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Noah Lyles, Justin Gatlin meet in Diamond League Final; live TV, stream schedule

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Many major international track and field titles will be awarded in the next year. The first go out Thursday at the first of two Diamond League Finals in Zurich, Switzerland.

A 100m duel between Americans Noah Lyles and Justin Gatlin headlines the meet, airing live on NBCSN from 2-4 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage starting at 12:15.

The Diamond League Finals — the other is in Brussels on Sept. 6 — invite the top performers from the first 12 Diamond League meets this spring and summer for winner-take-all trophies and $50,000.

Any American who earns a Diamond League title also clinches a spot in next month’s world championships, unless the U.S. has the reigning world champion in that event. If that American already qualified for worlds through last month’s USATF Outdoor Championships, the next-in-line American from USATF Outdoors gains entry into worlds.

That doesn’t apply in the 100m, since Gatlin is the reigning world champion.

At the start of the season, the 37-year-old Gatlin looked at best an outside medal contender, given he dropped to No. 31 in the world in 2018 and his advanced age. But Gatlin clocked 9.87, 9.92 and 9.91 in June and July, winning two Diamond League meets and placing second in another.

Christian Coleman is the only other man to break 9.95 three times this year, but Coleman is out of Zurich and in doubt for worlds as he contests a charge of missing three drug tests that could lead to a suspension.

Lyles will definitely not race the 100m at worlds, choosing to focus on the 200m given he’s never competed at a global championship. Lyles, who beat Coleman in May and is second-fastest in the world this year, plans to go for a 100m-200m double next summer.

A first career win over Gatlin in Zurich would mark a nice start to that year-long journey.

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

12:15 p.m. — Women’s Triple Jump
12:45 — Men’s High Jump
12:50 — Men’s Pole Vault
1:05 — Women’s Javelin
1:40 — Women’s Shot Put
2:04 — Women’s 400m
2:13 — Men’s 800m
2:23 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:41 — Women’s 200m
2:45 — Men’s Long Jump
2:48 — Women’s 1500m
2:55 — Women’s Javelin
3:02 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
3:13 — Men’s 100m
3:21 — Men’s 5000m
3:44 — Men’s 400m Hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Pole Vault — 12:50 p.m. ET
The top eight men in the world this season, including the Olympic champion (Thiago Braz of Brazil), world champion (American Sam Kendricks), European champion (Louisiana-raised Swede Mondo Duplantis) and the world-record holder (Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie). Kendricks has been the strongest over the season, winning four of seven Diamond League meets and breaking the American record at the USATF Outdoor Championships. Kendricks finished second, first and second in the Diamond League the last three seasons.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 2:23 p.m. ET
World champion Emma Coburn takes another crack at the Big Four of Kenyan steeplechasing — world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and three other women ranked in the top six in history (Celliphine Chespol, Norah Jeruto and Hyvin Kiyeng). The only time Coburn has won a steeple that included any of that quartet was at those 2017 Worlds. But Coburn ranks third in the world this year and could eye Courtney Frerichs‘ American record of 9:00.85.

Women’s 200m — 2:41 p.m. ET
This field includes the Olympic champion (Elaine Thompson of Jamaica), the world champion (Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands), the fastest woman of 2019 (Thompson), the fastest of 2018 (Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain) and a woman who hasn’t lost anywhere in any distance in more than two years (Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas). The winner here likely becomes the world championships favorite, save Miller-Uibo, who is not expected to race the 200m at worlds since it overlaps with the 400m, where she is Olympic champion.

Women’s 400m Hurdles — 3:02 p.m. ET
The world’s five fastest this year headlined by Olympic champion and new world-record holder Dalilah Muhammad. Muhammad, who broke a 15-year-old world record at USATF Outdoors last month, eyes her third straight Diamond League Final victory. The competition includes Sydney McLaughlin, the only other woman to break 53 seconds in the last two seasons. Muhammad is the clear world championships favorite until proven otherwise.

Men’s 100m — 3:13 p.m. ET
The absence of Coleman, the world’s fastest man for three straight years, opens up this final. It figures to be close between Lyles and Gatlin. Either could supplant Coleman’s fastest time in the world this year of 9.81 seconds. It could well be Lyles’ last 100m until next spring.

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Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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