Michael Norman, world 400m favorite, fails to make final with injury

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Michael Norman, the world championships 400m favorite, was eliminated in Wednesday’s semifinals with an unspecified injury.

Norman was seventh and last in his semifinal in 45.94 seconds, way slower than the 43.45 he ran on April 20 to become the joint-fourth-fastest man in history.

Afterward, he told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN that an injury that nearly kept him out of July’s USATF Outdoor Championships had been nagging him leading up to worlds and in the semifinal.

“My body was telling me stuff, giving me signs,” Norman said, adding that he felt a “warning sign” in one of his legs during the semifinal before jogging to the finish line. “Trying to push myself to an area I’m not capable of running right now. Body’s telling me to slow down to keep something tragic from happening.”

In July, Norman said he didn’t practice the two weeks leading into nationals because of an unspecified strain. He said the last two weeks before worlds were very hard to cope with.

“I’m just very happy that I didn’t make a huge mistake,” he said.

Norman ends a season that was promising in the spring but stifled by injury in the summer and fall. He turned professional last summer, after his sophomore year at USC, and soon became the early Olympic 400m favorite with Rio gold medalist and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk out injured.

In addition to that 43.45, Norman handed Noah Lyles his only 200m defeat in this Olympic cycle.

“It was a great rookie year,” Norman said, “but I have a lot of learning to do. … I’m just going to have to really focus on myself and start becoming a little bit more selfish when it comes to taking care of my body.”

In Norman’s absence, the favorite in Friday’s final has to be U.S. champion Fred Kerley, the second-fastest man in the world this year. Another medal threat is 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James, who scarcely competed since a silver in Rio due to Graves’ disease.

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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal