Sha’Carri Richardson upset in her return, 10 meet records broken at Prefontaine Classic

0 Comments

Just two weeks removed from the final track and field event at the Tokyo Olympics, many of the medalists from those Olympic Games were back for, in many cases, even more impressive performances at the beloved Prefontaine Classic.

Ten meet records and five national records were set – as five events saw the fastest times of the year – at the newly renovated Hayward Field on Saturday afternoon as some favorites were once again victorious and others faced upsets.

In the most anticipated race of the meet, Sha’Carri Richardson made her return to competition after serving a one-month ban that started June 28. Richardson received the ban after testing positive for marijuana at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, where she won the women’s 100m, disqualifying her for the Olympic team.

The 21-year-old, who in April ran the sixth-fastest time in history at 10.74 seconds, was entering her own Olympic race of sorts in Eugene, lining up against the three Olympic medalists from Tokyo and six of the eight Olympic finalists.

Richardson finished a surprising ninth in her comeback, last in the field at 11.14 seconds and .38  from the podium, which was a repeat of the Jamaican sweep in Tokyo.

“Coming out today was a great return to the sport,” Richardson said to NBC reporter Lewis Johnson on the broadcast. “I’m not upset with myself at all. This is one race. I’m not done. You know what I’m capable of. Count me out if you want to… I’m not done. I’m the sixth-fastest woman in this game ever, and can’t nobody ever take that from me. Congratulations to the winners, but they’re not done seeing me yet. Period.”

Elaine Thompson-Herah won in 10.54 seconds, the second-fastest time in history and 0.05 off Florence Griffith-Joyner’s world record that has stood for over 33 years. The two-time reigning Olympic champion at both the 100m and 200m was followed by 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist and Tokyo silver medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in 10.73 and Shericka Jackson in 10.76.

American Teahna Daniels, who was seventh in her Olympic debut, ran a 10.83 to lower her personal best by .15 and place fourth.

A few minutes earlier, Noah Lyles won the men’s 200m in a world-leading and meet record 19.52 seconds, a redemptive performance after taking bronze in Tokyo in 19.74.

“Well, to be honest, I walked out here on the track and I said, ‘Shoot! That’s a lot of people,’” Lyles remarked about running in front of a crowd for the first time in nearly two years. “I wasn’t even thinking about coming out here, I was going to shut it down. I had a talk with my therapist, she said that of course what happened in Tokyo happened; this isn’t Tokyo. I knew I was in shape and I didn’t get to show that off in Tokyo.”

In a U.S. sweep, Olympic silver medalist Kenny Bednarek was second in 19.8 and Lyles’ younger brother Josephus was third in a personal best 20.03.

Canada’s André de Grasse one-upped Fred Kerley, who took silver ahead of his bronze at the Olympics, to win the men’s 100m in 9.74 seconds. Kerley was second in 9.78, with Ronnie Baker third at 9.82.

Another Canadian, Marco Arop, who was seventh in his Olympic semifinal in the 800m, upset Kenyan Olympic medalists Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich, who won gold and silver in Tokyo. Arop’s 1:44.51 bested Rotich and Korir, who finished in 1:45.02 and 1:45.05, respectively.

Athing Mu and Courtney Frerichs broke their own American records in their events.

Mu last set the women’s 800m record on Aug. 3 to win Olympic gold in 1:55.21, then broke it in Eugene to win in a world-leading and meet record 1:55:04. The 19-year-old was in a league of her own, with Kate Grace taking second in 1:57.60.

“It’s my last race [of the season], I just went out here trying to be competitive again,” Mu said, adding that she’s looking forward to time off to reflect on her success this season.

Olympic silver medalist Frerichs broke a North America record that she held for over three years in the 3,000m steeplechase, lowering her 9:00.85 to 8:57.77 in finishing second to Kenya’s Norah Jeruto, who ran a world-leading 8:53.65.

World-leading times were also set in the non-Olympic mile races, with Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen taking the Bowerman Mile title in 3:47.24, also a national record and Diamond Meet record. Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei won the 2-mile race in 8:09.55 and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba took the women’s 2-mile title on Friday night in 9:00.75, a meet record.

Allyson Felix was added to the women’s 200m field on Wednesday and finished last in that race in 22.6 seconds after earning bronze in the Olympic 400m earlier this month and later becoming the most decorated U.S. Olympic track and field athlete with gold in the 4x400m relay. Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland won the 200 in 22.06, while Olympic bronze medalist Gabrielle Thomas was second (22.11) and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, the 2019 World champion, third (22.19).

Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, who won the Olympic 1500m in Tokyo, set a meet record of 3:53.23 in that race.

The field events were won by recent Olympic champions Ryan Crouser (shot put), Katie Nageotte (pole vault) and Pedro Pichardo (triple jump), plus reigning European indoor champion Iryna Gerashchenko (high jump). Crouser’s throw of 23.15 meters set a Diamond League record.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
Getty
0 Comments

Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
Getty
0 Comments

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!