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Christian Coleman ponders record more than rivalry as Diamond League moves to Oslo

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Christian Coleman‘s sights are on gold medals and, perhaps as early this season, an American record. They’re certainly not on the men chasing him, usually the rest of the field, in the last half of 100m races.

Coleman, the world’s fastest man in this Olympic cycle, headlines a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold, and 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He is the clear favorite in the 100m against a field lacking his biggest recent foes.

One of those absentees is Noah Lyles. The world’s fastest 200m sprinter in this Olympic cycle dipped down to the 100m on May 18 in Shanghai and rallied to beat Coleman by .006. The photo finish and following social media posts sparked talk of a new rivalry in the post-Usain Bolt era.

“I don’t necessarily look at us as rivals,” Coleman said Monday. “I think I’ve done a lot of things in the sport. I’m just focusing on me and trying to be the best me that I can be. If the media wants to create whatever storylines, whatever, so be it. I just treat everybody the same way, all of my competition. I don’t single out one person and say this is my competition that I’m focusing on.”

What Coleman is targeting is a cleaner sprint in Oslo than his season opener in Shanghai. The goal is to better 9.86, which would make him the fastest man in the world this year.

“My start was decent [in Shanghai], but I feel like I can work on my acceleration being a lot smoother, my transition, standing up tall, holding my form, composure so I can finish out the race,” Coleman said of his first meet since Aug. 31. “When you come back, and it’s your first race in a while, it’s hard to reciprocate real-life competition in practice. You never know how your body’s going to react when you actually get in competition. It’s just old, bad habits I’ve been trying to fix in practice creeped up on me in the competition.”

Coleman’s start is unrivaled. He’s best known outside the track world for covering a 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds, a tenth faster than the NFL Combine record. He’s also the fastest 60m sprinter in history.

In the biggest race of his life, Coleman had a step on Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the first 10 meters at the 2017 World Championships. He led until the last few strides, before Gatlin edged him by two hundredths. Then on May 18, Coleman again surged to the early lead and held it until Lyles, known more for his finish than his start, nudged ahead at the line.

“Track and field is an art,” Coleman said. “It’s a difficult sport to be able to say, just stay relaxed at the end of the race and just hold your form well. Whatever people like to say online about critiquing world-class athletes’ races, it is harder than it looks.

“It’s much easier to fix the back end of my race than to have a better start. Getting a better start and having that acceleration is more like strength and technique, and one of those things that you can’t just teach overnight and you can’t just think about mentally and get better at. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Coleman is certainly better positioned than a year ago, when he struggled in the spring with a hamstring injury.

Coleman, after running faster than the previous indoor 60m world record three times that winter, didn’t hit his summer stride until late August. He ran a personal-best 9.79 into a headwind in the Diamond League Final, arguably the most impressive sprint by anybody outside the Bolt era.

“Last year, I think just indoors I took my body to a place where nobody had ever been before,” Coleman said. “I think, maybe, if I had taken a little bit of time off before I started my outdoor season … I wasn’t doing the things properly off the track to be able to stay healthy.”

Still, the 9.79 put Coleman within a tenth of the American record set by Tyson Gay in 2009.

“It’s not necessarily a goal,” Coleman said, “but it’s something that’s been in the back of my head.”

Coleman may not be ready to approach that in Oslo, given he plans to peak for worlds in almost four months.

He hopes to qualify for the world team in both the 100m and the 200m at next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships. Next week, Coleman races a 200m for the first time since June 2017.

“I know what it feels like to be on that stage, and I know what it takes to get there,” he said, looking ahead to worlds in Doha. “I know how to set my season up to be at my best when it really matters. That’s all I’m focusing on. Everything else is irrelevant. The name of our sport and what we get paid to do is represent our countries and go out there and try and get gold medals.”

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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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