Juan Miguel Echevarria

Clayton Murphy, Jenny Simpson
Getty Images

U.S. Olympic medalists eye responses in Rabat; stream schedule, preview

Leave a comment

Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy just watched a countryman notch his first Diamond League win. Olympic 1500m bronze medalist Jenny Simpson just saw her longtime rival clock her fastest time since 2015.

Murphy and Simpson get chances to answer at a Diamond League stop in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday (live at 1 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold).

In Rio, Murphy became the first U.S. Olympic 800m medalist in 24 years. At 21, he looked like the American face of the event for years to come. But Donavan Brazier, who is two years younger, won the 2017 U.S. title in Murphy’s absence, then broke the U.S. indoor record on Feb. 9.

Last week in Rome, Brazier did something Murphy has yet to accomplish, winning a Diamond League race. Murphy was fourth, falling to 0-3 in his career against Brazier, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Rabat provides a chance for Murphy ahead of next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where the top three per event are in line to make the team for the fall world championships. Brazier is not in the Rabat field, but the only two men to run faster than Murphy in 2018 are — Kenyan Emmanuel Korir and Botswana’s Nijel Amos.

The women’s 1500m is another marquee event in Rabat with Simpson facing world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia.

Only once has Simpson won a race that involved Dibaba, and that was five years ago. The 32-year-old American was fourth in Rome last week, 4.9 seconds behind Dibaba, who clocked her fastest time since her world-record run four years ago.

Like Murphy, Simpson recently relinquished her domestic hold of the 1500m to a younger runner, Shelby Houlihan, who was second-fastest in the world last year to Dibaba but is not in Rabat. Houlihan hasn’t raced anywhere since Feb. 24 but is entered in the Pre Classic in two weeks.

For Simpson, getting the better of Dibaba would be a heck of a message to send before nationals. Houlihan snapped Simpson’s four-year national title streak in 2018.

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

1:01 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
1:03 — Women’s Discus
1:38 — Men’s High Jump
2:04 — Women’s 400m
2:11 — Men’s 1500m
2:25 — Women’s 100m
2:31 — Men’s Long Jump
2:33 — Men’s 800m
2:41 — Men’s Discus
2:41 — Women’s 1500m
2:54 — Men’s 200m
3:02 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:37 — Women’s 800m
3:47 — Men’s 300m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Discus — 1:03 p.m.
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic is the headliner, but the Olympic and world champion ranks just 13th in the world this year after missing a discus podium for the first time in eight years at her season debut two weeks ago, according to Tilastopaja.org. The world’s top four women are in Rabat to challenge her, including American Valarie Allman, who in April launched the best throw by a U.S. woman since 2014.

Women’s 400m — 2:04 p.m.
Two of the four Americans to break 50 seconds since August 2017 are here, but the favorite has to be world silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain, who hasn’t lost to anybody other than Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo since the 2017 World Championships. But the 2017 World champion is in this field, American Phyllis Francis. As is Kendall Ellis, who is in her first pro season. Miller-Uibo, not in this field, is the lone woman to break 50 this year.

Men’s Long Jump — 2:31 p.m.
Olympic champ Jeff Henderson, world champ Luvo Manyonga and 2018 world leader Juan Miguel Echevarria gather for the second time this season. Last time out, they were all beaten. Still, Henderson and Manyonga rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year, and nobody has approached the Cuban Echevarria’s monster 8.68-meter leap from last year.

Men’s 800m — 2:33 p.m.
Murphy has never won a race that involved Amos and has never finished ahead of Korir in six meetings, according to Tilastopaja. While Murphy remains likely to make the three-man world team, Brazier has to be the favorite for nationals unless Murphy can win here or beat Brazier’s time from Rome — 1:43.63.

Women’s 1500m — 2:41 p.m.
Dibaba is the overwhelming favorite after her 3:56.28 in Rome last week. The only woman to go faster since the start of 2017, Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan is also here with Simpson. Missing is Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, who is working her way back from childbirth.

MORE: Caster Semenya says she’s blocked from Rabat

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Michael Norman leads young phenoms starring in Stockholm

Leave a comment

Michael Norman is 21 years old. Dina Asher-Smith and Timothy Cheruiyot are each 23. All are running like Olympic gold-medal favorites and showed why at a Diamond League stop in chilly Stockholm on Thursday.

Norman, who turned pro after his sophomore season at USC last year, took the 400m in 44.53 seconds, winning by six tenths over fellow Trojan Rai Benjamin. Norman was actually disappointed with the time, given he clocked 43.45, the sixth-fastest ever, on April 20.

“Today was challenging, both mentally and physically, and there’s a lot of things I need to work on,” Norman said, according to meet organizers. “Need to work on the second part of the race still, and I’ll readjust and reevaluate as I go.”

The Diamond League moves to Rome next Thursday, when Norman is scheduled to race Noah Lyles at 200m.

Lyles and Norman went fourth and fifth in the 200m at the 2016 Olympic Trials, when they were coming off senior seasons in high school. But the 200m is Lyles’ primary event, while Norman has become the Olympic 400m favorite with world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk out injured most of the last two years. Lyles and Norman likely will not go head to head at the world championships in Doha in four months.

STOCKHOLM: Full Results

In other events Thursday, the Brit Asher-Smith crushed a loaded 200m in 22.18 seconds, the world’s fastest of 2019. Olympic champ Elaine Thompson of Jamaica was second (22.66), followed by Dutch world champion Dafne Schippers (22.78). U.S. champion Jenna Prandini was fifth (23.09).

“I didn’t expect to run that kind of time as it is quite cold out and late at night,” Asher-Smith said.

She consolidated favorite status for worlds. The world’s other best half-lapper, Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, is expected to stick to the 400m in Doha given the two events overlap.

The Kenyan Cheruiyot won a deep 1500m in 3:35.79. Norwegian 18-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the youngest sub-four-minute miler ever, took third in 3:37.30 in the same time to the hundredth as runner-up Ayanleh Souleiman. Cheruiyot has been battling countryman Elijah Manangoi for 1500m supremacy the last two years, but Manangoi ended up 10th in Stockholm.

Cuban phenom Juan Miguel Echevarria took second in the long jump at 8.12 meters, one year after nearly jumping out of the pit in Stockholm. Echevarria, a 20-year-old who has battled a foot injury, leaped a wind-aided 8.83 meters a year ago and a wind-aided 8.92 in March. The latter made Echevarria the No. 2 jumper in history in all conditions, trailing only world-record holder Mike Powell.

Olympic champion Jeff Henderson was third and world champion Luvo Manyonga fourth.

Ajeé Wilson took the women’s 800m in 2:00.87, the slowest winning time in a Diamond League points race since 2012. That’s more notable given it’s the first top-level 800m since the IAAF’s testosterone cap that is keeping all three Olympic medalists out — Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui.

World-record holder Kendra Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.52, edging countrywoman Sharika Nelvis by .17. Harrison is tuning up for what could be a worlds showdown with the last two Olympic champions, Brianna McNeal and Sally Pearson.

World champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya got clipped and fell with one kilometer to go in the 5000m. She finished 12th and limped off, snapping a year-long win streak in the event.

Olympic and world champion Sandra Perkovic was a shocking fifth in the discus, the Croat’s first time off a podium since returning from a six-month doping ban in 2011, according to Tilastopaja.org.

World champ Sam Kendricks won the pole vault with a 5.72-meter clearance. The field lacked his biggest rivals, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie and Swede Mondo Duplantis.

MORE: Matthew Boling, high school track phenom, chooses summer meets

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Michael Norman owns spotlight at Stockholm Diamond League; TV schedule

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Back on April 20, Michael Norman clocked the sixth-fastest 400m in history (43.45 seconds) and the fastest-ever both for somebody so young (21 years old) and this early in a calendar year. With that, he earned the right to utter the number 42.

“Running sub-43 is one of my goals,” Norman said last week. “Given how the season’s progressing, how deep the competition is around the world, I feel like running sub-43 is going to happen if not this year, then the following year.”

Norman actually doesn’t appear to have much competition at the moment. He races roommate Rai Benjamin at Thursday’s Diamond League meet in Stockholm (2 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold), but Benjamin’s primary event is the 400m hurdles.

World-record holder Wayde van Niekerk voiced the same 42-second goal for most of the time since he won the Rio Olympics in 43.03. But the South African has competed just once since the August 2017 World Championships. He missed all of 2018 after tearing a meniscus and ACL in an October 2017 celebrity tag rugby match. This week, Van Niekerk could not give a specific answer when asked to name his next race.

Likewise, 2012 Olympic champion and Rio silver medalist Kirani James raced just three times in the last two years. James, diagnosed with Graves’ disease, said last month that he hoped to return to competition later this season.

So Norman, for now, owns the spotlight.

“The 400m improvement was a shocking thing to me,” he said last week, after lowering his personal best from 44.6 to 43.45 in the last year. Nobody else has bettered 43.62 since van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson‘s record in Rio.

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

10:30 a.m. — Men’s Shot Put
10:30 — Women’s Shot Put
11 — Women’s Pole Vault
12:25 p.m. — Women’s Discus
1:35 — Men’s Long Jump
1:40 — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m
2:08 — Women’s High Jump
2:11 — Women’s 1500m
2:22 — Men’s 200m
2:30 — Women’s 5000m
2:52 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
2:56 — Men’s Discus
3:02 — Men’s 800m
3:15 — Women’s 800m
3:30 — Women’s 200m
3:40 — Men’s 1500m
3:52 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
4:05 — Men’s 10,000m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Discus — 12:25 p.m.
Olympic and world champion Sandra Perkovic makes her season debut against the Rio silver and bronze medalists. The Croat has lost just five times at Diamond League meets since the start of 2012, but Perkovic was beaten by Cuban Yaime Perez in two of her last three meets of 2018, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Men’s Long Jump — 1:35 p.m.
Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria returns to the scene of one of the viral moments of the 2018 season, when he nearly jumped out of the pit in Stockholm. The 20-year-old hasn’t competed outdoors on the top international level since, only adding to the intrigue of Thursday’s showdown with Olympic champion Jeff Henderson and world champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa. No man has jumped within eight inches of the world record since Mike Powell set it in 1991.

Men’s 400m — 2:03 p.m.
Norman has beaten Benjamin in all five of their head-to-heads, according to Tilastopaja. That includes that April 20 race in California, where Norman ran 43.45 and Benjamin was a distant second in 44.31. If Norman can go faster in Stockholm, he’ll break a tie with 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner and become the fourth-fastest man in history behind van Niekerk, Johnson and Butch Reynolds. But the four fastest times in history were all clocked in August. Norman has four more months until he plans to peak at the world championships.

Women’s 200m — 3:30 p.m.
Olympic champion (Elaine Thompson) vs. world champion (Dafne Schippers) vs. fastest woman of 2018 (Dina Asher-Smith) vs. U.S. champion (Jenna Prandini). The Brit Asher-Smith has to be the favorite given she was the only woman to break 22 seconds last year (21.89) and owns the world’s fastest time this season.

Men’s 1500m — 3:40 p.m.
All three Ingebrigtsen brothers are in this event. As are the current kings of the mile — Kenyans Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah ManangoiJakob Ingebrigtsen, youngest of the Norwegian siblings at age 18, is already the youngest sub-four-minute miler in history. Last year, he ran a 3:52 mile at the Pre Classic and then swept the European 1500m and 3000m titles. But only once has an Ingebrigtsen bettered Cheruiyot or Manangoi in a race of any distance (Filip Ingebrigtsen placing fifth to Manangoi’s 10th at the 2016 Diamond League Finals 1500m), according to Tilastopaja.

MORE: Matthew Boling, high school track phenom, chooses summer meets

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!