Luvo Manyonga

Clayton Murphy, Jenny Simpson
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U.S. Olympic medalists eye responses in Rabat; stream schedule, preview

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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

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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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Jenny Simpson’s opportunity in Stockholm; TV, stream schedule

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Jenny Simpson has 2016 Olympic bronze and 2017 World silver, but it’s been three years since she won a Diamond League race. Opportunity knocks in a familiar place on Sunday, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Simpson headlines a 1500m field in Stockholm that includes Olympic teammate Brenda Martinez and Brit Laura Muir.

NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET and continues with NBCSN’s broadcast coverage at 10, capped by the women’s 1500m at 11:51 a.m.

Simpson knows Stockholm well. She won her first post-collegiate international race there in 2009, when she was a steeplechaser known as Jenny Barringer (though her Stockholm win was in the 5000m).

Then in 2014, Simpson won a Diamond League 1500m in Stockholm, beating a field including the world’s top runners — Genzebe DibabaAbeba Aregawi and Sifan Hassan, en route to the season title.

After ceding to U.S. Olympic 5000m runner Shelby Houlihan in the final 100 meters at the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago, Simpson can reassert her 1500m prowess on Sunday.

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

7:25 a.m. ET — Women’s Pole Vault
9 — Women’s High Jump
9:20 — Men’s Long Jump
9:38 — Men’s Pole Vault
9:49 — Men’s 100m
10:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
10:11 — Women’s 800m
10:20 — Women’s 100m
10:30 — Men’s 800m
10:35 — Men’s Discus
10:40 — Men’s 5000m
10:45 — Women’s Long Jump
11 — Women’s 400m
11:15 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
11:30 — Men’s 1000m
11:40 — Men’s 200m
11:51 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Long Jump — 9:20 a.m. ET
Olympic champion versus world champion. South African Luvo Manyonga has won all five head-to-heads with American Jeff Henderson since Henderson edged him by one centimeter for gold in Rio, according to Tilastopaja.org. In fact, Manyonga has lost just once since Rio, indoors or outdoors, and has the two farthest jumps in the world this year. Henderson ranks No. 3 in the world this year, recording his best leap since 2015.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 10:03 a.m. ET
The revelation in track and field so far this outdoor season has been Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba. The 22-year-old debuted in the 400m hurdles last year and is now ranked 14th all-time in the event, having clocked the fastest time in the world since 2010 (and backing it up with the next-two fastest times for the year). Here, Samba and world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway go head-to-head for the third time in 11 days. Samba relegated Warholm to second place in the previous races.

Men’s Discus — 10:35 a.m. ET
Deepest field of the meet? The top four finishers from 2017 Worlds and the top five men in the world this year. Lithuanian Andrius Gudzius, the world champion, has four of the top five throws of 2018. But Jamaican Fedrick Dacres beat him at the Rome Diamond League meet. Such is the state of Jamaican athletics that the nation has two of the top six discus throwers in the world this year versus one of the top 20 sprinters in the 100m and 200m combined.

Men’s 200m — 11:40 a.m. ET
The 200m was once dominated by the U.S. and Jamaica, which combined to win every Olympic medal in the event between 2004 and 2012 and 19 of the 24 world championships medals between 2001 and 2015. Times have changed. Eight men from eight different countries across four continents have broken 20 seconds so far this year. Three of them meet here, headlined by surprise world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey and Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, both chasing the world lead of 19.69 seconds shared by South African Clarence Munyai and American Noah Lyles.

Women’s 1500m — 11:51 a.m. ET
Simpson not only eyes her first Diamond League win in three years, but also her first track victory over a field including Muir since 2015. The 25-year-old Brit has emerged the last few seasons as a force in one of the sport’s deepest events. Muir was fourth at the 2017 Worlds, second at 2018 World Indoors (Simpson wasn’t in the field) and passed Simpson in the final strides for second behind Houlihan at the Pre Classic two weeks ago. Muir has been faster than Simpson in five of their last six meetings on the track.

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