Ramil Guliyev

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Noah Lyles vs. Olympic, world medalists in Lausanne; preview, TV schedule

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Noah Lyles may have just lost to a countryman, but something closer to a world championships preview could come at Friday’s Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Streaming starts at 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, with TV coverage at 2 p.m. on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

Lyles is the fastest man in this Olympic cycle in the 200m (19.65 seconds from last year), but he lost for the first time since the 2016 Olympic trials three weeks ago.

Michael Norman edged him, 19.70 to 19.72, but Norman is expected to focus strictly on the 400m at the USATF Outdoor Championships in three weeks. That would keep him out of the 200m at worlds in Doha in late September.

So Lyles must look elsewhere for competition. He will find it in Lausanne by way of 2016 Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada and 2017 World champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey.

The field was even more formidable. But it was hurt by two withdrawals: Nigerian Divine Oduduru, who won the NCAA title for Texas Tech in 19.73, and Akeem Bloomfield, the fastest Jamaican (19.81) since Usain Bolt gave up the 200m after Rio.

Guliyev is 0-6 lifetime against Lyles, according to Tilastopaja.org. De Grasse lost his only head-to-head with the 21-year-old American. If Lyles gets through Lausanne unblemished and then past Christian Coleman and anybody else at USATF Outdoors, it’s hard to imagine him relinquishing the favorite tag at worlds.

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

Thursday
12:30 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault

Friday
1 p.m. — Women’s Javelin
1:05 — Women’s Shot Put
1:20 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:54 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:03 — Women’s 400m
2:10 — Men’s Pole Vault
2:10 — Women’s 200m
2:18 — Women’s 800m
2:25 — Women’s High Jump
2:28 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
2:37 — Men’s 800m
2:45 — Men’s Long Jump
2:46 — Women’s 100m
2:55 — Men’s 5000m
3:15 — Men’s 100m
3:23 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
3:32 — Men’s 1500m
3:42 — Men’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Pole Vault — 2:10 p.m. ET
For the second straight week, the reigning Olympic, world and European champions and the world-record holder convene. Louisiana-born Swede Mondo Duplantis prevailed at Pre, beating American Sam Kendricks for the second time in 11 head-to-heads. Duplantis and Kendricks are also both entered in next week’s meet in Monaco as they continue to vie for world champs favorite status.

Women’s 100m — 2:46 p.m. ET
Two of the most anticipated events at Pre were the women’s 100m and 200m, but none of the superstars put up an impressive time. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Dafne Schippers and Dina Asher-Smith get another chance here, taking on the surprise 100m winner at Pre — Marie-Josee Ta Lou. The key time is 10.73, the fastest in the world this year shared by 2016 Olympic champion Elaine Thompson (not in this field) and 2008 and 2012 gold medalist Fraser-Pryce.

Men’s 5000m — 2:55 p.m. ET
Couldn’t ask for a much better marquee now that Mo Farah is done track racing. Lausanne pits the Olympic silver medalist behind Farah (American Paul Chelimo), the man who beat Farah at 2017 Worlds (Ethiopian Muktar Edris), the active 5000m runner with the fastest personal best (Ethiopian Selemon Barega) and the fastest in the world this year (Ethiopian Telahun Bekele). Barega, 19, and Bekele, 20, are the favorites. The former has finished first or second in his five Diamond League 5000m the last two seasons. The latter lowered his personal best by 11.65 seconds to edge Barega in Rome on June 6.

Men’s 1500m — 3:32 p.m. ET
What once was shaping up as a two-man fight for best in the world has shifted in the last five weeks. Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot‘s only three losses since the start of 2018 were to countryman Elijah Manangoi at the Commonwealth Games, African Championships and this season’s Diamond League opener in Doha. But Manangoi was 10th and 12th in his last two outings, both won by Cheruiyot, who is now the clear world champs favorite. Manangoi is absent from Lausanne, but Cheruiyot could have his hands full with Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman and Norwegian brothers Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who were second, third and fourth at the Pre Classic.

Men’s 200m — 3:42 p.m. ET
Lyles has to be targeting sub-19.7 to take the fastest time in the world this year from his friend Norman. He ran 19.69 at this meet last year, one of four times he broke 19.7 in 2018 (Bolt is the only other runner to do that in one year). That should easily be enough for the win, given nobody has been faster since Bolt’s 2015 World title. Nobody else in the Lausanne field has broken 19.9 in his career.

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Noah Lyles matches Usain Bolt feat in Speed Racer socks

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Noah Lyles put on his Speed Racer socks and roared like a Dragon Ball Z character. Then he backed it up as usual, winning the Diamond League final 200m in 19.67 seconds in Zurich on Thursday.

“I was looking for a PR, like always,” Lyles, who missed his best time by .02 running into a slight headwind, said on Swiss TV. “But getting close to it is even better. It really humbles yourself to make sure that next year I’m going to really bring it.”

It was .01 off Usain Bolt‘s meet record from 2012. Bolt remains incomparable, but Lyles is the closest thing the sport has seen since the Jamaican’s retirement a year ago.

The dancing Lyles has four times broken 19.7 seconds this season. Only Bolt has done so before, during his peak season in 2009. Michael Johnson broke 19.7 twice in his entire career.

Lyles turned 21 last month. When Bolt was that old, his personal best was 19.75, one tenth slower than Lyles’ current best. Though Bolt lowered it to 19.30 by the time he turned 22.

Lyles is undefeated in outdoor 200m races since he finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, just missing the Rio team as an 18-year-old. He was injured at the 2017 U.S. Championships, forcing him out of the 2017 Worlds.

So Lyles never raced Bolt, but he has been the world’s best sprinter this season, also taking the U.S. 100m title in June.

Full Zurich results are here.

The last Diamond League meet of the season is Friday in Brussels, live on NBC Sports Gold at 12:05 p.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 2.

In other events Thursday, Olympic and world champion Conseslus Kipruto won the 3000m steeplechase with one shoe.

Caster Semenya extended a near-three-year win streak in the 800m, gapping the field by 2.59 seconds in 1:55.27. World bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson of the U.S. was the distant runner-up.

Semenya owns the world’s seven fastest times since the start of 2016, topped by her South African record 1:54.25 from June 30, but the 800m could look different next year.

An IAAF rule limiting testosterone in female middle-distance runners is scheduled to go into effect next season. Semenya, who was gender tested in 2009, is challenging it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot continued his recent 1500m domination, pulling away from training partner Elijah Manangoi. Cheruiyot clocked 3:30.27, beating Manangoi by .89. Cheruiyot, who took silver at 2017 Worlds behind Manangoi, went undefeated in six Diamond League races this year.

In the men’s 400m, 2017 U.S. champion Fred Kerley won a Wayde van Niekerk-less race in 44.80 seconds. That was well off the fastest time in the world this year (43.61) held by American Michael Norman (also not in Zurich). Kerley said after that he was coming off an injury.

Van Niekerk, the Olympic and world champ and world-record holder, missed all of this season after October 2017 meniscus and ACL tears playing touch rugby.

World silver medalist Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas pulled up on the last straightaway and did not finish. He was able to walk off the track.

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Noah Lyles

Track and field breakout stars dot Diamond League finals; TV, stream info

Shelby Houlihan, Mondo Duplantis
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If this week’s Diamond League finals fields show anything, it’s that 2018 has been the year of the breakthrough track and field athlete.

The world’s best gather in Zurich and Brussels, where Diamond League season champions will be crowned, live on NBCSN and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday: Zurich, 2-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold
Friday: Brussels, 2-4 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBC Sports Gold

Some of the most anticipated events are highlighted by athletes with no Olympic or world outdoor championships medals to their names: Norwegian wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen and new American 5000m record holder Shelby Houlihan in the 1500m, U.S. sprint sensation Noah Lyles in the 200m, recent Louisiana high school graduate Mondo Duplantis of Sweden in the pole vault and the world’s fastest man this year — American Ronnie Baker.

Wednesday update: Ingebrigtsen withdrew from his Diamond League final with a sore throat, according to Norway’s track and field federation.

ZURICH START LISTS | BRUSSELS START LISTS

Here are 10 events to watch:

Women’s 800m — Thursday, 2:13 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts a near-three-year win streak against the next six fastest women in the world this year. That includes Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and American Ajeé Wilson, the world silver and bronze medalists. This will be the toughest field Semenya faces for at least eight months. This event could look very different by then with an IAAF rule limiting testosterone in female middle-distance runners scheduled to go into effect next season. Semenya is challenging it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — Thursday, 2:24 p.m. ET
Field includes the nine men who combine to own the 26 fastest times in the world this year. Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world champion, has looked vulnerable in 2018 with three Diamond League defeats. American Evan Jager, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, owns the second-fastest time of 2018. But he has never won against a field this strong.

Men’s 1500m — Thursday, 2:48 p.m. ET
The world’s seven fastest of 2018 are here, but focus on the top four. World leader Timothy Cheruiyot‘s only losses in the last 13 months came in arguably his three biggest meets — the 2017 World Championships and this year’s Commonwealth Games and African Championships. He finished second in each race to the same man — countryman Elijah Manangoi, who is second-fastest in the world this year. After the Kenyans are Norwegian brothers Filip Ingebrigtsen and Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the latter a 17-year-old who is the youngest sub-four-minute miler in history. He also just swept the 1500m and 5000m at the European Championships.

Men’s 200m — Thursday, 3:11 p.m. ET
Essentially a head-to-head between American Noah Lyles, the world’s best 200m runner post-Rio, and Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title in Lyles’ absence due to injury. Lyles, whose ebullience is most clearly expressed by his race socks, has won all of his outdoor 200m finals since finishing fourth at the Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old. His three fastest times came in his last three races: 19.69, 19.69 and 19.65. Guliyev just consolidated his shock world title by winning the European title in a personal-best 19.76.

Men’s Pole Vault — Friday, 1:28 p.m. ET
Three in the field have cleared 6.03 meters. Hasn’t happened since 2000. The man with the most excitement is recent Louisiana High School graduate Mondo Duplantis, who competes for Sweden, his mother’s native country. Duplantis just won the European title by clearing 6.05 meters. Only Sergey Bubka has vaulted higher outdoors in history. Also in this field: World-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France (record set indoors), world champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S. and Rio gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — Friday, 2:11 p.m. ET
Deepest field between Zurich and Brussels? Ten women who combine to own the 28 fastest times this year. Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who went a shocking one-two at the 2017 Worlds, take on Kenya’s best — Beatrice Chepkoech, Celliphine Chespol and Hyvin Kiyeng, who rank Nos. 1, 3 and 5 all-time.

Women’s 1500m — Friday, 2:41 p.m. ET
American Shelby Houlihan, the 2018 revelation of female distance running, takes on her toughest competition of an undefeated outdoor season. That includes Olympic and world medalist Jenny Simpson and the third-, fourth- and fifth-fastest women this year — Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay and Brit Laura Muir. Absent is world leader and world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba, whose only head-to-heads with Houlihan came at the world indoor championships in March.

Men’s Triple Jump — Friday, 2:47 p.m. ET
Christian Taylor, winner of the last two Olympics and last two worlds, has also been ranked No. 1 each of the previous three years. But Cuban-born Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Portugal owns the best triple jump of this year going into the Diamond League finals. Taylor won their last two head-to-heads in July but must leap a wind-legal 17.95 meters, which he hasn’t done since May 2017, to overtake Pichardo in the rankings.

Men’s 100m — Friday, 2:54 p.m. ET
Since the last Diamond League, American Ronnie Baker climbed to the top of the 2018 world rankings in the 100m (9.87 seconds). Baker, who grew up partially running cross-country in Alaska, has never won a U.S. or NCAA title or made an Olympic or world championships team outdoors. In Zurich, he takes on the more accomplished Christian Coleman, who at this time last year (and six months ago) was the clear favorite to succeed Usain Bolt long-term. Injuries hampered Coleman’s outdoor season, but he did beat Baker in their last head-to-head on July 13. The winner Friday could carry bragging rights into 2019.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — Friday, 3:15 p.m. ET
Rio gold medalist Brianna McNeal and world-record holder Kendra Harrison duel for the fifth time this season. Harrison owns the 3-1 edge and has the fastest time of 2018 (12.36). This will also be the last Diamond League race for the retiring Dawn Harper-Nelson, who earned Olympic gold in 2008 and silver in 2012.

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