Christian Coleman runs world’s fastest 100m of 2019

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A month after being edged at the finish line, Christian Coleman left no doubt on Thursday. He is the world’s fastest man this year, not to mention this Olympic cycle.

Coleman won the 100m at a Diamond League meet in Oslo in 9.85 seconds, breaking his tie with Noah Lyles and Nigerian collegian Divine Oduduru atop the 2019 world rankings. Neither Lyles nor Divine was in Thursday’s race, but neither of them has ever broken 9.86, either.

“I’m pretty excited about it. It was a good run and a pretty good time,” Coleman said, according to meet organizers. “Now I’ll look back at the video and critique it. It wasn’t ideal conditions but … I executed better than in the last race.”

Lyles put Coleman’s 100m dominance to the test, beating him by .006 on May 18 in Coleman’s first race since Aug. 31. Both clocked 9.86 in Shanghai.

But Lyles is focusing on the 200m this season, while Coleman is bidding to race both the 100m and 200m at the USATF Outdoor Championships next month. The top three at nationals qualify for those individual events at worlds.

Coleman has progressed from being strictly a 4x100m prelim runner at the Rio Olympics to taking silver at the 2017 World Championships between Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt. Then last year, Coleman came back from an early season hamstring injury to clock 9.79, the world’s fastest time since the Rio Olympics.

Full Oslo results are here. The Diamond League moves to Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday with live coverage on NBC Sports Gold.

In other events in Oslo, 19-year-old Sydney McLaughlin beat the reigning Olympic, world and U.S. champions to become the 400m hurdles favorite for next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships as well as the world championships.

McLaughlin, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, rebounded from hitting the first hurdle and coming around the last curve multiple steps behind Dalilah Muhammad.

She passed the Olympic champion in the sprint off the last hurdle for her first career win over Muhammad in her Diamond League 400m hurdles debut.

McLaughlin’s time — 54.16 and .19 faster than Muhammad — was .02 slower than her domestic season opener, but she beat not only Muhammad but also U.S. champ Shamier Little and world champ Kori Carter.

“It wasn’t the cleanest race for me, but I came back strong, and that shows me where I am fitness-wise,” McLaughlin said, according to meet organizers. “It was a sloppy race, but I pulled through.”

World champion Emma Coburn took fourth in the 3000m steeplechase, 4.71 seconds behind Kenyan winner Norah Jeruto. Jeruto clocked 9:03.71, handing countrywoman and world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech her first steeple loss since May 31, 2018.

Olympic champion Brianna McNeal was disqualified from the 100m hurdles for a false start. Another American, Christina Clemons, ended up winning in 12.69. McNeal has yet to race world-record holder Keni Harrison this season. They ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world last year — Harrison in 12.36 and McNeal in 12.38.

World champion Johannes Vetter won the javelin but pulled out after one legal, 85.27-meter throw with a right adductor injury. He was competing for the first time since August after missing time with a left leg injury.

World champion Sam Kendricks won a pole vault duel with Swede Mondo Duplantis by clearing 5.91 meters. Duplantis, who turned pro after his freshman season at LSU, cleared 6.05 meters at the 2018 European Championships, matching the world’s best since 2001.

VIDEO: Gabe Grunewald wins 2014 U.S. title at 3000m after cancer diagnosis

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How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

Alyssa Thomas
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If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with older veterans — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team.

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

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U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

FIBA Women's World Cup Basketball
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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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