Dalilah Muhammad, Sydney McLaughlin take 400m hurdles rivalry to world champs final

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Dalilah Muhammad, the Olympic champion and new world-record holder in the 400m hurdles, keeps an eye on her younger countrywoman, Sydney McLaughlin, who makes her global championships final debut on Friday.

“I’ve started kind of from the bottom, and I’ve really worked my way up,” Muhammad said before the world championships in Doha, “and I think Sydney’s kind of been at the top of her game from the very beginning of her career. I can definitely say that’s our stories. Our paths have definitely been different.”

They will intersect at the biggest stage yet on Friday (2:30 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel) in the most anticipated final of the last weekend of the 10-day worlds.

Muhammad and McLaughlin combine for seven of the world’s eight fastest times this year.

Muhammad, 29, broke a 15-year-old world record by winning the USATF Outdoor Championships in 52.20 seconds on July 28. But Muhammad hasn’t broken 53.5 in any of her other races this year, while McLaughlin has done it three times.

McLaughlin, 20 and the world junior record holder, also beat Muhammad in their two other head-to-heads this season on the Diamond League circuit.

Muhammad said shortly after lowering the world record that she didn’t think it would last long at 52.20 (which she ran two weeks after suffering a mild concussion in a training fall). What’s not clear is whether Muhammad will go even faster, or if McLaughlin is capable of it.

“The field is so deep,” Muhammad said, “and I don’t think I’m even at my best with 52.20.”

Muhammad’s world record, and her career, were testaments to perseverance. She ran unsponsored after being eliminated in the 2012 Olympic trials first round and finishing her USC career. Her parents helped support her — mom Nadirah, a child protection specialist in New York City and dad Askia, a Muslim Chaplain for the New York City Department of Correction and an adjunct professor of Islamic Studies at the New York Theological Seminary.

Then in 2013, Muhammad earned the U.S. title, a world silver medal and a Nike contract. After a quad injury and coaching change, she again rebounded, this time to become an Olympic champion in Rio.

“The gold was so far from my mind; that definitely wasn’t the goal going into 2016,” she said. “I just wanted to make it as a 400m hurdler.”

There’s never been doubt about McLaughlin. In 2016, she became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, eliminated in the semifinals at age 17.

She turned pro after her freshman season at Kentucky, signing with Beverly Hills-based WME talent agency, a sign that she wanted to become a star that crosses over beyond track. She’s been impressive enough on the oval.

In 2016, McLaughlin broke 55 seconds for the first time. In 2017, she cracked 54. Last year, she went down to 52.75. She’s still looking for a personal best this season. She may need one on Friday, after posting the fastest times in the first round and the semifinals.

“This season was really great, the way that it progressed,” McLaughlin said. “It wasn’t too up and down. It was really steady. I think it worked, perfect timing for the finals.”

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Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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