Nicholas Bett

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Nicholas Bett, 2015 World 400m hurdles champ, killed in car crash

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Nicholas Bett, a Kenyan who won the 2015 World 400m hurdles title, was killed in an early-morning car crash Wednesday in the country’s famed high-altitude training region, police and his coach said. He was 28.

Bett had only just returned home this week from the African Championships in Nigeria.

Nandi county police commander Patrick Wambani said Bett was killed in the crash on the road between Eldoret and Kapsabet, two of Kenya’s best-known distance-running training towns in the Rift Valley region.

Bett was driving alone, Wambani said.

Bett’s SUV hit bumps in a road and rolled, landing on its roof in a ditch, his coach, Vincent Mumo, told The Associated Press. Mumo said the accident happened at about 6 a.m.

“I’m out of words,” Mumo said. “We thank god for his life.”

Mumo said Bett’s twin brother, Aron Koech, who is also an athlete, was “beyond grief.”

Bett was also the father of 2-year-old twin boys.

His 2015 World title was a breakthrough victory for Kenya, normally a powerhouse only in middle- and long-distance events.

The triumph from lane eight was a big surprise as he became the first Kenyan to win a major title in the event. It signaled that Kenya was ready to challenge in track and field at the shorter distances, too.

Julius Yego, who also produced a surprise at the same worlds to win the javelin gold, wrote on Facebook: “Dark morning, horrifying news! Can’t believe it’s real but go rest with the angels Nicholas Bett!”

“I’m shocked beyond words!” Yego added. “My roommate in Beijing when we won gold together, and it was just the other day we were in Nigeria.”

Bett was initially a volleyball player before turning to track. He also won bronze medals at the 2014 African championships in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay.

“Bett earned the country great honors in his outstanding victories,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote on his official Twitter page. “My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family, relatives and friends.”

The IAAF said it was “deeply saddened and shocked” by Bett’s death. Athletics Kenya said it sent condolences to Bett’s family and would help organize the funeral.

“We are really mourning the loss,” Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei said. “He has done a lot for this country … he is still a young boy and we will really miss him.”

Bett’s twin brother was part of the Kenyan 4x400m team that won gold at last week’s African championships in Asaba, Nigeria.

Bett didn’t run on that team. He did make the final of the 400m hurdles but didn’t earn a medal.

U.S. sweeps Oslo 100m hurdles; former World champ sprinter hurt

Brianna Rollins, Dawn Harper-Nelson
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The U.S. depth in the 100m hurdles was evident in a sweep at a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday.

Brianna RollinsDawn Harper-Nelson and Jasmin Stowers took the top three spots, but it’s likely at least one of them will not make the Olympic team.

That’s because of Keni Harrison, who wasn’t in Oslo but ran the second-fastest 100m hurdles of all time at the Pre Classic on May 28. Harrison clocked 12.24 seconds in Eugene, Ore., two weeks ago and owns the world’s four fastest times this year.

The top three in the Olympic Trials final on July 8 will make the Rio team.

The 2013 World champion Rollins, ranked No. 2 in the world this year, won in Oslo in 12.56 seconds into a slight headwind. Harper-Nelson, who finished first and second at the last two Olympics, was second in 12.75 in Oslo, followed by Stowers in 12.79.

Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia was last in 13.14 as she continues to return from a yearlong injury layoff.

Full Oslo results are here.

Also in Oslo, Canadian Andre De Grasse won the 100m in 10.07 seconds with a small tailwind behind him. De Grasse, 21, shared bronze at the 2015 World Championships in a personal-best 9.92 seconds but hasn’t been close to that form early this season.

“Next should be definitely a sub-10 seconds,” De Grasse said, according to the IAAF.

De Grasse beat a field in Oslo that didn’t include his Worlds podium mates Usain BoltJustin Gatlin and Trayvon Bromell.

Instead, the Canadian surged past a hobbled, 40-year-old Kim Collins for the victory. Collins, the 2003 World champion, grimaced as he limped across the finish line with a left groin cramp, according to his social media.

Dutch World champion Dafne Schippers won the women’s 200m in 21.93 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. Schippers, a former heptathlete, is expected to challenge U.S. Olympic champion Allyson Felix for gold in Rio.

World silver medalist Elaine Thompson of Jamaica was a distant second to Schippers in Oslo in 22.64.

World 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya remained undefeated in 1500m or mile races since May 30, 2015, winning a mile event in 3:51.48, .56 ahead of countryman and World 1500m silver medalist Elijah Manangoi. Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria was third in 3:52.24.

In the 400m hurdles, surprise World champion Nicholas Bett of Kenya finished sixth, continuing a slow early season. Bett became the first Kenyan Olympic or World champion in a race shorter than 800m last year, when he also struggled early in the season.

U.S. Olympic team contenders Michael Tinsley and Kerron Clement were third and fourth behind Turkish winner Yasmani Copello.

World champion Joe Kovacs won the shot put with a 22.01-meter throw against a field that did not include top rival David Storl of Germany.

Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie cleared 5.80 meters to win the pole vault over World champion Shawn Barber of Canada, who cleared 5.73.

The Diamond League continues in Stockholm next Thursday, the final meet of the series before the U.S. Olympic Trials that begin July 1.

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Olympic hurdles champs meet in Oslo; 5 Diamond League events to watch

Sally Pearson, Dawn Harper-Nelson
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London Olympic champ Sally Pearson missed a full year due to injuries, but it’s Beijing gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson who faces a tougher road to Rio.

Pearson and Harper-Nelson, who swapped one-two 100m hurdles finishes at the last two Olympics, headline Thursday’s Diamond League meet in Oslo. The competition lacks the sport’s biggest sprint stars — Usain Bolt (who is racing his top Jamaican rivals Saturday), Justin GatlinAllyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are all sitting out.

It could be Harper-Nelson’s final Diamond League meet before the U.S. Olympic Trials, as she is not yet listed in next week’s competition in Stockholm.

Harper-Nelson’s bid for a third Olympics is complicated by the incredible depth in U.S. women’s hurdles. Four different Americans share the nine fastest times in the world this year.

Harper-Nelson ranks No. 14 in the world this year, and 10th among Americans, which is very concerning given only the top three finishers at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., on July 8 make the Rio team.

There is no doubt that Pearson will be in Rio to defend her Olympic title as Australia is not deep in any track and field events. Even so, Pearson must improve mightily on her first two races Sunday and Tuesday since returning from wrist surgery and an Achilles injury to be a medal threat at the Games.

Oslo start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

12:20 p.m. — Women’s discus
12:55 — Men’s triple jump
1:15 — Men’s pole vault
1:30 — Men’s shot put
2:00 — Women’s high jump
2:03 — Men’s 400m hurdles
2:15 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
2:35 — Women’s 400m
2:40 — Men’s javelin
2:45 — Men’s 5000m
2:45 — Women’s long jump
3:12 — Women’s 100m hurdles
3:20 — Men’s 100m
3:30 — Men’s mile
3:40 — Women’s 200m
3:50 — Women’s mile

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Pole Vault — 1:15 p.m. ET

Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie and World champion Shawn Barber face off for the eighth time already this year. Lavillenie, the world-record holder, has won five of the seven meetings and finished higher than Barber in all of them, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Missing from the Oslo field is rising American Sam Kendricks, who beat both of them in Shanghai on May 14 and owns the highest clearance in the world this year.

Men’s 400m hurdles — 2:03 p.m. ET

Surprise World champion Nicholas Bett of Kenya hasn’t run within 1.5 seconds off his personal-best gold-medal winning time since that Beijing final. But his nondescript start to 2016 mirrors his first months of the 2015 outdoor season. In Oslo, Bett will look to better sixth- and eighth-place finishes from his first two Diamond League races.

His competition includes the last two Olympic silver medalists, Michael Tinsley and Kerron Clement, who are at the very least contenders to make the U.S. team for Rio, if not favorites, as the second- and third-fastest Americans this year.

Women’s 100m hurdles — 3:12 p.m. ET

Neither Pearson nor Harper-Nelson has finished in the top three of a Diamond League race in three combined starts this year. Oslo is a prime opportunity, since the field includes only two other Americans — Brianna Rollins and Jasmin Stowers.

Keni Harrison, the Olympic favorite who ran the second-fastest time ever at the Prefontaine Classic on May 28, is not in Oslo.

Men’s Mile — 3:30 p.m. ET

Kenyan Asbel Kiprop is undefeated in 1500m or mile races since May 30, 2015. In Oslo, he faces 2012 Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria. Makhloufi was fourth in the 2015 World Championships, won by Kiprop, and fifth in the Pre Classic, 1.41 seconds behind Kiprop.

Women’s 200m — 3:40 p.m. ET

World gold and silver medalists Dafne Schippers and Elaine Thompson meet for the second time this year. They went two-three at the Pre Classic, won by American Tori Bowie in the fastest time in the world this year (21.99).

Schippers and Thompson are both capable of bettering Bowie’s mark, given they ran 21.63 and 21.66 at Worlds on Aug. 28. The gold-medal odds for Schippers, Thompson and Bowie will be impacted by Felix and Fraser-Pryce, who are absent from Oslo and coming back from injuries.

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