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Pre Classic: Olympic champions on the comeback; TV, stream schedule

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The Prefontaine Classic relocated, temporarily, and it brought the best fields of the Diamond League season with it to Stanford, Calif.

That includes the world’s fastest man and woman this year (Christian Coleman and Elaine Thompson), the athlete who has made the most worldwide headlines this season (Caster Semenya) and a bevy of other reigning Olympic and world champions.

Notably, Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia and Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon will compete for the first time since 2017. World 100m champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie are in their first Diamond League meets in more than one year. It’s the first Diamond League in two years for 2008 Olympic 400m champ LaShawn Merritt. It’s also the first race of 2019 for Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz.

NBC and NBC Sports Gold air live coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

The Pre Classic has been held annually since 1975 in Eugene, Ore. But Hayward Field’s reconstruction ahead of the 2020 Olympic Trials forced a move to Cobb Track and Angell Field at Stanford.

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

3:43 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
3:57 — Women’s Shot Put
4:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
4:08 — Women’s High Jump
4:11 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
4:27 — Women’s 100m
4:34 — Men’s 2 Mile
4:47 — Women’s 800m
4:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
5:01 — Men’s Shot Put
5:05 — Women’s 3000m
5:19 — Men’s 400m
5:25 — Women’s 200m
5:31 — Women’s 1500m
5:39 — Men’s 100m
5:51 — Men’s Mile

Here are 10 events to watch (stats courtesy Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 3:43 p.m.
The Big Three of the event meet for the first time this season: 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France, 2017 World champion Sam Kendricks and 2018 and 2019 world leader Mondo Duplantis of Sweden, who just turned pro after his freshman year at LSU. Lavillenie has competed just once this season due to injury. Duplantis was beaten at NCAAs by Chris Nilsen (also in the Pre field). But Kendricks has been hot, winning the first three Diamond League pole vaults this season (though Lavillenie and Nilsen weren’t in any of those fields and Duplantis just one).

Women’s High Jump — 4:08 p.m.
U.S. champion Vashti Cunningham takes another crack at Russian Mariya Lasitskene, who has just two losses in the last three years. Cunningham is 0-7 versus Lasitskene but has this spring already bettered her top clearance of 2018. Lasitskene, though, appears in top form after taking three attempts at a world record 2.10 meters in Ostrava last week.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 4:11 p.m.
Six of the eight fastest in history, headlined by world gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs. The only time either Coburn or Frerichs won a steeple that included any of the four fastest Kenyans in history was at those 2017 Worlds. Another chance Sunday.

Women’s 100m — 4:27 p.m.
NCAA champion Sha’Carri Richardson would have been the favorite here in her pro debut if not for what happened Friday. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a two-time Olympic 100m champion, clocked her fastest time in six years (10.73 seconds) to become the fastest mom in history and No. 2 in the world this year behind Rio gold medalist Elaine Thompson. Also watch reigning world champ Tori Bowie, who is coming back from a quad tear and coaching change.

Women’s 800m — 4:47 p.m.
Caster Semenya races her trademark event for the first time since a Swiss Supreme Court ruled her eligible while it deliberates on her appeal against a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision to uphold an IAAF rule capping testosterone in women’s events from the 400m through the mile. The Swiss court ruling applies only to Semenya and not the other Rio Olympic medalists, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui, who are also affected by the new rule. So Semenya’s closest threat at Pre is American record holder Ajeé Wilson, but Semenya has won 30 straight 800m races dating to 2015.

Men’s Shot Put — 5:01 p.m.
Olympic champion Ryan Crouser had a sterling record at Hayward Field, taking NCAA, Pre Classic and Olympic Trials titles. He’s pretty strong in California, too, recording his personal best (22.74 meters) in Long Beach in April. Nobody has been within a foot and a half of that this season, but the last two world champions (New Zealand’s Tom Walsh and American Joe Kovacs) will try to snap his undefeated 2019 on Sunday.

Men’s 400m — 5:19 p.m.
Lost some sizzle with the withdrawal of 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James, who has missed time with Graves’ disease and, more recently, his mother’s death. Instead, the three fastest Americans of the last decade line up — 2018 and 2019 world leader Michael Norman (43.45 from April 20), 2017 world No. 2 Fred Kerley and 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt.

Women’s 200m — 5:25 p.m.
Strongest sprint field of the meet: 2016 Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, 2015 and 2017 World champion Dafne Schippers and 2018 world leader Dina Asher-Smith. Should produce the fastest time in the world this year, which is currently 22.16, and the favorite for world champs.

Men’s 100m — 5:39 p.m.
Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman go head-to-head for the first time since the 2017 Worlds, where Gatlin took gold, Usain Bolt silver and Coleman bronze. Coleman is the world’s fastest man this Olympic cycle (9.79) and this year (9.85). Gatlin, 37, hasn’t broken 10 seconds since beating Bolt but has a bye to defend his title in Doha in September.

Men’s Mile — 5:51 p.m.
Olympic 1500m champ Matthew Centrowitz races on the track for the first time since July 22, eyeing his first win in the Pre mile in his sixth try. The foes are formidable, including the top two milers since Rio — Kenyans Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi — Norwegian brothers Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha, who on March 3 broke the 22-year-old indoor mile world record. Nobody has been within four seconds of the outdoor mile word record (Hicham El Guerrouj‘s 3:43.13 in 1999) since 2007.

MORE: Caster Semenya says she’s blocked from Rabat

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”