Diamond League season starts with sprint showdowns in Doha; broadcast schedule

Fred Kerley

The Diamond League track and field season starts Friday in Doha with world champion sprinters facing off on the men’s side, plus most of the top U.S. women in the 100m.

Peacock streams the meet live on Friday at 12 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.

Several events feature clashes of Olympic and world champions, headlined by the men’s 200m: American Fred Kerley (world 100m champ) vs. American Michael Norman (world 400m champ) vs. Canadian Andre De Grasse (Olympic 200m champ).

Kerley, 27, has a bye into August’s world championships in the 100m as the reigning gold medalist. So he may be emphasizing the 200m through July’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, where the top three men will join reigning world champion Noah Lyles on the world team. Kerley was eliminated in the 200m semifinals at last summer’s worlds, saying he suffered a left leg cramp.

Norman, 25, is definitely emphasizing the 100m this season after bagging his first world title in the 400m last year. He has strong 200m credentials, too, ranking fourth in the world last year despite not contesting the event at USATF Outdoors or worlds.

De Grasse, 28, looks to rebound after withdrawing before the 200m at last summer’s worlds while recovering from a COVID-19 bout.

Lyles, who last year broke the American record to repeat as world 200m champion, is not entered in Doha. He is scheduled to race at the Atlanta City Games on Saturday.

The Doha women’s 100m has the last two world 200m champions — Jamaican Shericka Jackson and Brit Dina Asher-Smith — as well as five Americans who could make the final at USATF Outdoors.

The U.S. contingent: Melissa Jefferson (2022 U.S. champ), TeeTee Terry (anchored 2022 World 4x100m relay winners), Sha’Carri Richardson (ran wind-aided 10.57 last month, fourth-fastest all-conditions time in history), Abby Steiner (2022 U.S. 200m champ) and Teahna Daniels (top American at Tokyo Olympics in seventh).

The top American in Doha will likely cement herself as an early favorite to make the three-woman 100m team for worlds.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:04 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
11:15 — Men’s Discus
11:32 — Men’s Triple Jump
12:04 — Women’s 400m
12:17 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
12:20 — Men’s High Jump
12:34 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
12:44 — Men’s Javelin
12:48 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
1 — Men’s 800m
1:12 — Women’s 100m
1:23 — Men’s 3000m
1:41 — Men’s 200m
1:50 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 11:04 a.m. ET
Field has the top five from last summer’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. This year, Moon will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years, while Morris eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Men’s Triple Jump — 11:32 a.m. ET
Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo, Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango and China’s Zhu Yaming swept the medals at the Olympics and worlds. They’re all entered in Doha. As is American Christian Taylor, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champ who missed the Tokyo Games with a ruptured Achilles. Taylor, now 32, was 18th at worlds while working his way back from the major injury. In one outing so far in 2023, he has already triple jumped farther than at any of his 10 meets in 2022.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 12:17 p.m. ET
This event was rocked last month when reigning world champion Norah Jeruto of Kazakhstan was provisionally banned in a doping case involving her biological passport. The Doha field includes Olympic gold medalist Peruth Chemutai of Uganda, world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya, American Emma Coburn, the 2017 World champion, and Mekides Abebe, the 21-year-old Ethiopian who took bronze at last year’s worlds.

Women’s 100m — 1:12 p.m. ET
While Richardson made a statement with the 10.57, it’s Jackson who leads the early world rankings among wind-legal times with a 10.82 into a slight headwind two weeks ago. Jackson, 28, may be the world’s top female sprinter across all events. She took silver behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 100m at last year’s worlds, then ran the second-fastest 200m time in history four days later.

Men’s 200m — 1:41 p.m. ET
While Kerley, Norman and De Grasse have gold medals, the favorite here based on 200m experience and recent success should be American Kenny Bednarek, who took silver at the Tokyo Olympics and last year’s worlds. Unlike Kerley and Norman, Bednarek does not have a bye into any event at worlds, so he must be on his game come July’s USATF Outdoors. Bednarek, world bronze medalist Erriyon Knighton and Kerley are the early favorites to join Lyles on the world team in the 200m. If Norman doesn’t make the 100m team at USATF Outdoors, he could enter the 200m and/or accept his bye into the 400m at worlds.

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At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

Also Wednesday, 108th-ranked Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis ousted three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in four and a half hours. Wawrinka’s exit leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone man in the draw who has won the French Open and Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as the lone men left who have won any major.

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Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

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