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Christian Coleman set to stare down elders Justin Gatlin and Yohan Blake in world championships

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Usain Bolt has moved on, but sprinters of a certain age are not yet ready to cede the spotlight just yet in the men’s 100 meters.

The world championship semifinals and final will be the marquee event of Saturday’s session in Doha, Qatar. The session also includes finals in the women’s hammer throw, men’s long jump and women’s 10,000 meters, all of which have U.S. medal contenders.

Justin Gatlin, who won the 2004 Olympic gold and 2005 world championship in the 100 meters before serving a lengthy suspension for a doping infraction, won his heat Friday to extend his effort to defend the world title he won two years ago at age 35. Now 37, Gatlin has posted the fourth-fastest time (9.87) in the world this year. (No. 2, Noah Lyles, is focusing on the 200 meters; No. 3, Divine Oduduru of Nigeria and Texas Tech, did not start Friday’s heats.)

Mike Rodgers, a fellow American in his mid-30s, advanced from his heat as well.

Another heat winner, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, won’t turn 30 for another couple of months but has been around for years, winning the world title in 2011 when Bolt was disqualified.

But the fastest man in the world this year and the fastest man in Friday’s heats is from the next generation.

Christian Coleman, a 23-year-old sprinter who finished between Gatlin and Bolt to take silver in 2017, laid down an emphatic run in his heat Friday, blasting away from the pack and finishing in 9.98 seconds despite slowing down toward the end. No other runner broke the 10-second mark.

Coleman’s heat sent a message that he is ready to roll after missing time to deal with a drug-testing issue. He missed two Diamond League meets in late August, missing out on prize money and some opportunities to rev up for the world championships.

The Americans will be spread between the three semifinals — Coleman in the first, Gatlin alongside Blake and Canadian star Andre de Grasse in the second, Rodgers in the third. The top two in the each semifinal and the next two fastest runners across all three semis will advance to the final.

READ: Coleman wants apology after drug-test saga

The women’s hammer throw had three U.S. medal contenders who ranked first, second and third coming into the competition, but Brooke Andersen failed to advance from Friday’s qualification round. Gwen Berry, one of two athletes to draw attention to social issues with gestures on the podium at the Pan Am Games, also didn’t throw near her best but still advanced. DeAnna Price had no such issue, throwing 73.77m on her first effort to qualify automatically. Her throw stood as the day’s best.

READ: Berry raises fist, Imboden kneels at Pan Am Games

The men’s long jump will include Olympic champion Jeff Henderson, who has had an erratic season. The favorite is Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria, who has the best jump in the world this year and easily took top honors in the Diamond League.

In the women’s 10,000 meters, world and Olympic champion Almaz Ayana has withdrawn, but her fellow Ethiopians have the potential for a sweep. Letesenbet Gidey has the world’s fastest time this year. The U.S. contingent includes veteran Molly Huddle, who finished fourth in the 2015 world championships and sixth in the 2016 Olympics, and Emily Sisson, who has posted the fastest time in the world this year by anyone not from Ethiopia.

Huddle actually has the fastest career best in the field with her American record 30:13.17 in the 2016 Olympics.

READ: Ayana withdraws from championships

Other events in the evening session include qualification rounds in the women’s 100m, men’s discus, men’s 800m, men’s pole vault and men’s 400m hurdles. The women’s 800m semifinals, featuring Americans Ajee Wilson and Raevyn Rogers, also are on the schedule, as is the first round of the mixed 4x400m relay.

After the evening session, near midnight local time, the men and women will compete simultaneously in the 50km walk.

NBC will carry the men’s 100m final and other action from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, while earlier action will start on the Olympic Channel at 9:30 a.m. EDT. NBC Sports Gold will stream live coverage of every event over the 10-day meet.

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

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Jordan Thompson, U.S. volleyball’s new weapon, took unique route to NCAA history

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It was about this time last year that Jordan Thompson first appeared on the radar of U.S. women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly. Since, Thompson emerged as the youngest starter, and arguably a star, for the national team.

She goes into what could be her final weekend of college volleyball as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport. And one of the most unique stories in NCAA history.

Thompson plays not for a Big Ten or Pac-12 powerhouse, but for Cincinnati, a school that, before she arrived, never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The unranked Bearcats upset second-ranked Pittsburgh in the second round last Saturday. They play Penn State, winner of six of the last 12 NCAA titles, in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

In 33 games this season, Thompson has registered a Division I-leading 768 kills, which is 143 more than the next most prolific attacker. That margin of 143 is the same number that separates No. 2 from No. 31.

Last season, she had 827 kills, which was 240 more than anybody else and a single-season record (by 112 kills) since NCAA match formats shifted from 30-point to 25-point sets in 2008.

She is a contender, if not a favorite, to be AVCA National Player of the Year. All of the previous winners dating to 1985 came from schools that reached at least one Final Four.

On Oct. 4, a UCF player’s face caught the wrong end of a Thompson attack. Cincinnati teammates watching from the bench dropped to the floor in astonishment.

Thompson tallied 50 kills in one match alone on Nov. 3, becoming the first D-I player to do so in 20 years.

That happened on Senior Day. Before that match, Thompson received a plaqued No. 23 jersey and flowers.

She posed for a photo standing with her husband, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Blake Yager, her mother, Mary, whose bribes helped Thompson develop into an attacker, and her father, 1990s Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Doleman (and brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman).

Mary has been most instrumental, raising Thompson as a single mom in Minnesota. Thompson, who is 6 feet, 4 inches now, was always tall for her age.

She played youth basketball against older girls and grew frustrated by the physical contact. Kneepads weren’t comfort enough. She decided to give volleyball a try in middle school.

“She was very timid,” Mary said of her daughter, who has since gotten 10 tattoos, including one of a hummingbird. “She would tell me she didn’t want to hurt anyone on the other side of the net. I told her I would give her a dollar for every time she would whack it. And I would give her $10 if she would actually hit someone on the other end of the court.”

It took a while, but Thompson was motivated by her love of horses. The payouts from her mom went toward a saddle and a bridal. A box with horse equipment remains in the family garage back home.

“She was trying to build up her supplies to be able to one day say to me, look, I’ve got a saddle, I’ve got all of my tack, I’ve got stuff to clean the hooves, can we get a horse now?” Mary said. 

After just two years of club volleyball, Thompson received her first Division-I scholarship offer. It came from Syracuse. Thompson was a high school sophomore.

“In the back of my head, I’m thinking, I’m never going to get another offer, so I better take this one,” she said.

Thompson was intent on Syracuse for a year before a coaching change led her to decommit. She wasn’t sure if many schools knew she had reopened her recruiting. A Minnesota club teammate had committed to Cincinnati and suggested Thompson take a visit.

The Bearcats went 3-29 the season before she committed.

“I said, Jordan, you can play D-I at Texas. You can go to Nebraska,” Mary said. “She was like, no, no, I want to play all four years. I actually want to get playing time, mom. She really struggled believing how good she could be.”

The biggest obstacle came junior year. In a preseason training session, Thompson collided with that Minnesota club teammate, Jade Tingelhoff, and tore the UCL in her dominant, right arm. She was in an armpit-to-wrist brace for two months post-Tommy John surgery, including three weeks with her arm locked in place.

She couldn’t brush her hair, had a hard time brushing her teeth and found it difficult showering and getting dressed.

She still went to every Bearcats game and traveled with the team. Cincinnati went from 22-10 her sophomore season to 13-19 that year without her on the court.

“It ended up being OK,” Tingelhoff said. “She came back that next season — I’m not kidding — 10 times as better than she was even the previous year.”

As a redshirt junior, Thompson and her 827 kills helped Cincinnati to a 26-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament win in seven years. She also caught the eye of Kiraly by the end of that 2018 season.

“She was one of the elite players in all of college volleyball,” he said. “Probably the only one who came from a conference other than the ones known for producing the most NCAA champions, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”

By last spring break, Thompson had become a favorite of U.S coaches at a camp to help select teams for summer international tournaments.

She had a one-on-one conversation with Kiraly, the only person to own Olympic indoor and beach gold medals. The legend told her she had potential to play at the Pan American Games. Later, he upped the praise to say she was ready for the top-level Nations League, a precursor to Olympic qualifying.

Thompson made her national team debut in May. By August, she came off the bench to help spur a comeback in a crucial Olympic qualifying match. The next day, she was in the starting lineup for the U.S.’ final Olympic qualifier, where the Americans clinched a Tokyo 2020 berth.

“I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college,” two-time U.S. Olympic outside hitter Jordan Larson said then. “She still has one more year left.”

Agents reached out, but Thompson had no intention of giving up her final year of NCAA eligibility. She wanted to make history at Cincinnati. That was secured with the Sweet 16 berth.

With the new year, she will trade the Cincinnati red and black for Team USA colors. She will keep in mind what the U.S. coaching staff told the team during Olympic qualifying and what she called a dream summer.

“My big goal in life was I just wanted to be in the USA gym,” said Thompson, who is working on her master’s in criminal justice. “To hear that we’re all working towards this goal of trying to make this roster, and we are being looked as potential players to make that roster, my jaw dropped. To know that it’s even a remote possibility is mind-blowing.”

VIDEO: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC. It beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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