Brianna McNeal

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Women’s hurdlers take center stage as Diamond League hits crunch time; how to watch

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A showdown between world record holder Kendra Harrison (U.S.), reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (U.S.) and 2019 world leader Danielle Williams (Jamaica) in the women’s 100-meter hurdles is the marquee event of the Diamond League meet Sunday in Birmingham, England.

With the track and field world championships not starting this year until Sept. 28, the Diamond League gets an uninterrupted run to its season finales Aug. 29 in Zurich and Sept. 6 in Brussels. The 32 Diamond League events are split between the two finales, with a $50,000 prize awaiting the winner of each final.

The last two meets before those finales — Sunday’s meet and the Aug. 24 meet in Paris — are all about qualifying for a shot at those final jackpots.

Birmingham will be the last chance to win points in the men’s 400m, women’s long jump, women’s 1,500m/mile, men’s javelin, women’s 100m hurdles, men’s 100m and women’s 200m. It’s the second-to-last chance in the women’s discus, women’s pole vault, men’s 400m hurdles, men’s high jump, women’s 3000m steeplechase and women’s 800m.

NBC Sports Gold streams live and commercial-free on Sunday, starting with field events at 7:15 a.m. Eastern and track events kicking off at 9 a.m. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs coverage Monday at 4 p.m.

The women’s 100m hurdles also features two Americans who need points to reach the final — Nia Ali and Queen Claye.

Other American athletes aiming to improve solid chances of qualifying include Raevyn Rogers (women’s 800m), Jenn Suhr (women’s pole vault), Mike Rodgers (men’s 100m), Valarie Allman (women’s discus), Michael Cherry (men’s 400m), Kahmari Montgomery (men’s 400m), Vernon Norwood (men’s 400m), David Kendziera (men’s 400m hurdles), Jeron Robinson (men’s high jump) and Courtney Frerichs (women’s 3,000m steeplechase)

Americans who have already qualified in these events include Ajee Wilson (women’s 800m) and Brittney Reese (women’s long jump), both of whom will be competing in Birmingham,

U.S. qualifiers Jenna Prandini (women’s 200m), Emma Coburn (women’s 3,000m steeplechase) and Sandi Morris (women’s pole vault) will not be in Birmingham. Christian Coleman (100m) withdrew from the meet on Friday, spoiling a showdown with Canada’s Andre De Graase and leaving the potential qualification of Jamaica’s Yohan Blake as the most interesting question.

Americans who may qualify in absentia, pending other results, include Justin Gatlin (100m), Noah Lyles (100m), Jenny Simpson (1,500m), Rai Benjamin (400m hurdles), TJ Holmes (400m hurdles), Michael Norman (men’s 400m), Nathan Strother (men’s 400m) and Fred Kerley (men’s 400m).

In a non-Diamond League event, U.S. champion Craig Engels brings his famous mullet to Birmingham in the 1,500 meters.

Here are the Birmingham entry lists and the current Diamond League standings. The schedule (all times Eastern, x-event not counted toward Diamond League standings):

7:45 a.m. — Women’s Discus
8:02 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat A
8:07 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
8:14 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat B
8:26 a.m. — x-Men’s 110m Hurdles
8:46 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat A
8:55 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat B
9:03 a.m. — Men’s 400m
9:10 a.m. — Women’s Long Jump
9:13 a.m. — Men’s 400m Hurdles
9:19 a.m. — Men’s High Jump
9:23 a.m. — Women’s Mile
9:33 a.m. — x-Women’s 100m
9:38 a.m. — Men’s Javelin
9:43 a.m. — x-Men’s 1,500m
9:55 a.m. — Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase
10:12 a.m. — x-Men’s 800m
10:22 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Final
10:32 a.m. — Men’s 100m Final
10:41 a.m. — Women’s 800m
10:52 a.m. — Women’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 8:07 a.m.
Suhr has no Diamond League points but has the world lead at 4.91 meters. Perennial contenders Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) and Yarisley Silva (Cuba) are also competing.

Men’s 400m — 9:03 a.m.
No one has clinched qualification yet, but Cherry is set to compete in Birmingham and should get through. Americans have the top four spots in the standings — Norman, Cherry, Strother and Kerley.

Women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase — 9:55 a.m.
World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and three fellow Kenyans who have all qualified alongside Coburn will have their eyes on records.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 10:22 a.m. final; 8:02 a.m. heats
Most of the top 12 on the world list this year and most of the hurdles who have clinched spots in the final will be here, including Williams and the American trio of Harrison, Sharika Nelvis and Christina Clemons. McNeal, who will run in the world championships with Harrison and Ali, will not qualify.

Women’s 200m — 10:52 a.m.
Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers, who’s aiming for her third straight world championship, has qualified but will race in Birmingham against equally accomplished sprinters Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas), who has won the last two Diamond League titles at this distance and the 2016 Olympic 400-meter gold, and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, whose list of international honors is lengthy.

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Christian Coleman runs world’s fastest 100m of 2019

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A month after being edged at the finish line, Christian Coleman left no doubt on Thursday. He is the world’s fastest man this year, not to mention this Olympic cycle.

Coleman won the 100m at a Diamond League meet in Oslo in 9.85 seconds, breaking his tie with Noah Lyles and Nigerian collegian Divine Oduduru atop the 2019 world rankings. Neither Lyles nor Divine was in Thursday’s race, but neither of them has ever broken 9.86, either.

“I’m pretty excited about it. It was a good run and a pretty good time,” Coleman said, according to meet organizers. “Now I’ll look back at the video and critique it. It wasn’t ideal conditions but … I executed better than in the last race.”

Lyles put Coleman’s 100m dominance to the test, beating him by .006 on May 18 in Coleman’s first race since Aug. 31. Both clocked 9.86 in Shanghai.

But Lyles is focusing on the 200m this season, while Coleman is bidding to race both the 100m and 200m at the USATF Outdoor Championships next month. The top three at nationals qualify for those individual events at worlds.

Coleman has progressed from being strictly a 4x100m prelim runner at the Rio Olympics to taking silver at the 2017 World Championships between Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt. Then last year, Coleman came back from an early season hamstring injury to clock 9.79, the world’s fastest time since the Rio Olympics.

Full Oslo results are here. The Diamond League moves to Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday with live coverage on NBC Sports Gold.

In other events in Oslo, 19-year-old Sydney McLaughlin beat the reigning Olympic, world and U.S. champions to become the 400m hurdles favorite for next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships as well as the world championships.

McLaughlin, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, rebounded from hitting the first hurdle and coming around the last curve multiple steps behind Dalilah Muhammad.

She passed the Olympic champion in the sprint off the last hurdle for her first career win over Muhammad in her Diamond League 400m hurdles debut.

McLaughlin’s time — 54.16 and .19 faster than Muhammad — was .02 slower than her domestic season opener, but she beat not only Muhammad but also U.S. champ Shamier Little and world champ Kori Carter.

“It wasn’t the cleanest race for me, but I came back strong, and that shows me where I am fitness-wise,” McLaughlin said, according to meet organizers. “It was a sloppy race, but I pulled through.”

World champion Emma Coburn took fourth in the 3000m steeplechase, 4.71 seconds behind Kenyan winner Norah Jeruto. Jeruto clocked 9:03.71, handing countrywoman and world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech her first steeple loss since May 31, 2018.

Olympic champion Brianna McNeal was disqualified from the 100m hurdles for a false start. Another American, Christina Clemons, ended up winning in 12.69. McNeal has yet to race world-record holder Keni Harrison this season. They ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world last year — Harrison in 12.36 and McNeal in 12.38.

World champion Johannes Vetter won the javelin but pulled out after one legal, 85.27-meter throw with a right adductor injury. He was competing for the first time since August after missing time with a left leg injury.

World champion Sam Kendricks won a pole vault duel with Swede Mondo Duplantis by clearing 5.91 meters. Duplantis, who turned pro after his freshman season at LSU, cleared 6.05 meters at the 2018 European Championships, matching the world’s best since 2001.

VIDEO: Gabe Grunewald wins 2014 U.S. title at 3000m after cancer diagnosis

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Caster Semenya on taking medication for rule change: ‘Hell no’

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With another emphatic win, we may have seen the last of Caster Semenya as we’ve known her. But Semenya plans to keep racing through a rule change that’s expected to end her 800m dominance.

The double Olympic champion was reportedly asked, after cruising to a 30th straight win in the two-lap race on Friday night in Doha, if she would take medication to adhere to an imminent IAAF rule capping testosterone for women’s events between the 400m and mile.

“Hell no,” the South African said, according to media on site.

Semenya also said she will keep competing but would not race the 5000m, the shortest flat event on the Olympic program that she could move up to without a testosterone cap, according to those same reports. She could also move down to the 200m, though that would be a surprise.

Which creates a standstill.

Semenya could appeal Wednesday’s Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling, but for now the cap goes into effect next week. Athletes in said events currently above that limit must get under it and stay under it for the next four months and beyond, while sitting out competition, to return for worlds in Doha in late September.

“I keep training. I keep running,” said Semenya, who raised a single fist in the air upon introduction and then won by a hefty 2.77 seconds in 1:54.98, her fourth-fastest time ever. “Doesn’t matter if something comes in front of me, like I said. I always find a way.”

Full Doha results are here. The Diamond League hits Shanghai next on May 18.

In earlier events Friday, U.S. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad ran the world’s fastest 400m hurdles since last August, clocking 53.61. The race lacked 19-year-old Sydney McLaughlin, who had the world’s best time of 2018, a 52.75.

Rio gold medalist Brianna McNeal was shockingly seventh in the 100m hurdles, clipping barriers in 12.94 seconds. Jamaican Danielle Williams, the 2015 World champ, crossed first in 12.66, well off absent American Kendra Harrison‘s world-leading 2018 time of 12.36.

World champion Sam Kendricks outdueled Olympic champ Thiago Braz in the pole vault, clearing 5.8 meters for the victory. The competition lacked the top vaulter in the world this year, Swedish 19-year-old Mondo Duplantis.

Botswana’s Nijel Amos upset Kenyan Emmanuel Korir in the men’s 800m, prevailing by .21 in 1:44.29. American indoor record holder Donovan Brazier took third. Korir lost for just the third time since the start of 2017. Two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha, also Kenyan, has been out injured for nearly two years.

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