Noah Lyles, denying nature’s call, wins Diamond League 200m title

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Noah Lyles and Michael Norman are cemented as favorites for the world championships in three weeks after winning Diamond League Finals titles in Brussels on Friday.

Lyles, whose only 200m loss since the 2016 Olympic trials was to Norman in June, won in 19.74 seconds (as it began raining) and said he slowed before the finish line to prevent wetting himself, according to the BBC.

“No lie I was clenching my butt the whole time,” Lyles tweeted, adding, “What a chaotic race. Nearly everything that could happen, happened. … Two pins to fix my race number were not fixed well and lost while I was sitting down, and, to be honest, I had to go to the toilet. My stomach was growling although I went to the restroom before.”

He became the first man to break 19.8 five times in one year. Usain Bolt did it four times in one year. Lyles won the Diamond League 100m title last week and plans to race the shorter sprint at Olympic trials, but not at worlds in Doha.

Norman, who is focusing on the 400m and will not race the 200m at worlds or the Olympic trials, won in 44.26 seconds on Friday.

It was well off his 2019 world-leading time of 43.45 but a nice bounce back after he almost pulled out of the USATF Outdoor Championships in July with an unspecified strain. Norman was beaten by Fred Kerley at nationals, but topped Kerley by two tenths on Friday. The U.S. has the six fastest men in the world this year and could sweep the medals in Doha.

Full Brussels results are here.

The track and field season continues next week with The Match, a Ryder Cup-style meet featuring Olympic champions Allyson FelixMichelle Carter and Brittney Reese suiting up for Team USA. The two-day meet airs live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Monday and Tuesday from 12-3 p.m. ET.

Also Friday, Brit Dina Asher-Smith notched her first career 100m win over 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, according to Tilastopaja.org. Asher-Smith, 23, clocked 10.88 seconds and remains fourth-fastest in the world this year. Jamaicans Elaine Thompson (absent from Brussels) and Fraser-Pryce top the rankings with 10.73 clockings from June.

Jamaican Danielle Williams scored her second straight win over world-record holder Keni Harrison in the 100m hurdles. Williams, who owns the fastest time in the world this year of 12.32 seconds, prevailed in 12.46. Harrison, who has the world record of 12.20, was a distant second in 12.73.

Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan comfortably won a star-studded 5000m in 14:26.26, beating world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya for the first time. It’s unknown which event(s) that Hassan, who broke the mile world record in July, will enter at worlds.

Ajeé Wilson consolidated favorite status for worlds by taking the 800m in 2:00.25. Again, the field did not include any of the Rio Olympic medalists who are barred from the event under the IAAF’s new testosterone cap.

Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor reasserted his claim as the world’s top triple jumper, soaring 17.85 meters for the Diamond League title. Four different men had won the four Diamond League meets going into the finals. American Will Claye still owns the top triple jump in the world this year of 18.14, but he was second to Taylor in Brussels.

Rio gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece cleared 4.83 meters to beat a pole vault field that included Americans Sandi Morris (Olympic and world silver medalist) and Jenn Suhr (2012 Olympic champion). Suhr still owns the world’s top clearance this year (4.91).

German Malaika Mihambo beat 2012 Olympic champion Reese in the long jump, leaping 7.03 meters. Mihambo owns the best jump in the world this year at 7.16 and is favored to break the U.S. streak of seven straight Olympic or world titles.

On Thursday, New Zealand’s world champion Tom Walsh relegated Olympic gold medalist Ryan Crouser to third in the shot put. Walsh threw 22.30 meters, more than a foot shy of Crouser’s best throw in the world this year from April. Crouser bettered Walsh in their two other head-to-heads this season.

MORE: Christian Coleman cleared of drug-testing charge

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U.S. women’s rugby team qualifies for 2024 Paris Olympics as medal contender

Cheta Emba
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The U.S. women’s rugby team qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics by clinching a top-four finish in this season’s World Series.

Since rugby was re-added to the Olympics in 2016, the U.S. men’s and women’s teams finished fifth, sixth, sixth and ninth at the Games.

The U.S. women are having their best season since 2018-19, finishing second or third in all five World Series stops so far and ranking behind only New Zealand and Australia, the winners of the first two Olympic women’s rugby sevens tournaments.

The U.S. also finished fourth at last September’s World Cup.

Three months after the Tokyo Games, Emilie Bydwell was announced as the new U.S. head coach, succeeding Olympic coach Chris Brown.

Soon after, Tokyo Olympic co-captain Abby Gustaitis was cut from the team.

Jaz Gray, who led the team in scoring last season and at the World Cup, missed the last three World Series stops after an injury.

The U.S. men are ranked ninth in this season’s World Series and will likely need to win either a North American Olympic qualifier this summer or a last-chance global qualifier in June 2024 to make it to Paris.

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Oscar Pistorius denied parole, hasn’t served enough time

Oscar Pistorius
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Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius was denied parole Friday and will have to stay in prison for at least another year and four months after it was decided that he had not served the “minimum detention period” required to be released following his murder conviction for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp 10 years ago.

The parole board ruled that Pistorius would only be able to apply again in August 2024, South Africa’s Department of Corrections said in a short, two-paragraph statement. It was released soon after a parole hearing at the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre prison where Pistorius is being held.

The board cited a new clarification on Pistorius’ sentence that was issued by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal just three days before the hearing, according to the statement. Still, legal experts criticized authorities’ decision to go ahead with the hearing when Pistorius was not eligible.

Reeva Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, are “relieved” with the decision to keep Pistorius in prison but are not celebrating it, their lawyer told The Associated Press.

“They can’t celebrate because there are no winners in this situation. They lost a daughter and South Africa lost a hero,” lawyer Tania Koen said, referring to the dramatic fall from grace of Pistorius, once a world-famous and highly-admired athlete.

The decision and reasoning to deny parole was a surprise but there has been legal wrangling over when Pistorius should be eligible for parole because of the series of appeals in his case. He was initially convicted of culpable homicide, a charge comparable to manslaughter, in 2014 but the case went through a number of appeals before Pistorius was finally sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison for murder in 2017.

Serious offenders must serve at least half their sentence to be eligible for parole in South Africa. Pistorius’ lawyers had previously gone to court to argue that he was eligible because he had served the required portion if they also counted periods served in jail from late 2014 following his culpable homicide conviction.

The lawyer handling Pistorius’ parole application did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

June Steenkamp attended Pistorius’ hearing inside the prison complex to oppose his parole. The parents have said they still do not believe Pistorius’ account of their daughter’s killing and wanted him to stay in jail.

Pistorius, who is now 36, has always claimed he killed Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law student, in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 after mistaking her for a dangerous intruder in his home. He shot four times with his licensed 9 mm pistol through a closed toilet cubicle door in his bathroom, where Steenkamp was, hitting her multiple times. Pistorius claimed he didn’t realize his girlfriend had got out of bed and gone to the bathroom.

The Steenkamps say they still think he is lying and killed her intentionally after a late-night argument.

Lawyer Koen had struck a more critical tone when addressing reporters outside the prison before the hearing, saying the Steenkamps believed Pistorius could not be considered to be rehabilitated “unless he comes clean” over the killing.

“He’s the killer of their daughter. For them, it’s a life sentence,” Koen said before the hearing.

June Steenkamp had sat grim-faced in the back seat of a car nearby while Koen spoke to reporters outside the prison gates ahead of the hearing. June Steenkamp and Koen were then driven into the prison in a Department of Corrections vehicle. June Steenkamp made her submission to the parole board in a separate room to Pistorius and did not come face-to-face with her daughter’s killer, Koen said.

Barry Steenkamp did not travel for the hearing because of poor health but a family friend read out a statement to the parole board on his behalf, the parents’ lawyer said.

Pistorius was once hailed as an inspirational figure for overcoming the adversity of his disability, before his murder trial and sensational downfall captivated the world.

Pistorius’s lower legs were amputated when he was a baby because of a congenital condition and he walks with prosthetics. He went on to become a double-amputee runner and multiple Paralympic champion who made history by competing against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, running on specially designed carbon-fiber blades.

Pistorius’ conviction eventually led to him being sent to the Kgosi Mampuru II maximum security prison, one of South Africa’s most notorious. He was moved to the Atteridgeville prison in 2016 because that facility is better suited to disabled prisoners.

There have only been glimpses of his life in prison, with reports claiming he had at one point grown a beard, gained weight and taken up smoking and was unrecognizable from the elite athlete he once was.

He has spent much of his time working in an area of the prison grounds where vegetables are grown, sometimes driving a tractor, and has reportedly been running bible classes for other inmates.

Pistorius’ father, Henke Pistorius, told the Pretoria News newspaper before the hearing that his family hoped he would be home soon.

“Deep down, we believe he will be home soon,” Henke Pistorius said, “but until the parole board has spoken the word, I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

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