin muscle that was the problem and he couldn’t be certain whether he would be fully recovered for his next match. That will come against defending champion Novak Djokovic, who overwhelmed No. 32 Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (1) to improve to 10-0 against the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up.

“He was just too good,” Raonic said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

It’ll be the 50th meeting between No. 3 Federer, who has won 20 Grand Slam titles, and No. 2 Djokovic, who owns 16.

Djokovic leads their head-to-head series 26-23, including their past five matches at majors.

“Roger is Roger. You know that he’s always going to play on such a high level, regardless of the surface,” Djokovic said. “He loves to play these kind of matches, big rivalries, semis, finals of Grand Slams.”

About the only thing that slowed Djokovic’s progression to a 37th career Grand Slam semifinal — Federer earned his 46th — was the medical timeout the Serb asked for at 4-all in the third set so he could put in new contact lenses.

“It was just something I had to do,” Djokovic said, “because those few games, I really couldn’t see much.”

The last two men’s quarterfinals are Wednesday: Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem, and Alexander Zverev vs. Stan Wawrinka.

One women’s semifinal was set Tuesday: No. 1 Ash Barty, trying to become the first Australian Open singles champion from the host country since the 1970s, against No. 14 Sofia Kenin, a 21-year-old American never before this far at any major tournament.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals are Simona Halep vs. Anett Kontaveit, and Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

There was a lot to live up to after the drama of Federer vs. Sandgren.

“You can’t give a good player — let alone maybe the best player ever — that many chances to come back,” said Sandgren, his voice low, his eyes looking down. “They’re going to find their game and start playing well. That seemed to me what happened.”

In truth, so much had happened.

Federer got into a dispute with a line judge and the chair umpire over cursing. He left the court for a medical timeout early in the third set, then was visited by a trainer later for a right leg massage.

Sandgren was run into by a ballkid during a changeover in the tiebreaker; was distracted by a courtside broadcast commentator.

The 28-year-old from Tennessee has never been a major semifinalist and was trying to become the lowest-ranked man in the Australian Open’s final four since Patrick McEnroe — John’s younger brother — was No. 114 in 1991.

Imagine, then, the heartbreak for Sandgren, who toiled for years on lower-level tours and was so thrilled just to share the stage with Federer.

“Maybe,” Sandgren said, “I’ll get another look, another shot.”

After rolling through the second and third sets as Federer’s serve dropped from an average of 112 mph to 105 mph — “Wasn’t popping like it does normally,” Sandgren observed — and Federer’s unforced errors totaled 30, the underdog led 5-4 in the fourth set.

That’s when Sandgren earned his first trio of opportunities to complete a career-defining victory. But he missed a shot each time. There were four more match points in the tiebreaker at 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 and 7-6.

“Honestly, when they told me seven, I was like, ‘What?!’ I thought it was three,” Federer said. “It’s such a blur.”

Djokovic’s take on Federer’s comeback: “Amazing.”

Raonic’s: “Impressive.”

When Sandgren sent an overhead smash long to give Federer the fourth set. Federer quickly controlled the fifth and ended the victory with a service winner at 119 mph, a little more than an hour after first staring down defeat.

“Just seemed like his level picked up when his back was right up against the wall,” said Sandgren, who only got the chance to serve on one of those seven pivotal points. “He just wouldn’t give me anything.”

That’s how Djokovic makes foes feel.

The key moment for him Tuesday came rather early: Raonic went into the quarterfinals having won all 59 of his service games in the tournament. But that streak ended at 5-4 against Djokovic. On Djokovic’s ninth break point of the match, Raonic missed a forehand to cap a 19-shot exchange, handing over the opening set.

Djokovic yelled and threw an uppercut. Two Raonic service games later, he broke yet again, all he would need to own the second set, too. Soon enough, he was two wins from a record-extending eighth championship at the Australian Open.

Federer has won six titles at Melbourne Park and never lost there to anyone ranked worse than 54th. But Sandgren, whose career tour-level record is under .500, played superbly. He won more points, 161-160, and produced edges of 27-5 in aces, 73-44 in total winners.

“I mean, he never gives up,” Djokovic said about Federer. “When it matters the most, he’s focused and he plays his best tennis.”

Federer knows exactly the sort of pain Sandgren experienced.

Last July, Federer failed to convert a pair of championship points in the fifth set of the Wimbledon final before losing to Djokovic.

“These ones just sting, and they hurt,” Federer said. “But … I was incredibly lucky today.”

MORE: Top U.S. tennis player leaning toward skipping Olympics

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

AP
Leave a comment

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Viral Olympic moments of 2010s decade