Shelby Houlihan, Mondo Duplantis
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Track and field breakout stars dot Diamond League finals; TV, stream info

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If this week’s Diamond League finals fields show anything, it’s that 2018 has been the year of the breakthrough track and field athlete.

The world’s best gather in Zurich and Brussels, where Diamond League season champions will be crowned, live on NBCSN and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday: Zurich, 2-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold
Friday: Brussels, 2-4 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBC Sports Gold

Some of the most anticipated events are highlighted by athletes with no Olympic or world outdoor championships medals to their names: Norwegian wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen and new American 5000m record holder Shelby Houlihan in the 1500m, U.S. sprint sensation Noah Lyles in the 200m, recent Louisiana high school graduate Mondo Duplantis of Sweden in the pole vault and the world’s fastest man this year — American Ronnie Baker.

Wednesday update: Ingebrigtsen withdrew from his Diamond League final with a sore throat, according to Norway’s track and field federation.

ZURICH START LISTS | BRUSSELS START LISTS

Here are 10 events to watch:

Women’s 800m — Thursday, 2:13 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts a near-three-year win streak against the next six fastest women in the world this year. That includes Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and American Ajeé Wilson, the world silver and bronze medalists. This will be the toughest field Semenya faces for at least eight months. This event could look very different by then with an IAAF rule limiting testosterone in female middle-distance runners scheduled to go into effect next season. Semenya is challenging it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — Thursday, 2:24 p.m. ET
Field includes the nine men who combine to own the 26 fastest times in the world this year. Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world champion, has looked vulnerable in 2018 with three Diamond League defeats. American Evan Jager, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, owns the second-fastest time of 2018. But he has never won against a field this strong.

Men’s 1500m — Thursday, 2:48 p.m. ET
The world’s seven fastest of 2018 are here, but focus on the top four. World leader Timothy Cheruiyot‘s only losses in the last 13 months came in arguably his three biggest meets — the 2017 World Championships and this year’s Commonwealth Games and African Championships. He finished second in each race to the same man — countryman Elijah Manangoi, who is second-fastest in the world this year. After the Kenyans are Norwegian brothers Filip Ingebrigtsen and Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the latter a 17-year-old who is the youngest sub-four-minute miler in history. He also just swept the 1500m and 5000m at the European Championships.

Men’s 200m — Thursday, 3:11 p.m. ET
Essentially a head-to-head between American Noah Lyles, the world’s best 200m runner post-Rio, and Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title in Lyles’ absence due to injury. Lyles, whose ebullience is most clearly expressed by his race socks, has won all of his outdoor 200m finals since finishing fourth at the Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old. His three fastest times came in his last three races: 19.69, 19.69 and 19.65. Guliyev just consolidated his shock world title by winning the European title in a personal-best 19.76.

Men’s Pole Vault — Friday, 1:28 p.m. ET
Three in the field have cleared 6.03 meters. Hasn’t happened since 2000. The man with the most excitement is recent Louisiana High School graduate Mondo Duplantis, who competes for Sweden, his mother’s native country. Duplantis just won the European title by clearing 6.05 meters. Only Sergey Bubka has vaulted higher outdoors in history. Also in this field: World-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France (record set indoors), world champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S. and Rio gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — Friday, 2:11 p.m. ET
Deepest field between Zurich and Brussels? Ten women who combine to own the 28 fastest times this year. Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who went a shocking one-two at the 2017 Worlds, take on Kenya’s best — Beatrice Chepkoech, Celliphine Chespol and Hyvin Kiyeng, who rank Nos. 1, 3 and 5 all-time.

Women’s 1500m — Friday, 2:41 p.m. ET
American Shelby Houlihan, the 2018 revelation of female distance running, takes on her toughest competition of an undefeated outdoor season. That includes Olympic and world medalist Jenny Simpson and the third-, fourth- and fifth-fastest women this year — Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay and Brit Laura Muir. Absent is world leader and world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba, whose only head-to-heads with Houlihan came at the world indoor championships in March.

Men’s Triple Jump — Friday, 2:47 p.m. ET
Christian Taylor, winner of the last two Olympics and last two worlds, has also been ranked No. 1 each of the previous three years. But Cuban-born Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Portugal owns the best triple jump of this year going into the Diamond League finals. Taylor won their last two head-to-heads in July but must leap a wind-legal 17.95 meters, which he hasn’t done since May 2017, to overtake Pichardo in the rankings.

Men’s 100m — Friday, 2:54 p.m. ET
Since the last Diamond League, American Ronnie Baker climbed to the top of the 2018 world rankings in the 100m (9.87 seconds). Baker, who grew up partially running cross-country in Alaska, has never won a U.S. or NCAA title or made an Olympic or world championships team outdoors. In Zurich, he takes on the more accomplished Christian Coleman, who at this time last year (and six months ago) was the clear favorite to succeed Usain Bolt long-term. Injuries hampered Coleman’s outdoor season, but he did beat Baker in their last head-to-head on July 13. The winner Friday could carry bragging rights into 2019.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — Friday, 3:15 p.m. ET
Rio gold medalist Brianna McNeal and world-record holder Kendra Harrison duel for the fifth time this season. Harrison owns the 3-1 edge and has the fastest time of 2018 (12.36). This will also be the last Diamond League race for the retiring Dawn Harper-Nelson, who earned Olympic gold in 2008 and silver in 2012.

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Birmingham Diamond League set for sprint fireworks; TV, stream schedule

Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles
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Look no further than the last two events of Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain.

The women’s 200m field includes eight women with a sub-22 personal best, led by recent triple European champion Dina Asher-Smith, plus all three world medalists in the event. Two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was to race here, but she withdrew Friday.

Several minutes later, American stars Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles are expected to duel over 100m for the second time in their pro careers.

The sprints headline Saturday’s meet, live on NBC Sports Gold at 8 a.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 9.

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

8 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
8:19 — Men’s Long Jump
8:32 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
8:47 — Women’s Shot Put
9:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
9:13 — Men’s 400m
9:18 — Men’s High Jump
9:22 — Women’s 1500m
9:33 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
9:45 — Men’s Javelin
9:49 — Women’s 3000m
9:52 — Women’s Long Jump
10:06 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
10:14 — Men’s Mile
10:24 — Women’s 1000m
10:34 — Men’s 800m
10:44 — Women’s 200m
10:53 — Men’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Long Jump — 8:19 a.m. ET
Possibly the final jumps of Brit Greg Rutherford‘s career. The 2012 Olympic champion will retire at the end of the season and may not enter another meet after Saturday. Rutherford, 31, has struggled with ankle, foot, groin and stomach problems while finishing one of the greatest long jump careers: gold medals at the European and world champs along with his two Olympic medals. The favorite Saturday is Olympic silver medalist and world champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa.

Women’s 1500m — 9:22 a.m. ET
Olympic 800m champ Caster Semenya was originally entered here but is no longer on the start list, reportedly due to illness. The field is still strong with Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan and Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, who rank Nos. 3 and 4 in the world this year, and U.S. Olympians Kate Grace and Brenda Martinez.

Men’s 800m — 10:34 a.m. ET
The fastest man in the world this year (Emmanuel Korir) takes on the world champion at 1500m (Elijah Manangoi) in a matchup of Kenyans. Korir, a 23-year-old who ran for UTEP, last month clocked the world’s fastest 800m since David Rudisha‘s world record at the 2012 Olympics. Manangoi moves down and takes a break from his recent 1500m rivalry with Timothy Cheruiyot. Rudisha won’t be there. He hasn’t competed since July 4, 2017, due to injury. Saturday’s field does include U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy.

Women’s 200m — 10:44 a.m. ET
All eight women in the field have a personal best of sub-22.2 seconds (and rank in the top 60 all-time), which IAAF statman Jon Mulkeen believes may be a first. The favorite has to be Brit Dina Asher-Smith, who last week swept 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles at the European Championships. Her winning 200m time, 21.89, made her fastest in the world this year by .15. She faces the three 2017 World medalists — Dafne Schippers, Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Shaunae Miller-Uibo — and U.S. champion Jenna Prandini.

Men’s 100m — 10:53 a.m. ET
Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles, ushering the new generation of U.S. sprinters since the Rio Games, take on some of the world’s best here. There is Jamaican Yohan Blake, the second-fastest man of all time who hasn’t been near that form in five years. There is Brit Zharnel Hughes, a former Usain Bolt training partner who just won the European title. Coleman owns the world’s fastest 100m since Rio (a 9.82 in June 2017), but he ranks 17th in the world this year, slowed by hamstring problems. Lyles shares the world’s fastest time of 2018 (9.88) but so far has looked better at 200m, given his slow starts. Coleman beat Lyles by one hundredth in the first pro 100m duel on July 13.

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Usain Bolt barely wins last race before world championships

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Usain Bolt held off an unaccomplished field to win his last race before his farewell world championships, clocking 9.95 seconds in a 100m in Monaco on Friday.

Bolt edged American Isiah Young by .03 in his third 100m race this season. It’s Bolt’s first time clocking sub-10 since the Rio Olympics.

“I’m going into right direction, still lot of work to do,” Bolt said, according to the IAAF. “Sub-10 always good.”

Bolt has one meet left before retirement, the world championships in London that start in two weeks. Bolt is slated to race the 100m and 4x100m at the 2012 Olympic Stadium.

None of Bolt’s top rivals raced against him in Monaco — Yohan BlakeChristian ColemanAndre De Grasse and Justin Gatlin.

His time on Friday was not particularly impressive, but it was the fastest by any man outside of his home country this year. Even Bolt has admitted it has been a slow year overall for men’s sprinters.

Full Diamond League results are here.

In other events, Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk was pushed by Botswana’s Isaac Makwala in the 400m, winning in 43.73 seconds. Makwala clocked 43.84, testing the South African more than any runner since 2015. Van Niekerk holds the world record of 43.03 and the fastest time of 2017 of 43.62.

Ajee’ Wilson shattered the U.S. women’s 800m record in finishing third behind Olympic champion Caster Semenya. Wilson clocked 1:55.61, taking .79 off Jearl Miles Clark‘s record from 1999.

Semenya, who hasn’t lost an 800m since September 2015, lowered her national record by .01 to win by two tenths over Rio silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba in 1:55.27.

World-record holder Keni Harrison edged countrywoman Sharika Nelvis, 12.51 to 12.52, in the 100m hurdles. It was well off Harrison’s world record of 12.20 from 2016 and 12.28 from July 4.

Kenyan Elijah Manangoi ran the fastest 1500m in the world in two years, winning in 3:28.80. Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz was ninth (3:34.43). World champion Asbel Kiprop was 11th (3:34.91).

Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager won the 3000m steeplechase by 6.39 seconds in 8:01.29, the fastest time in the world this year by 3.34 seconds. Rio gold medalist Conseslus Kipruto withdrew before the race with an ankle injury.

Kori Carter led a U.S. one-two in the women’s 400m hurdles. She clocked 53.36 to hold off 2015 World champion Shamier Little, who crossed in 54.02. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad, who has the fastest time of 2017 of 52.64, was not in Monaco.

The Diamond League takes a break for worlds before returning in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Aug. 20.

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