Michael Norman wins stacked 400m in Doha


Michael Norman staked a claim for Olympic 400m favorite status, beating a field that included an Olympic gold medalist, the reigning U.S. champion and the the world silver medalist on Friday.

Norman, the fastest man in this Olympic cycle (43.45 seconds) who eased up in the 2019 Worlds semifinals injured, clocked 44.27 at a Diamond League meet in Doha.

Norman pulled away in the world’s fastest time this year, prevailing by three tenths over world silver medalist Anthony Zambrano of Colombia. Zambrano was followed by U.S. champion Fred Kerley (44.60) and 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada (44.61).

The race included the primary Tokyo Olympic medal contenders save Rio gold medalist and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa, plagued by injuries the last three and a half years. And 2019 World champion Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, who was injured in his most recent race last week.

Norman, who was fifth in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials 200m just after his senior year in high school, has credentials at 100m (personal best 9.86 seconds) and 200m (handed Noah Lyles his only defeat in this Olympic cycle). But the 400m is his focus, and he could bring the Olympic title back to the U.S., after Americans managed a singled bronze in the event between 2012 and 2016.

Norman and Kerley are favorites to grab two of the three individual Olympic 400m spots at Trials in Eugene, Oregon, next month.

Full Doha results are here. The next Diamond League meet is June 10 in Florence, Italy.

In other events Friday, two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the 100m in 10.84 seconds, beating a field that lacked the world’s fastest woman this year, American Sha’Carri Richardson, who was entered and withdrew. Richardson ran 10.72 last month. Rio gold medalist and fellow Jamaican Elaine Thompson also withdrew days before the meet.

American Kenny Bednarek edged Olympic and world silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada in the 200m, 19.88 to 19.89. Bednarek, who ran for Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, before turning pro in 2019, ranks second in the world since the start of 2020 behind Lyles, the world champion.

American Rai Benjamin won the 400m hurdles in 47.38 seconds. Doha marked the first time any of the 2019 World Championships 400m hurdles medalists faced each other since those worlds. Benjamin, the world silver medalist, beat Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba, the world bronze medalist, in a battle between the joint-third-fastest men in history. Samba was fourth in 48.26.

At the Olympics, Benjamin, Samba and world champion Karsten Warholm are expected to produce fireworks and, potentially, break Kevin Young‘s world record of 46.78 seconds from the 1992 Olympics. Warholm, who was not in Doha, is the second-fastest man in history at 46.87.

Colombian Yulimar Rojas won a triple jump that included the top four from both the 2016 Olympics and 2019 World Championships. Rojas, who last Saturday recorded the second-farthest jump in history of 15.43 meters, won Friday with a 15.15-meter leap.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier

World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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