World track and field championships: 5 men’s events to watch

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Five men’s events to watch at the world track and field championships that begin Friday in Doha, airing live daily on NBC Sports (TV/stream schedule here) In addition, NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of every event over the 10-day meet….

100m (Final: Saturday)
2016 Olympics: Usain Bolt
(9.81), Justin Gatlin (9.89), Andre De Grasse (9.91) 
2017 Worlds: Justin Gatlin
(9.92), Christian Coleman (9.94), Usain Bolt (9.95)
2019 Rankings: Christian Coleman (9.81), Noah Lyles (9.86), Divine Oduduru (9.86)

An event that appeared clear-cut five weeks ago was shaken a bit early this month. Coleman, the world’s fastest man in 2017, 2018 and 2019, was cleared in a case of missed drug tests but still had to sit out what would have been his last two prep meets. He last raced at the USATF Outdoor Championships on July 28. Still, Coleman is a clear favorite in part due to a lack of competition.

Lyles, the only man to beat him this year, is racing solely the 200m at worlds. The silver-medal favorite a month ago, 37-year-old defending champion Gatlin, pulled up while grabbing his leg for the second time this season on Sept. 3, though his manager reportedly deemed him OK. With Bolt retired, Jamaica is likely to miss the podium for the first time since 2003.

400m Hurdles (Final: Monday)
2016 Olympics: Kerron Clement
(47.73), Boniface Mucheru Tumuti (47.78), Yasmani Copello (47.92)
2017 Worlds: Karsten Warholm (48.35), Yasmani Copello (48.49), Kerron Clement (48.52)
2019 Rankings: Karsten Warholm (46.92), Rai Benjamin (46.98), Abderrahman Samba (47.27)

The oldest world record in men’s track is under threat. Kevin Young‘s mark from the 1992 Olympics — 46.78 seconds — could be broken by any of the three fastest men in the world this year — the Norwegian Warholm, the American (formerly Antiguan) Benjamin and the Qatari Samba. This event sped up incredibly in this Olympic cycle. The winning time in Rio was the slowest for an Olympic final since 1984. Warholm’s winning time two years ago (in the rain) was the slowest in world championships history.

In the last two seasons, Warholm, Benjamin and Samba combined to clock five of the nine fastest times in history, pushing Edwin Moses from the second-fastest man ever to No. 5. The home-favorite Samba is the wild card, having not cleared hurdles in competition since May 18 due to injury.

Pole Vault (Final: Tuesday)
2016 Olympics: Thiago Braz
(6.03), Renaud Lavillenie (5.98), Sam Kendricks (5.85)
2017 Worlds: Sam Kendricks
(5.95), Piotr Lisek (5.89), Renaud Lavillenie (5.89)
2019 Rankings: Sam Kendricks
(6.06), Piotr Lisek (6.02), Mondo Duplantis (6.00)

The marquee field event with stars from around the globe. Kendricks, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, has been the most consistent this Olympic cycle, capped by breaking the American record at USATF Outdoors two months ago.

Duplantis, the 19-year-old, Louisiana-raised Swede, is 3-3 head-to-head against Kendricks this year, according to Tilastopaja.org. The world-record holder Lavillenie from France has been slowed by injury, failing to win a top-level competition since July 2018.

200m (Final: Tuesday)
2016 Olympics: Usain Bolt
(19.78), Andre De Grasse (20.02), Christophe Lemaitre (20.12)
2017 Worlds: Ramil Guliyev
(20.09), Wayde van Niekerk (20.11), Jereem Richards (20.11)
2019 Rankings: Noah Lyles
(19.50), Michael Norman (19.70), Divine Oduduru (19.73)

Lyles might be the biggest favorite among all events in Doha. The only man to beat him since he finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic trials is Norman, who is only contesting the 400m at worlds.

Coleman is entered here, too, but is stronger in the 100m and will likely have already raced three rounds of that event before the 200m starts. How close can Lyles get to Bolt’s world record 19.19? That 19.50 from July 5 was into a slight headwind.

1500m (Final: Sunday, Oct. 6)
2016 Olympics: Matthew Centrowitz
(3:50.00), Taoufik Makhloufi (3:50.11), Nick Willis (3:50.24)
2017 Worlds: Elijah Manangoi
(3:33.61), Timothy Cheruiyot (3:33.99), Filip Ingebrigtsen (3:34.53)
2019 Rankings: Timothy Cheruiyot
(3:28.77), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (3:30.16), Ronald Musagala (3:30.58)

The only men’s flat race featuring the reigning Olympic champion. Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion since 1908, faces a major obstacle to his first world title: Cheruiyot. The Kenyan’s 1500/mile record over the last two years, via Tilastopaja: 16 wins, three runners-up in 19 meets. The only defeats were to Manangoi, who is out of worlds with a reported ankle injury.

The Norwegian 19-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who ran a 3:52 mile at age 17, is a medal favorite after finishing second to Cheruiyot in the Kenyan’s last three Diamond League meets.

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TRACK AND FIELD WORLDS: TV Schedule | U.S. Roster

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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