Nia Ali, mother of two, wins 100m hurdles; U.S. ties record for most track worlds golds

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Nia Ali made it yet another mom to earn gold at the world track and field championships in Doha. The U.S. finished the meet with three titles on the final day, including both 4x400m relays, for 14 overall to tie its record for most golds at a single worlds.

Pretty strong going into an Olympic year.

The U.S. previously earned 14 golds in 2005 and 2007, but had fewer total medals at those meets than in Doha, where they took home 29. However, there was no mixed-gender 4x400m (which the U.S. won in Doha) back then.

Ali, who earned Rio Olympic silver a year after having son Titus, earned her first world title a year after having daughter Yuri. She took a victory lap with both kids after lowering her personal best in the semifinals (12.44) and final (12.34).

Ali led a U.S. one-two with Keni Harrison, who missed the Rio Olympic team then broke the world record before those Games (12.20). Harrison earned her first major outdoor championships medal.

Ali then took a victory lap with both kids. Yuri also took a victory lap with her dad, Canadian Andre De Grasse, after he took 100m bronze last week.

“Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean that you can’t get out here and continue to be an athlete as well, a top, world-class athlete,” Ali, who joined Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as moms to win sprint titles in Doha, said after the first round on Saturday. “I know [Yuri] is going to look up to me and look at this and it’s definitely going to keep her motivated and show what strength really looks like to be able to go through this and train hard and be on top.”

It was the culmination of a busy season for Ali, who briefly left her summer training base in Germany to attend a parent-teacher conference at 4-year-old Titus’ school in Jacksonville, Fla.

TRACK WORLDS: Results

In the relays, Felix extended her record of most career world titles (13) when the U.S. women won the 4x400m. Felix was not part of the final quartet, but she earned a medal as a preliminary heat runner. Felix had the fastest split of all the runners in the prelims, according to Jon Mulkeen of the IAAF.

The U.S. women — Phyllis FrancisSydney McLaughlinDalilah Muhammad and Wadeline Jonathas — prevailed by 2.97 seconds over Poland in 3:18.92, the world’s fastest since the 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. men’s 4x400m — Fred Kerley, Michael Cherry, WIl London III and Rai Benjamin — had a closer call, topping Jamaica by 1.21 seconds in 2:56.69, the fastest since the 2008 Olympics.

In other finals, Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot led wire to wire to win the 1500m by a hefty 2.12 seconds over Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi in 3:29.26. U.S. Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz was eighth, two years after getting eliminated in the first round at worlds.

Cheruiyot, 23, has lost just three times at 1500m or the mile in 17 meets over the last two years.

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei won the first world championships 10,000m since Mo Farah left the track for the roads. Cheptegei, who took silver behind Farah at 2017 Worlds, clocked 26:48.36, the world’s fastest time in five years. The top American was 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer Lopez Lomong in seventh.

German Malaika Mihambo won a long jump final that included neither reigning Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta (failed to make U.S. team) nor defending world champion Brittney Reese (missed the final by one centimeter). Mihambo, who came in as the world No. 1 this year, recorded the world’s best jump of this Olympic cycle, 7.30 meters, to win by more than a foot.

American Tori Bowie, the 2017 World 100m champion who went nearly five years between long jump competitions, took fourth.

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Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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