Michael Tinsley

Sydney McLaughlin
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Sydney McLaughlin, 16, qualifies for Rio in 400m hurdles

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Fast fact: Teenager Sydney McLaughlin can juggle on a unicycle.

That’s nothing compared to this: The 16-year-old is headed to Rio as the youngest to make the U.S. Olympic track team since the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.

And to think, the 400-meter hurdles phenom had a panic attack before the start of the trials. She thought the stage might be a tad too big for her.

It wasn’t. McLaughlin, a soon-to-be senior at Union Catholic in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, finished third on Sunday, behind winner Dalilah Muhammad and Ashley Spencer.

“Sometimes, I just forget that I’m 16,” McLaughlin said. “There’s not as much expectation. You know, I don’t get paid for this. I’m here just for fun.”

Once she got to work, she certainly had a ball. She planned to celebrate by going out for dinner. On her menu — a cheeseburger, maybe some sweet potato fries, and possibly topped off with a slice of cheesecake.

“I want be like her when I grow up,” said the 23-year-old Spencer. “At 16 years old, I wasn’t doing anything. I was running track, but it was like, meh? She’s an Olympian.”

It has always taken a bit of coaxing to get McLaughlin to the starting line — both as a kid, when her father bribed her with a chocolate bar with almonds to keep her running at 6, and just before the trials.

But her high school coach, Mike McCabe, has a counseling degree that he put to good use. He told her it was only nerves and everyone gets them.

“I think it was more self-doubt,” he explained. “It was the big stage, ‘I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know if I belong here.’

“We shared with her that everybody has this. It’s not just her because she’s so young. The elites have it, and they’ve been doing it for years.”

The pep talk hit the mark. Although, the world and American junior record holder isn’t exactly used to trailing like this. She finished in a world junior-record time of 54.15 seconds, which was still 1.27 behind Muhammad. She also was able to hold off fourth-place finisher Kori Carter.

“She’s a beast,” Carter said. “She’s the truth. I was in every single heat with her and she carries herself like a pro. I know she’s going to represent the U.S. amazingly.”

McLaughlin grew up idolizing Allyson Felix, who finished fourth in the 200 meters and missed out on making the U.S. squad in the event. But that’s why McLaughlin appreciates Felix — those kinds of setbacks don’t get her down. Felix still has the 400, an event she won last weekend, and will focus on that.

“You realize that sometimes you have to lose in order to get better,” said McLaughlin, who still plans to compete at world juniors later this month in Poland. “That’s a big thing.”

McLaughlin, who turns 17 on Aug. 7, tried to find humor in just about everything. After winning her heat in the semifinals during a steady drizzle, she said, “The rain messed up my hair, but that’s OK.”

Just Sydney being Sydney.

“She’s super-consistent as a racer,” McCabe said. “You don’t see many bad days. You come to a meet like this and you have to be on at the right time. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. Running isn’t her life. Running chose her. She just happens to be real good at it.”

David Rudisha beaten, Keni Harrison wins in Stockholm as Olympic Trials near

David Rudisha
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Kenyan Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha was fourth, while rising U.S. hurdles star Keni Harrison prevailed Thursday in a cold and wet Stockholm, site of the final Diamond League stop before Olympic Trials meets.

Rudisha was passed in the final straightaway by countryman Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich, France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and Poland’s Adam Kszczot.

“I am really in good form, so I am a bit sad I can’t run far in these conditions,” Rudisha said, according to the IAAF.

Rudisha, also the reigning World champion and world-record holder, was fifth in his previous 800m race on May 14, one that was marred by a faulty starter’s gun. The Kenyan Olympic Trials are June 30-July 1.

Full Stockholm results are here.

In the women’s 100m hurdles, Harrison remained undefeated this year. She clocked 12.66 seconds, her slowest time of 2016, into a slight headwind and on that wet track.

“Conditions slowed me down a little, but I’m happy,” Harrison said, according to the IAAF.

Nia Ali and Queen Harrison, Olympic hopefuls behind Harrison, were second (12.85) and third (12.87) against a weak field in Stockholm.

The U.S. Olympic Trials are July 1-10 in Eugene, Ore., (broadcast schedule here), with the women’s 100m hurdles semifinals and final July 8. The top three will make the Olympic team.

In the Stockholm men’s 400m hurdles, the fastest American from 2015 failed to start the race. And the fastest American from 2014 failed to finish it.

Bershawn Jackson, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, was disqualified for a false start.

Michael Tinsley, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, curiously stopped with a little more than 100 meters to go but was not noticeably limping.

In their absences, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Javier Culson of Puerto Rico won in 49.43 seconds. That time won’t worry American Johnny Dutch, who was not in Stockholm but owns the two fastest times in the world this year — 48.10 and 48.36.

Dutch appears a strong favorite going into the Olympic Trials, with Jackson and Tinsley among those in the mix to finish in the top three to make the Olympic team as well.

Serbian Ivana Španović prevailed in a meeting of every 2015 World Championships medalist, plus Olympic champion Brittney Reese, in the long jump. Španović leaped 6.90 meters, which is not among the best marks this year.

Reese placed second at 6.88 meters, with countrywoman and World champion Tianna Bartoletta third at 6.68 meters, continuing her underwhelming start to 2016.

French Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie won a head-to-head with Canadian World champion Shawn Barber in the pole vault. Lavillenie cleared 5.73 meters for the victory, with Barber failing all three attempts at that height.

“It wasn’t the worst conditions I have competed in, but it was one of the worst,” Lavillenie said, according to the IAAF.

American Sam Kendricks, who beat Lavillenie and Barber on May 14, wasn’t in Stockholm but remains the top-ranked vaulter this year with a clearance of 5.92 meters.

American Christian Taylor won his 10th straight triple jump competition, according to Tilastopaja.org. Taylor, the Olympic and World champion, registered 17.59 meters, which is farther than any other man has triple jumped this year.

Taylor’s best triple jump this year was 17.76 from the Pre Classic on May 28.

U.S. Olympic hopefuls Chris Carter (16.52 meters), Chris Benard (16.39) and Omar Craddock (16.29) struggled behind Taylor in the tough conditions.

The Diamond League resumes in Monaco on July 15.

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Keni Harrison, one of 11 siblings, headlines Stockholm Diamond League; events to watch

Keni Harrison
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Many top U.S. athletes are skipping the final Diamond League meet before the Olympic Trials in Stockholm on Thursday, except for the most impressive American this year.

That’s Keni Harrison, who matched the second-fastest 100m hurdles time in history, an American record 12.24 seconds, at the Prefontaine Classic on May 28.

Harrison headlines the Stockholm 100m hurdles field, along with countrywomen Queen Harrison and Nia Ali.

All will have their hands full at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., on July 7-8 in arguably the deepest event. The top three finishers make the Olympic team.

Not in Stockholm, but expected in Eugene, are 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson, 2013 World champion Brianna Rollins and Sharika Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers, the two fastest women in the world last year.

Harrison, the middle of 11 children, nine adopted, shuttled in a Marriott bus, is a prodigious hurdles talent who ran her first track race in 10th grade.

She ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in the world in the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles last year, respectively. She won the 100m hurdles and placed second in the 400m hurdles at the 2015 NCAA Championships, her final meet for the University of Kentucky.

She hasn’t raced a 400m hurdles since the 2015 NCAAs. In this span focusing on the 100m hurdles, she dropped her personal best from 12.50 to 12.24 seconds. Her international breakout could have come last year, had she not false started out of the World Championships semifinals in Beijing on Aug. 28.

Stockholm will mark her final top-level international meet before the Olympic Trials. Full start lists are here.

Five events to watch in Stockholm:

Women’s Long Jump — 1:15 p.m. ET

Arguably the deepest field in Stockholm includes reigning Olympic champion Brittney Reese and all three 2015 World Championships medalists — American Tianna Bartoletta, Great Britain’s Shara Proctor and Serbian Ivana Španović.

Reese is the top-ranked American this year, but Bartoletta could use a strong mark in Stockholm. She is ranked No. 6 in the U.S. combining indoor and outdoor marks in 2016.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 2:03 p.m. ET

The start list features three Americans who own a combined eight Olympic and World 400m hurdles medals — 2012 Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley and 2008 Olympic silver and bronze medalists Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson.

Tinsley is the fastest of the trio this year, clocking 48.74 seconds at the Pre Classic. But an Olympic team of Tinsley, Clement and Jackson is unlikely, because the fastest American this year is Johnny Dutch. Dutch, who is not in Stockholm, doubles as the fastest in the world this year at 48.10. Nobody else has bettered 48.67.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 2:37 p.m. ET

Keni Harrison is undefeated in five 100m hurdles races this spring, running between 12.24 and 12.56 every time. The 2015 World Championship was won in 12.57, after Harrison false started out of the semifinals.

Nobody else in the Stockholm field has bettered 12.63 this year. The other Americans, two-time World Indoor 60m champion Nia Ali and 2008 400m hurdles Olympian Queen Harrison, rank tied for seventh in the U.S. this year. They need strong times to be considered among the favorites to make the Olympic team.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:45 p.m. ET

Olympic and World champion Christian Taylor is among four Americans in this field. He has little to prove. In addition to scaring the world record at 2015 Worlds, he easily ranks No. 1 in the world this year.

The Americans behind Taylor and Olympic silver medalist Will Claye (not in Stockholm) are more bunched as trials near. In Stockholm, Chris Benard (No. 3 in the U.S. this year), Omar Craddock (No. 4) and Chris Carter (No. 5) jostle for confidence ahead of Eugene, where they need to be top three.

Men’s 800m — 3:50 p.m. ET

David Rudisha caps the final event of the meet. The Olympic and World champion and world-record holder races the 800m for the first time since finishing fifth in Shanghai on May 14, when an ill-timed starter’s gun marred the competition.

In Stockholm, Rudisha faces 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Timothy Kitum of Kenya, 2013 World champion Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia and 2015 World silver medalist Adam Kszczot of Poland, all men who could make the Olympic final. There are no Americans lining up.

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