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Win streaks face Paris tests; Diamond League preview, stream schedule

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Two of the longest winning streaks in track and field could be tested at the Paris Diamond League, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold on Saturday.

World champions Caster Semenya (800m) and Mariya Lasitskene (high jump) are each undefeated for more than two years. Each faces some of her toughest competition in that span (toughest, in Semenya’s case) on Saturday.

Coverage streams on NBC Sports Gold starting at 12:40 p.m. ET. Olympic Channel broadcast coverage begins at 2.

Elsewhere, two NCAA champions and potential Olympic stars, Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, collide in the 200m in Diamond League debuts.

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

12:40 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:50 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:32 — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:10 — Women’s High Jump
2:12 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:26 — Men’s Discus
2:30 — Men’s 200m
2:39 — Men’s 1500m
2:53 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:03 — Women’s 400m
3:10 — Men’s 800m
3:33 — Women’s 200m
3:42 — Women’s 800m
3:52 — Men’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Triple Jump — 12:50 p.m. ET
Caterine Ibargüen
, Yulimar Rojas and Olga Rypakova, who swept the 2016 Olympic and 2017 World medals, meet for the first time this year. But the top-ranked jumper in 2018 is Tori Franklin, who broke the American record on May 12. While Christian Taylor and Will Claye have dominated men’s triple jumping the last several years, a U.S. woman has never won a Diamond League meet.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 2:03 p.m. ET
Three men with sub-47.5 personal bests are in the same race for the first time since the 2012 Olympic final (Felix Sanchez, Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement). This time it’s Rio gold medalist Clement (47.24), countryman Bershawn Jackson (47.30) and Qatari upstart Abderrahman Samba (47.41). A fourth sub-47.5 man will be at Stade Sébastien Charléty, but Rai Benjamin (47.02 at NCAA Championships) is racing the 200m.

Women’s High Jump — 2:10 p.m. ET
The top six jumpers this season gather, led by Russian Mariya Lasitskene, who has won more than 40 straight meets dating to 2016. She’ll be challenged by her usual rivals but also Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium. In Rio, Thiam’s clearance in the heptathlon would have won the high jump gold medal. Thiam ranks second in the world behind Lasitskene this season, with Paris marking their first head-to-head since September.

Men’s 200m — 2:30 p.m. ET
An intriguing faceoff between Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, teammates at the University of Southern California better known in one-lap races. Norman finished fifth in the Olympic Trials 200m as an 18-year-old, but this year he broke the indoor 400m world record on March 10 (44.52) and clocked the fastest 400m time of the year on June 8 (43.61). Also at NCAAs on June 8, Benjamin tied Edwin Moses with the second-fastest 400m hurdles time ever, lowering his personal best from 47.98 to 47.02. Benjamin represents Antigua and Barbuda but is trying to switch to the U.S., a process held up by the IAAF’s current freeze on nation transfers.

Women’s 800m — 3:42 p.m. ET
The six fastest active women line up in the strongest track event of the meet. South African Caster Semenya has the longest winning streak (by days) on the track, having not lost an 800m since 2015. Semenya’s focus this summer is somewhat diverted to appealing the IAAF’s proposed rule change to limit testosterone levels in female middle-distance runners. That change would go into effect for next season and is expected to affect Semenya. This field also includes Olympic silver and bronze medalists Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, plus world bronze medalist and American record holder Ajeé Wilson.

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U.S. steeplechase stars reunite at Oslo Diamond League; stream info

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The last time Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs raced a steeplechase together, they produced one of the greatest moments in U.S. track and field history.

“Am I dreaming? Am I dreaming?” Frerichs repeated to Coburn on the track that day.

Nearly 10 months later, the reality is that Coburn and Frerichs are headliners. The steeple is one of the marquee events at Thursday’s Diamond League meet in Oslo, live on NBCSN at 2 p.m. ET and streaming commercial-free on NBC Sports Gold at 12 p.m.

It’s the second steeplechase of the season for the world champion Coburn, who was in contention for the win in Rome last Thursday when she fell on a water jump, for the first time in her life, on the last lap.

It’s Frerichs’ first steeple since August, when the 11th-place finisher from Rio chopped 15 seconds off her personal best to take silver behind the Olympic bronze medalist Coburn at worlds.

They’re joined in the Oslo field by the other medalist from worlds, Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng, who won in Rome last week in a field including the three fastest Kenyans of all time and Coburn.

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

12 p.m. ET — Women’s javelin
12:30 — Women’s Pole Vault
1:10 — Men’s 10,000m
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
2:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:05 — Men’s High Jump
2:10 — Men’s 1500m
2:17 — Women’s Triple Jump
2:20 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:35 — Women’s 100m
2:45 — Women’s 800m
2:50 — Men’s Discus
2:58 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
3:10 — Men’s 200m
3:25 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
3:40 — Women’s 400m
3:50 — Men’s Mile

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 12:30 p.m. ET
Katerina Stefanidi 
of Greece and American Sandi Morris go head-to-head for the 30th time, according to Tilastopaja.org. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Words, but Morris has been better in all three of their head-to-heads this season. The field does not include world leader Jenn Suhr, but it does have Cuban Yarisley Silva, the 2015 World champion in her first Diamond League meet of the year.

Men’s Shot Put — 1:15 p.m. ET
The four men who combined to earn every shot put medal at the most recent Olympics and worlds convene for the second time in three Diamond League meets: Ryan Crouser (Olympic gold), Joe Kovacs (Olympic silver, world silver), Tom Walsh (Olympic bronze, world gold) and Stipe Žunić (world bronze). Tack on two-time world champion David Storl and world fourth-place finisher Tomáš Staněk, and it becomes the most decorated field in Oslo. Walsh has the world’s farthest throw this season, but Crouser broke the meet record in winning the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 2:20 p.m. ET
Coburn and Frerichs are underdogs here, given their lack of races since worlds and Kiyeng’s win in Rome with the fastest time in the world this year. But Coburn may well have beaten Kiyeng had she not crashed coming out of the water jump on Thursday. Coburn is the only U.S. woman to win a Diamond League steeplechase, doing so four years ago when the top East Africans let her go because they thought she was a pacer.

Women’s 800m — 2:45 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts the sport’s longest win streak (by days) on the line, one that dates to 2015, against her closest definition of a rival, plus some unusual foes. Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi has finished second or third behind Semenya in 13 straight head-to-heads, including silvers at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. Brit Laura Muir and American Brenda Martinez both raced the 1500m at the Olympics. Muir, who was fourth in the 1500m at 2017 Worlds, races a Diamond League 800m for the second time in three years. Though Martinez made her only Olympic team in the 1500m, she has primarily raced the 800m overall, including earning bronze at the 2013 Worlds. But she and Semenya have met in just one 800m final since June 2014.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 3:25 p.m. ET
Featuring the Olympic champion (Kerron Clement) and world champion (Norway’s Karsten Warholm), plus another man who made both podiums (Yasmani Copello of Turkey). But the man to watch is Qatari Abderrahman Samba, who didn’t race in Rio and was seventh at worlds. But in his last two races, Samba ran the fastest time ever recorded that early in a year — national record 47.57 on May 4 and Asian record 47.48 last Thursday, the latter the fastest time in the world in eight years. If Samba can break 47.30, he will move into the top 10 400m hurdlers of all time. He ranked No. 87 all time at the end of 2017.

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How to watch Rome Diamond League; preview

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In a year without an Olympics or a world outdoor championships, there is no uniform time to peak or single goal for U.S. track and field athletes. Some eye personal-best times and marks. Others a Diamond League season title and the 2019 Worlds bye that can come with it. Still others are tinkering, competing less frequently.

The Diamond League season, now three meets old, has shown this. Just look at Thursday’s meet in Rome, which airs live on NBCSN and streams commercial-free on NBC Sports Gold at 2 p.m. ET.

Of the U.S. Olympic and world medalists entered, some have been on fire in the early outdoor season. Like Brianna McNeal, who beat 100m hurdles world-record holder Kendra Harrison earlier this month after missing of all of 2017 for missing three drug tests.

Others started a little more slowly, like Christian Coleman, the world star of the winter indoor season. Coleman, who ran faster than the 60m world record three times between January and March, withdrew from his first scheduled outdoor meet three weeks ago for precautionary reasons, then was upset at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday, citing rustiness.

Emma Coburn hasn’t started at all. Coburn, who led the groundbreaking U.S. one-two in the steeplechase at worlds, races outdoors on Thursday for the first time since September.

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

11:40 a.m. — Women’s Discus
1:20 p.m. — Men’s Discus
1:30 — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:10 — Women’s High Jump
2:13 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:23 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:38 — Men’s 800m
2:40 — Men’s Long Jump
2:53 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
3:07 — Women’s 400m
3:16 — Men’s 400m
3:25 — Women’s 200m
3:35 — Men’s 100m
3:50 — Men’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Discus — 1:20 p.m. ET
The deepest field of the meet, featuring the top seven finishers from the 2017 World Championships, plus Rio gold medalist Christoph Harting, who was shockingly fourth at last year’s German nationals and missed worlds. The American in that group is Mason Finley, who in August became the first U.S. man to earn an Olympic or world championships discus medal since 1999. The Rio Olympian extended his personal best by four feet to take bronze at worlds with a 68.03-meter throw.

Women’s High Jump — 2:10 p.m. ET
American Vashti Cunningham gets her sixth head-to-head with Maria Lasitskene, still seeking her first win over the dominant Russian. Lasitskene has won 39 straight meets dating to 2016 and had the top seven clearances in the world in 2017, indoors or outdoors, according to Tilastopaja.org. However, Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam cleared 2.01 meters in a heptathlon on Saturday, giving her the top clearance this year. Thiam isn’t competing in Rome, though. Cunningham, the 19-year-old daughter of retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, took silver behind Lasitskene at the world indoor championships on March 1, her only defeat in five meets this year.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 2:13 p.m. ET
All three 2017 World medalists are here, led by the surprise champion Karsten Warholm of Norway and the bronze medalist and Rio Olympic champion, American Kerron Clement. But the favorite has to be Abderrahman Samba of Qatar, who on May 4 clocked the world’s fastest time in nearly eight years and the fastest time ever this early in a year.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 2:23 p.m. ET
World champion Emma Coburn races outdoors for the first time in eight months against a field that includes the three fastest Kenyans of all time. That doesn’t include the absent Olympic champion Ruth Jebet, Kenyan-born but representing Bahrain, who hasn’t raced anywhere since Jan. 28 and is reportedly dealing with a doping issue.

Men’s 100m — 3:35 p.m. ET
A rematch between Americans Christian Coleman and Ronnie Baker. Coleman, who finished between Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt at worlds in August, lost his outdoor 100m season opener to Baker at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday. Baker has never finished better than seventh at a U.S. Championships, let alone excelled on the global championship stage like Coleman. Coleman said after Pre he was still working his way into shape after a minor leg injury kept him from competing at a Diamond League meet in Shanghai earlier this month. South African Akani Simbine, who was fifth at the Olympics and worlds, could play spoiler.

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