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

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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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Simone Biles, her name sparkling, extends 6-year win streak

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Simone Biles has long stood out for her gymnastics, but on Saturday she competed with her last name sparkling in silver beads on her World Champions Centre leotard for the first time. The gym’s other athletes had “WCC” on the back.

Biles lived up to the billing, extending her six-year win streak to 19 straight all-arounds, capturing the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

Biles, the four-time Rio Olympic champion, scored 60 points in Louisville at the meet where she made her comeback last year after nearly two years off from competition. She prevailed by a comfortable 2.1 points over Riley McCusker, her largest margin of victory of her four U.S. Classic titles.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’m a little sad that I went out of bounds on floor [exercise], but overall I feel like there are improvements to be made.”

Full results are here.

Biles is prepping for nationals in Kansas City in three weeks, when she eyes a sixth U.S. all-around title to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s.

Then come the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles could win a fifth all-around to move one shy of Kohei Uchimura‘s record.

The world’s other top gymnasts may be her countrywomen.

Biles was outscored on balance beam on Saturday by 2018 World teammates Kara Eaker and McCusker and beaten on uneven bars by 2017 World all-around champion Morgan HurdSunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and McCusker. Biles swept all the gold medals at last year’s nationals.

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Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

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LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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