Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles lead Diamond League duels in Shanghai; how to watch

Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles
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Sprint showdowns are rare this early in a track and field season, let alone two at the same meet. Saturday’s Diamond League slate in Shanghai is one of the most anticipated May events in recent history.

Americans Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles go head-to-head at 100m. Rai Benjamin, who switched from Antigua and Barbuda to the U.S., takes on Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba in the 400m hurdles, where the oldest men’s world record on the track is on notice.

NBC Sports Gold streams live and commercial-free at 6 a.m. Eastern on Saturday. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs coverage Sunday at 8 p.m.

For Coleman, Lyles, Benjamin and Samba, these are the first top-level races of their outdoor seasons. Americans are preparing for the USATF Outdoor Championships in July in Des Moines, Iowa, and the world championships in Doha in late September and early October.

Coleman swept three head-to-heads with Lyles last year, but they were all in Coleman’s favored short sprints. Coleman was the world’s fastest in the 100m in 2017 (9.82) and 2018 (9.79), while Lyles is undefeated in outdoor 200m races since finishing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 18.

Lyles has said he will not try to make the world championships team in the 100m, leaving fans waiting for a possible 200m showdown at worlds. By then, Coleman could be going for a Usain Bolt-like double.

Perhaps no sprinters were more electric last year than Benjamin and Samba. At the NCAA Championships last June, Benjamin ran the joint-second-fastest 400m hurdles in history, matching Edwin Moses‘ personal best of 47.02. Three weeks later, Samba clocked 46.98, trailing only Kevin Young‘s world record of 46.78 from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It’s the oldest men’s track record on the books, and it could fall this season, perhaps in Shanghai.

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

6:10 a.m. — Women’s Javelin
6:19 — Men’s High Jump
6:27 — Women’s Shot Put
6:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
7:04 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
7:13 — Men’s 5000m
7:25 — Men’s Long Jump
7:36 — Women’s 400m
7:45 — Men’s 200m
7:46 — Men’s Javelin
7:52 — Women’s 1500m
8:06 — Women’s 100m
8:15 — Men’s 400m
8:26 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
8:34 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
8:53 — Men’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 6:35 a.m.
Sandi Morris and Katerina Stefanidi renew their rivalry. Stefanidi has bettered Morris in four of their last five head-to-heads, according to Tilastopaja.org, in addition to relegating her to silver at the Rio Games and 2017 World Championships. Morris may have the edge going in given the Greek hasn’t competed since March 3. The woman with the world’s top clearance this early outdoor season, 2012 Olympic champ Jenn Suhr, is not in the Shanghai field.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 7:04 a.m.
Benjamin and Samba go head-to-head for the first time. Young is on record saying he hopes his record falls, that it’s about time after nearly 27 years. But records rarely get broken this early in a year. Benjamin, though, already clocked a personal-best 400m on April 20, a 44.31 that ranks second in the world this year. And Samba on April 22 clocked the fastest-ever 400m hurdles (47.51) this early in a year.

Men’s 5000m — 7:13 a.m.
The three fastest active 5000m runners go here — Ethiopians Selemon Barega, Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yomif Kejelcha. They thrilled at last season’s Diamond League Final in Brussels, all setting PRs and becoming the Nos. 4, 5, and 7 men all time. Kejelcha finished third in that race but has been the most impressive this year, breaking the legendary Hicham El Guerrouj‘s indoor mile world record. Also in this race: Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo of the U.S. and Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei, the world 10,000m silver medalist.

Women’s 400m — 7:36 a.m.
Sydney McLaughlin, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, races her first Diamond League and just her second senior international meet after the 2016 Olympics. It’s a complementary event for the world’s fastest 400m hurdler of 2018, though McLaughlin also ranked seventh in the 400m last year. If McLaughlin can challenge world silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser, it will be a mighty impressive debut.

Men’s 100m — 8:53 a.m.
Coleman is the man in the 100m right now, but a loss here would call that into question. Lyles, who won the 2018 U.S. 100m title in Coleman’s absence, is the biggest threat. He’s the only other man in this field who has broken 9.89 since the Rio Olympics. Two men not in the field who could be watching intently are Justin Gatlin, who has a bye into worlds as defending champion, and Ronnie Baker, who beat Coleman twice last year while Coleman nursed a leg injury.

MORE: Allyson Felix eyes USATF Outdoor Champs in return from childbirth

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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