Akani Simbine

Yohan Blake, Andre De Grasse beaten at London Diamond League

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South African Akani Simbine beat Olympic medalists Yohan Blake and Andre De Grasse in the London Diamond League 100m on Saturday.

Simbine, fifth at the most recent Olympics and world championships, clocked 9.93 seconds at the 2012 Olympic Stadium. He held off Brit Zharnel Hughes (9.95), while the 2012 Olympic silver medalist Blake was third (9.97) and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist De Grasse was fifth (9.99).

The race lacked the fastest men of 2019 — Americans Christian Coleman (9.81), Noah Lyles (9.86) and Justin Gatlin (9.87) and NCAA champion Divine Oduduru of Nigeria (9.86).

The meet concludes Sunday, live on NBC Sports Gold at 8:50 a.m. ET. U.S. stars are skipping this stop to prepare for the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships next weekend, where world championships spots are at stake.

In other events Saturday, world championships 800m favorite Nijel Amos of Botswana was wheeled off in a chair after grabbing the back of his right upper leg and stopping just after the start of the race. Eight days ago, Amos clocked the world’s fastest 800m since David Rudisha‘s world record at the London Olympics.

In his absence, Kenyan Ferguson Rotich won in 1:43.14, which was 1.25 seconds off Amos’ time from the previous Diamond League meet. Rudisha hasn’t competed in two years due to injury.

In the 5000m, Norwegian 18-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen lowered his personal best by 15.04 seconds in finishing second to Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet, who won by .17 of a second in 13:01.86. Ingebrigtsen ranks Nos. 2 and 9 in the world this year in the 1500m (his best event) and the 5000m. Gebrhiwet won two weeks after miscounting laps in the Lausanne Diamond League, celebrating 400 meters too early and ending up 10th.

World 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm broke the European record in 47.12, the seventh-fastest time in history. Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba and American Rai Benjamin, who went faster in 2018, were not in Saturday’s race.

Jamaican Danielle Williams won the 100m hurdles in 12.32 seconds, a national record and the world’s fastest time in two years. World-record holder Kendra Harrison and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal were not in the field.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson took the 200m in 22.13, the fourth-fastest in the world this year. Thompson owns the fastest time of 2019, a 22.00 from the Jamaican Championships on June 23.

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Who can beat Usain Bolt at world championships?

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Usain Bolt is favored to win in his last career 100m race at the world championships on Saturday, even though four men in the field have run faster than him this year.

Bolt is known for turning it on at global championships. In 2015 and 2016, he laid down his fastest time of the year in the world championships and Olympic finals.

If that history is repeated, Bolt will run sub-9.9 seconds in London on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Gold).

“I think it will have to be 9.8 seconds low, perhaps the same time it took me to win at the Olympics,” Bolt, who won in Rio in 9.81 seconds, said Thursday, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

In three races so far this season, Bolt’s best is 9.95, his slowest-ever time heading into an Olympics or worlds.

In 2013, 2015 and 2016, the silver medalist behind Bolt (Justin Gatlin every time) ran between 9.80 and 9.89 seconds.

There’s reason to believe this year’s group of Bolt challengers is the weakest yet. Only one man has run sub-9.9 this season, compared to four Bolt challengers going into the Rio Olympics and seven going into the 2015 Worlds.

Canadian Andre De Grasse, the only man to join Bolt on both Rio 100m and 200m podiums, is also out with a hamstring strain.

WORLDS: TV Schedule | 5 Men’s Races to Watch | 5 Women’s Races

A look at the four men with the best shot at handing Bolt his first defeat in four years on Saturday (some stats via Tilastopaja.org):

Justin Gatlin, United States
Personal Best: 9.74 seconds (2015)
2017 Best: 9.95 seconds
100m Accolades: 2004 Olympic champion, 2015 World/2016 Olympic silver medalist
100m Record vs. Bolt: 1-8 (Win: 2013 Rome)

Why he can beat Bolt: Gatlin was the world’s fastest man in 2014 and 2015, though he didn’t bring his top form to the 2015 World final and was edged by Bolt by .01. Gatlin has said he was slowed in the spring by injuries. If he’s close to fully healthy in London, expect him to run significantly faster than his best time of 9.95 this year. Gatlin and Bolt have the same best times of 2017, and it’s conceivable that Gatlin could be in for a greater time drop than Bolt on Saturday.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Gatlin is old, 35 years old. So those leg injuries early this season could have taken their toll. Gatlin also declined in 2016 from his 2014/2015 peak, so 2017 may prove a further slowdown. The one instance Gatlin had a shot to beat Bolt on a major stage, he choked under pressure in 2015.

Yohan Blake, Jamaica
Personal Best: 9.69 seconds (2012)
2017 Best: 9.90 seconds
100m Accolades: 2011 World champion, 2012 Olympic silver medalist
100m Record vs. Bolt: 2-6 (Wins: 2011 Worlds, 2012 Nationals)

Why he can beat Bolt: Blake has the fastest personal best in this field aside from Bolt’s world record 9.58. Though it came all the way back in 2012, the longtime Bolt training partner is still just 27 years old. Plus, he has steadily improved the last two years since returning from career-altering torn hamstrings. Blake’s best time in 2016 came at the Rio Olympics, which indicates a sub-9.9 is possible in London.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Blake hasn’t raced since June 25, pulling out of a meet in Morocco two weeks ago with a reported groin injury. He also hasn’t raced 100m outside of the friendly confines of Kingston since the Rio Games.

Christian Coleman, United States
Personal Best: 9.82 seconds (2017)
100m Accolades: 2017 NCAA champion
100m Record vs. Bolt: Never met

Why he can beat Bolt: Coleman is the fastest man in the world this year by a clear .08 of a second. Bolt’s final times at the last few Olympics and worlds have slowed from 9.58 (2009) to 9.63 (2012) to 9.77 (2013) to 9.79 (2015) and 9.81 (2016). If that trend continues, Coleman could repeat that 9.82 and win on Saturday.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Coleman should be tired. Another 9.82 in London would be a surprise. He has been the busiest sprinter in the world this year, racing a full NCAA indoor season from January through March, then the NCAA outdoor season from April to June and then turning pro and contesting the 100m and 200m at the USATF Outdoor Championships. Plus, he has never raced individually outside of the U.S. and Canada or in a global championship aside from the Rio 4x100m preliminary heats.

Akani Simbine, South Africa
Personal Best: 9.89 seconds (2016)
2017 Best: 9.92 seconds
100m Accolades: Fifth at 2016 Olympics
100m Record vs. Bolt: 0-5

Why he can beat Bolt: He has broken 10 seconds a total of eight times this year, most of any man in the world. Simbine, at 23, is significantly younger than Gatlin and Blake and, unlike Coleman, has plenty of international experience.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Simbine has the slowest personal best of the Bolt challengers. And he hasn’t broken 9.99 in six tries since April. He also lost to Bolt in each man’s most recent race on July 21.

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Usain Bolt set for test in last race before world championships

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Usain Bolt‘s four-year winning streak, and his unbeatable aura, are definitely on the line Friday in his last race before the world championships.

Bolt headlines what should be the final Diamond League meet of his career in Monaco, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold at 2 p.m. ET.

Bolt goes in the 100m at 3:35 p.m. It’s his third race of the season, but the first against decent competition.

Bolt clocked 10.03 and 10.06 to win two June races, marking his slowest ever start to a summer, then said he would visit a doctor about his usual back tightness.

In Monaco, Bolt will very likely need to break 10 seconds to extend a win streak of more than 20 100m and 200m races since June 6, 2013. If he loses, Bolt will likely go into his farewell world championships in three weeks as an underdog.

The Monaco field he faces includes two of the five fastest men in the world this year — South African Akani Simbine and American Chris Belcher — and four men overall who have broken 10 seconds in 2017.

It does not include the medal favorites for worlds next month — Jamaican Yohan Blake, Canadian Andre De Grasse and Americans Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin.

Bolt’s slow times this season are reminiscent of 2015, when he struggled to win a June 200m race and then pulled out of two early July meets with a leg injury. But Bolt returned four weeks before worlds to show medal-worthy form for the first time in nearly two years. He then edged Gatlin by .01 at worlds.

Few are pressing panic on Bolt this season like they were two years ago. For one, Bolt has shown he can overcome injury and slow times to win each of the last two years. Second (maybe more important), every other 100m star has doubts right now (different than 2015, when Gatlin was lighting the world on fire).

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

1:30 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
1:55 p.m. — Men’s Javelin
2:03 p.m. — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 p.m. — Men’s 1500m
2:20 p.m. — Women’s High Jump
2:25 p.m. — Men’s 400m
2:35 p.m. — Women’s 800m
2:45 p.m. — Women’s 200m
2:45 p.m. — Women’s Triple Jump
2:55 p.m. — Men’s 800m
3:05 p.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles
3:15 p.m. — Women’s 3000m
3:35 p.m. — Men’s 100m
3:45 p.m. — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 1500m — 2:15 p.m.
Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz and world champion Asbel Kiprop go head to head for the first time since August in what should be a world championships preview. All four Kenyans on the world team are in this race, including the two fastest men in the world this year — Timothy Cheruiyot and Ronald Kwemoi.

Centrowitz, the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years, finished seventh in two international races since taking runner-up at the USATF Outdoor Championships. He may still be rounding into form after a series of ailments had him considering pulling the rip cord on his season a month ago.

Women’s High Jump — 2:20 p.m.
U.S. champion Vashti Cunningham takes her third crack at world champion Maria Lasitskene of Russia this season. Lasitskene is the only woman to clear two meters this year, which she has done 11 times, with six failed attempts at a world record to boot, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Cunningham, the 19-year-old daughter of NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, has blossomed into the world No. 2 jumper this year. A personal-best clearance in Monaco would make her the eighth American woman to clear two meters.

Women’s 800m — 2:35 p.m.
The deepest field of the meet features the eight fastest women in the world this year. Olympic champion Caster Semenya hasn’t lost an 800m since September 2015. Olympic silver and bronze medalists Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui haven’t lost to anybody outdoors other than each other and Semenya in the same span.

U.S. champion Ajee’ Wilson may be in form to disrupt all that. She ran her fastest time since 2014 to win the national title. Now, she faces the world’s best for the first time since bowing out in the Rio semifinals.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 3:05 p.m.
The six fastest in the world this year go here, including world-record holder Keni Harrison and 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson. With Rio Olympic champion Brianna Rollins suspended for missing drug tests, this is close to a world championships preview field.

Harrison hasn’t lost since shockingly missing the Olympic team. She is the only woman to break 12.40 seconds this year with a top time of 12.28. That’s not surprising. Pearson, meanwhile, was a revelation in their last meet, clocking 12.48 seconds in London on July 9, her fastest time in five years.

Men’s 100m — 3:35 p.m.
In two 100m races this year, Bolt spotted unaccomplished sprinters marginal leads out of the blocks, caught them, but could not break 10 seconds despite giving pretty close to full effort.

Bolt will likely lose if he repeats either of those races Friday.

Akani Simbine of South Africa has broken 10 seconds a total of eight times in 11 tries this year, though his best time without the benefit of altitude is 9.99.

American Chris Belcher has a best of 9.93 this year, but that came on the notoriously fast track in Eugene, Ore. Belcher hasn’t broken 10 seconds elsewhere. This is his first career Diamond League race and only his second meet outside the U.S.

Brit C.J. Ujah has won three Diamond League races this year, including running 9.98 into a slight headwind in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday.

There is also Omar McLeod, who makes this race the first time reigning Olympic 100m and 110m hurdles champions face off since 1998, according to Tilastopaja. McLeod has rarely raced the 100m, but does have a personal best of 9.99 with the maximum allowable tailwind from April 2016.

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