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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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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