U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials: Men’s events to watch

Noah Lyles, Trayvon Bromell
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A prevailing storyline in track and field for the last two years has been this: the U.S. men could win every Olympic gold medal from 100m through 800m.

An American is either the reigning world champion or the fastest man in 2021 in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles.

Those runners are expected to be tested to varying degrees at the Olympic Trials, which start Friday at the new Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

Some, like Grant Holloway (world 110m hurdles champion) and Rai Benjamin (400m hurdles world leader), are significant favorites in events where the top three clinch spots on the team for Tokyo.

Others face deep fields, where it’s possible that Olympic medal contenders are left home.

The U.S. also boasts medal favorites in field events, though its most accomplished man, two-time Olympic champion Christian Taylor, is out after rupturing an Achilles last month.

That in mind, five men’s events to watch at the Olympic Trials …

TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS: TV Schedule | Women’s Events

Shot Put (Trials final June 18)
2016 Olympics: Ryan Crouser (gold), Joe Kovacs (silver), Darrell Hill (qualifying)
2019 Worlds: Kovacs (gold), Crouser (silver), Hill (fifth)
2021 U.S. Leaders: Crouser (23.01), Kovacs (22.72), Hill (22.34), Josh Awotunde (21.68)

There’s not much debate about who will make up the three-man Olympic team, but this event could produce fireworks nonetheless. Crouser, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound NFL tryout invitee, built his own shot put ring when facilities closed last spring, threw behind an elementary school and tossed medicine balls under a bridge. It paid off. This year, he upped personal bests, breaking the world indoor record and becoming the third man in history to launch the 16-pound ball 23 meters (more than 75 feet). Kovacs, who is coached by his wife and considered retirement in early 2019, won the world title later that year in the greatest shot put competition in history. Crouser and Kovacs have the talent to challenge the 31-year-old world record of 23.12.

100m (Trials final June 20)
2016 Olympics: Justin Gatlin (silver), Trayvon Bromell (eighth), Marvin Bracy (semis)
2019 Worlds: Christian Coleman (gold), Gatlin (silver), Mike Rodgers (semis), Chris Belcher (heats)
2021 U.S. Leaders: Bromell (9.77), Bracy (9.85), Isiah Young (9.89), Fred Kerley (9.91)

After Usain Bolt retired in 2017, Coleman became the clear Olympic favorite. But Coleman is banned through Tokyo for missing drug tests (though never testing positive). Re-enter Bromell, a former teen prodigy who was an afterthought at this time last year. Bromell’s career is resurrected, and he is now favored for gold. The first six men on the world rankings list are American. Trailing them are Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist and 2017 World champion who is still a contender at age 39. And Noah Lyles, arguably the favorite after Coleman was first banned, but whose 100m has been slow to come along this year.

Long Jump (Trials final June 27)
2016 Olympics: Jeff Henderson (gold), Jarrion Lawson (fourth), Mike Hartfield (qualifying)
2019 Worlds: Henderson (silver), Steffin McCarter (12th), Trumaine Jefferson (qualifying)
2021 U.S. Leaders: JuVaughn Harrison (8.44), Henderson (8.39), Marquis Dendy (8.29), Corey Crawford (8.29)

Intriguing for the spectrum of participants: Henderson, looking to become the first man to repeat as Olympic champ since Carl Lewis won four in a row from 1984-96. Lawson, who cost himself a Rio Olympic medal (perhaps gold) by dragging his left hand in the sand behind his landing on his final jump. Lawson was banned four years in 2018, then exonerated in 2020 over tainted beef. Harrison was the male revelation of the NCAA season, posting long jump and high jump results that rank second in the world in both events. Don’t forget Marquise Goodwin, who jumped in the 2012 Olympics, then went to the NFL. In 2016, he returned to long jumping and went into the Olympic Trials with the world’s top two jumps for the year. But Goodwin failed to qualify for the Rio team. He went back to the NFL, then proclaimed in April 2019 that he would win the Tokyo Olympic long jump. After nearly five years between meets, including a one-year ban for not filling out drug-testing forms while focused on football, he ranks eighth among Americans this year.

1500m (Trials final June 27)
2016 Olympics: Matthew Centrowitz (gold), Ben Blankenship (eighth), Robby Andrews (semis)
2019 Worlds: Centrowitz (eighth), Craig Engels (10th), Blankenship (semis)
2021 U.S. Leaders: Engels (3:33.64), Henry Wynne (3:34.08), Hobbs Kessler (3:34.36), Vincent Ciattei (3:34.57)

Americans haven’t contended internationally since Centrowitz broke a 108-year Olympic title drought in Rio. But the crowd recently bunched in the race for three Olympic spots. Centrowitz, after health setbacks early in this Olympic cycle, showed form last month and goes into Trials as the favorite. Behind him are veterans such as Engels, known for his mullet, and Josh Thompson. And collegians — rising Oregon sophomore Cole Hocker and Yared Nuguse, who just finished his senior year at Notre Dame. And then 18-year-old Kessler, who broke Alan Webb‘s high school mile record.

200m (Trials final June 27)
2016 Olympics: LaShawn Merritt (sixth), Justin Gatlin (semis), Ameer Webb (semis)
2019 Worlds: Noah Lyles (gold), Rodney Rowe (heats), Kenny Bednarek (heats)
2021 U.S. Leaders: Terrance Laird (19.81), Bednarek (19.88), Lyles (19.90), Joseph Fahnbulleh (19.91)

Lyles, Bednarek and Laird are the only Americans who are expected to go for the Olympic 200m team who have broken 20 seconds in the last three years. And each comfortably did so already this season. Fahnbulleh beat Laird at NCAAs last week but didn’t enter Olympic Trials. Michael Norman, the Olympic 400m favorite, entered the 200m at Trials, too, but is not expected to see it all the way through given the 200m and 400m overlap in Tokyo. But the 200m got a little more interesting last Sunday when Fred Kerley, the 2019 U.S. 400m champion, announced he’s focusing on the 100m and the 200m at Trials. Kerley’s 200m personal best is 20.24.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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