Barbora Spotakova

Michael Norman edges Noah Lyles in Rome 200m

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Noah Lyles‘ undefeated 200m record this Olympic cycle is gone. So is his unblemished head-to-head history with friendly rival Michael Norman.

Norman won a duel between the 2016 World Junior Championships roommates, clocking a personal-best 19.70 seconds at a Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday night.

Norman, the world’s fastest 400m man since the Rio Olympics, got a jump on Lyles off the start and never relinquished that lead. Lyles closed in the final straight but crossed in 19.72 for his first outdoor 200m loss since the 2016 Olympic trials.

“I still have a lot of technical issues with myself, like: be patient,” Norman said, according to meet organizers, after taking .14 off his previous best and beating Lyles for the first time in four tries dating to 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org. “I did not have any expectations coming into this race. I just want to improve myself and not chase a time.”

Lyles and Norman finished fourth and fifth in those Rio trials, just missing the Olympic team, but beamed for performing so well as 18-year-olds. Lyles turned pro two weeks later. Norman matriculated at USC, where he focused on the 400m.

While the outgoing Lyles gained more attention for lighting up the international Diamond League circuit, the calmer Norman finished his NCAA career last year by becoming the sixth-fastest 400m runner ever. He lowered his personal best to 43.45 on April 20, the fastest time ever that early in a year and by somebody that young.

Last season, Lyles joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 in the 200m four times in one year.

But now, Lyles is the fastest this year in the 100m, and Norman leads the world in the 200m. Neither is expected to race those events at the USATF Outdoor Championships next month, the qualifier for worlds. Lyles is focused on the 200m; Norman the 400m as they eye world championships debuts in September.

Full Rome results are here. The Diamond League moves to Oslo next Thursday, with Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest man since the Rio Olympics, headlining.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson ran a statement 100m with her fastest time in nearly two years (10.89) to overtake new phenom Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain by .05. U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs was third in 11.12.

Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio, has since battled injuries and went winless outside her native Jamaica in 2018. She’s now fastest in the world this season.

“If I can run 10.94 when I’m feeling rusty, it’s not bad at all,” Asher-Smith said, according to meet organizers.

Donavan Brazier notched his first Diamond League win in the 800m, edging 2012 Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana by .02 with a lean. The 2017 U.S. champion clocked 1:43.63, fastest in the world since August. Double Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha of Kenya has been sidelined since July 2017 due to quad problems.

Genzebe Dibaba prevailed in the 1500m in 3:56.28, her fastest time since lowering the world record to 3:50.07 in 2015. Dibaba held off Brit Laura Muir by .45, with Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson taking fourth.

Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad won the 400m hurdles in 53.67 seconds, giving her victories in both Diamond League races this season. However, the 2018 world leader Sydney McLaughlin wasn’t in either field. McLaughlin, 19, clocked the fastest time of 2018 at 52.75.

American Rai Benjamin clocked 47.58 to take the men’s 400m hurdles by a hefty 1.41 seconds over a field that lacked Qatari rival Abderrahman Samba. Samba, the second-fastest man ever in the event, owns the two fastest times of the year: 47.27 and 47.51.

Two-time Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova had the worst Diamond League finish of her career, taking seventh in her first top-level meet since 2017, according to Tilastopaja.org. Spotakova, a 37-year-old Czech, gave birth to her second child last year. Her best throw Thursday — 61.51 meters — was more than 35 feet shy of her world record from 2008.

“I tried not to set any goals or to expect anything from myself here,” she said. “Every competition for me now is like a new start of my career.”

Swede Angelica Bengtsson upset Olympic gold and silver medalists Katerina Stefanidi and Sandi Morris in the pole vault, clearing 4.76 meters. Stefanidi and Morris each failed at three attempts at that height. Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champ, no-heighted with three 4.56 misses after having issues getting her poles on her flight.

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk sets first international race since 2017

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Wayde van Niekerk wins 400m; top rival held out of race

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Wayde van Niekerk is halfway to a historic double at the world championships. His biggest rival this season wasn’t even allowed in the stadium for Tuesday’s 400m final.

Van Niekerk, who broke Michael Johnson‘s 400m world record in Rio, repeated as world champion in 43.98 seconds. The Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner took silver in 44.41, followed by Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun in 44.48.

Van Niekerk was much faster at the Olympics (43.03) and 2015 Worlds (43.48), but he didn’t need to be that swift in London. He eased off crossing the finish line with that comfortable lead yet still lay on the track in exhaustion afterward.

Later, Van Niekerk said “freezing” conditions slowed him. Temperatures were in the low 60s on Tuesday.

“I struggled to get myself warmed up and ready,” he said, according to the IAAF. “I was doubting my momentum. In the last 150 [meters] I tried putting in an extra gear, but I couldn’t catch my stride until my last few meters.”

Meanwhile, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala was held out of the final due to what the IAAF said was “an infectious disease” but insisted that he was not sick and had never seen a doctor. Makwala ranks No. 1 in the world this year in the 200m and No. 3 in the 400m (43.84), the events Van Niekerk was favored to sweep this week.

Van Niekerk said it was “heartbreaking” to learn of Makwala’s absence. Makwala also did not start the 200m on Monday.

“I saw him just before the 200m heats, and the only thing I could think of was putting my arms round him and telling him to get well soon,” Van Niekerk said.

Makwala was the latest 400m star to bow out of the event at worlds. The 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James did not enter worlds due to illness. The 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt failed to qualify for Tuesday’s final, citing plantar fasciitis.

Everybody other than Van Niekerk was racing his first individual championship final on Tuesday, including the top American, Fred Kerley, who was seventh. Full results are here.

Now, Van Niekerk sets his sights on sweeping the 400m and 200m. Only Johnson has accomplished this feat at a worlds.

Van Niekerk is the heavy favorite in the 200m (final Thursday) with the top challengers in that event also absent. Usain Bolt chose not to race the 200m this year, and Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse pulled out ahead of worlds with a strained hamstring.

In other events Tuesday, Rio bronze medalist Sam Kendricks became the first American man in 10 years to win an Olympic or world pole vault title. The first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve cleared 5.95 meters for gold ahead of Pole Piotr Lisek and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France.

“I need to make up some training and see my soldiers when I go back home,” Kendricks said. “I got a call from the secretary of the Army wishing me good luck just yesterday, so I had to call him back, tell him how I did.”

Kenyan Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto overtook U.S. Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager on the final lap of the 3000m steeplechase and won in 8:14.12. Jager held on for bronze in 8:15.53, behind Moroccan Soufiane Elbakkali.

Jager became the first U.S. medalist in a world steeplechase, while Kenya won its ninth straight Olympic or world title in the event. That’s the longest-running dynasty in the sport.

“I would have been really pissed if I was not on the podium, but I guess I’m just disappointed because I had pretty high hopes of coming in here and winning gold,” Jager said, citing Kipruto’s recent ankle injury that kept the Kenyan to one track training session in the month preceding worlds.

France’s Pierre Ambroise-Bosse was the surprise 800m champion in 1:44.67 in the absence of world-record holder David Rudisha and every Rio medalist. Poland’s Adam Kszczot, .28 behind, won silver, as he did in 2015. Kenyan Kipyegon Bett took bronze.

Tori Bowie did not show up for the 200m heats, two days after she won her first world 100m title. Bowie said after the USATF Outdoor Championships in June that she did not want to run multiple individual races at worlds. Last week, she said her 200m status would be determined after the 100m.

Elaine Thompson, who swept the Olympic 100m and 200m, chose not to race the 200m at worlds. Thompson was shockingly fifth in the 100m on Sunday.

With those two out, Thursday’s semifinals are headlined by Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, defending world champion Dafne Schippers and U.S. champion Deajah Stevens. The final is Friday.

Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad led three Americans into Thursday’s 400m hurdles final. A fourth American, 2015 World silver medalist Shamier Little, did not advance out of the semifinals.

In the javelin, Barbora Spotakova won her second world title, a decade after her first crown. Spotakova, a 36-year-old mother with 2008 and 2012 Olympic golds, threw 66.76 meters to edge China’s Li Lingwei (66.25) and Lyu Huihui (65.26).

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