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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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Michael Norman leads young phenoms starring in Stockholm

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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

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Matthew Centrowitz grabs first Diamond League win; 3rd fastest women’s mile ever

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Matthew Centrowitz notched the second-biggest international win of his career, grabbing his first Diamond League victory in a 1500m in London on Sunday.

In Rio, Centrowitz became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m champion in 108 years. Centrowitz has five U.S. titles and two world championships medals but before Sunday had a best Diamond League 1500m finish of third.

Centrowitz redeemed himself at the London Olympic Stadium, a place where he finished fourth at the 2012 Games, missing a medal by four hundredths of a second.

On Sunday, he surged to win on the inside in the final straightaway, holding off Australian Ryan Gregson by .13. The race lacked the world’s top 1500m runners this year — Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi. Centrowitz was seventh in a stronger field in Monaco on Friday.

Full London results are here. The Diamond League moves to Birmingham, Great Britain, for its next meet Aug. 18.

In other events, Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan clocked the third-fastest women’s mile ever, 4:14.71. Only Svetlana Masterkova‘s 4:12.56 from 1996 and Genzebe Dibaba‘s 4:14.30 from 2016 were faster.

Jamaica may have found a new sprint star in Akeem Bloomfield. The 20-year-old won the 200m in 19.81 seconds, the fastest time by a Jamaican since Bolt’s last 200m at the Rio Olympics, against a field that lacked American Noah Lyles, who has the fastest time of 2018 of 19.65.

Kendra Harrison clocked the world’s fastest 100m hurdles of 2018, 12.36 seconds, on the second anniversary of her world record 12.20 on the same track. Harrison also bettered Olympic champion Brianna McNeal for the third time in four head-to-heads since Rio.

Kenyan Emmanuel Korir won the 800m in 1:42.05, the world’s fastest time since the epic London 2012 final won by countryman David Rudisha at the same Olympic Stadium.

South African Luvo Manyonga won the long jump with an 8.58-meter leap. The Rio silver medalist and world champion beat the last two Olympic gold medalists — American Jeff Henderson (fifth, 8.20 meters) and the retiring Brit Greg Rutherford (10th, 7.55 meters).

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