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

Noah Lyles, Justin Gatlin
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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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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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