U.S. sweeps mixed-gender events at IAAF World Relays

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The U.S. dominated the opening night of the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama, Japan, highlighted by winning both finals in unusual mixed-gender events.

University of Oregon wide receiver turned Olympian Devon Allen anchored the shuttle hurdles relay, where two runners of each gender cover 110 meters per country. Each relay exchange (sans baton) is made at the opposite end of the track.

Allen received a lead from Christina Clemons, Freddie Crittenden and Sharika Nelvis, and the Americans won a two-team final over Japan by .63 of a second in 54.96. Jamaica withdrew before the final due to an injury, and Australia false-started out of the final.

Donavan Brazier and Ce’Aira Brown combined to win the 2x2x400m, essentially a 4x400m but with only two runners (one of each gender). Kenya had the early edge because it led off with its male runner, while Brown was the U.S.’ leadoff.

Brazier, the U.S. indoor 800m record holder, made up a 7.8-second deficit on Kenya’s female runner on the anchor split to win in 3:36.92, holding off Australia by .69.

The U.S. also advanced in all of the relays that have Sunday finals — both 4x100m, both 4x400m and the mixed 4x400m, which makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. Sunday’s race schedule and TV/stream schedule is here.

Justin Gatlin headlined a 4x100m preliminary squad that had the fourth-fastest time from Saturday’s heats. Anchor Cameron Burrell, the son of former world-record holder Leroy Burrell, had to slow up to receive the baton from Isiah Young before the end of the exchange zone.

Noah Lyles, the world’s fastest 200m sprinter over the last two years, is expected to join the 4x100m for Sunday’s final. Olympic silver medalist Japan failed to advance after placing third in its heat due to one of the most impressive baton handoffs in history (that would get it disqualified).

U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs anchored the women’s 4x100m preliminary heat squad that advanced in 42.51 seconds, .52 ahead of second qualifier Germany. World 100m champion Tori Bowie was expected to lead this quartet, but she withdrew before the meet.

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Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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