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Pre Classic: Olympic champions on the comeback; TV, stream schedule

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The Prefontaine Classic relocated, temporarily, and it brought the best fields of the Diamond League season with it to Stanford, Calif.

That includes the world’s fastest man and woman this year (Christian Coleman and Elaine Thompson), the athlete who has made the most worldwide headlines this season (Caster Semenya) and a bevy of other reigning Olympic and world champions.

Notably, Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia and Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon will compete for the first time since 2017. World 100m champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie are in their first Diamond League meets in more than one year. It’s the first Diamond League in two years for 2008 Olympic 400m champ LaShawn Merritt. It’s also the first race of 2019 for Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz.

NBC and NBC Sports Gold air live coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

The Pre Classic has been held annually since 1975 in Eugene, Ore. But Hayward Field’s reconstruction ahead of the 2020 Olympic Trials forced a move to Cobb Track and Angell Field at Stanford.

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

3:43 p.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
3:57 — Women’s Shot Put
4:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
4:08 — Women’s High Jump
4:11 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
4:27 — Women’s 100m
4:34 — Men’s 2 Mile
4:47 — Women’s 800m
4:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
5:01 — Men’s Shot Put
5:05 — Women’s 3000m
5:19 — Men’s 400m
5:25 — Women’s 200m
5:31 — Women’s 1500m
5:39 — Men’s 100m
5:51 — Men’s Mile

Here are 10 events to watch (stats courtesy Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 3:43 p.m.
The Big Three of the event meet for the first time this season: 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France, 2017 World champion Sam Kendricks and 2018 and 2019 world leader Mondo Duplantis of Sweden, who just turned pro after his freshman year at LSU. Lavillenie has competed just once this season due to injury. Duplantis was beaten at NCAAs by Chris Nilsen (also in the Pre field). But Kendricks has been hot, winning the first three Diamond League pole vaults this season (though Lavillenie and Nilsen weren’t in any of those fields and Duplantis just one).

Women’s High Jump — 4:08 p.m.
U.S. champion Vashti Cunningham takes another crack at Russian Mariya Lasitskene, who has just two losses in the last three years. Cunningham is 0-7 versus Lasitskene but has this spring already bettered her top clearance of 2018. Lasitskene, though, appears in top form after taking three attempts at a world record 2.10 meters in Ostrava last week.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — 4:11 p.m.
Six of the eight fastest in history, headlined by world gold and silver medalists Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs. The only time either Coburn or Frerichs won a steeple that included any of the four fastest Kenyans in history was at those 2017 Worlds. Another chance Sunday.

Women’s 100m — 4:27 p.m.
NCAA champion Sha’Carri Richardson would have been the favorite here in her pro debut if not for what happened Friday. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a two-time Olympic 100m champion, clocked her fastest time in six years (10.73 seconds) to become the fastest mom in history and No. 2 in the world this year behind Rio gold medalist Elaine Thompson. Also watch reigning world champ Tori Bowie, who is coming back from a quad tear and coaching change.

Women’s 800m — 4:47 p.m.
Caster Semenya races her trademark event for the first time since a Swiss Supreme Court ruled her eligible while it deliberates on her appeal against a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision to uphold an IAAF rule capping testosterone in women’s events from the 400m through the mile. The Swiss court ruling applies only to Semenya and not the other Rio Olympic medalists, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui, who are also affected by the new rule. So Semenya’s closest threat at Pre is American record holder Ajeé Wilson, but Semenya has won 30 straight 800m races dating to 2015.

Men’s Shot Put — 5:01 p.m.
Olympic champion Ryan Crouser had a sterling record at Hayward Field, taking NCAA, Pre Classic and Olympic Trials titles. He’s pretty strong in California, too, recording his personal best (22.74 meters) in Long Beach in April. Nobody has been within a foot and a half of that this season, but the last two world champions (New Zealand’s Tom Walsh and American Joe Kovacs) will try to snap his undefeated 2019 on Sunday.

Men’s 400m — 5:19 p.m.
Lost some sizzle with the withdrawal of 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James, who has missed time with Graves’ disease and, more recently, his mother’s death. Instead, the three fastest Americans of the last decade line up — 2018 and 2019 world leader Michael Norman (43.45 from April 20), 2017 world No. 2 Fred Kerley and 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt.

Women’s 200m — 5:25 p.m.
Strongest sprint field of the meet: 2016 Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, 2015 and 2017 World champion Dafne Schippers and 2018 world leader Dina Asher-Smith. Should produce the fastest time in the world this year, which is currently 22.16, and the favorite for world champs.

Men’s 100m — 5:39 p.m.
Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman go head-to-head for the first time since the 2017 Worlds, where Gatlin took gold, Usain Bolt silver and Coleman bronze. Coleman is the world’s fastest man this Olympic cycle (9.79) and this year (9.85). Gatlin, 37, hasn’t broken 10 seconds since beating Bolt but has a bye to defend his title in Doha in September.

Men’s Mile — 5:51 p.m.
Olympic 1500m champ Matthew Centrowitz races on the track for the first time since July 22, eyeing his first win in the Pre mile in his sixth try. The foes are formidable, including the top two milers since Rio — Kenyans Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi — Norwegian brothers Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha, who on March 3 broke the 22-year-old indoor mile world record. Nobody has been within four seconds of the outdoor mile word record (Hicham El Guerrouj‘s 3:43.13 in 1999) since 2007.

MORE: Caster Semenya says she’s blocked from Rabat

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Diamond League kicks off with focus on women’s 800m; TV/stream info

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The Diamond League season starts Friday with scrutiny on an event that will no doubt see significant change this season — the women’s 800m.

A landmark sports court ruling Wednesday is expected to force some top stars — including Olympic gold and silver medalists Caster Semenya of South Africa and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi — to take measures to reduce abnormally high testosterone for women’s events.

In that case, they would have to sit out international competition through the summer, while continuously keeping testosterone levels below the imposed limit, if they want to return to any event between the 400m and 1500m at the world championships in Doha in late September.

Friday’s Diamond League opener, also in Doha and the first of 14 stops over the next four months, will be the last one held before the testosterone-reducing rule goes into effect. Olympic Channel will air live coverage at 12 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Gold streaming commercial-free coverage at 11 a.m.

The women’s 800m field is among the strongest, including Niyonsaba, Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui of Kenya and world bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson, the American record holder. Semenya, undefeated at 800m the last three seasons, is not entered.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Caster Semenya a late entry into Doha

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

11:20 a.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
11:35 — Men’s Discus
11:55 — Women’s High Jump
12 p.m. — Women’s Long Jump
12:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
12:15 — Men’s 800m
12:27 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:37 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
12:56 — Men’s 200m
1 — Men’s Shot Put
1:07– Women’s 800m
1:19 — Men’s 1500m
1:34 — Women’s 200m
1:46 — Women’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 800m — 12:15 p.m.
While David Rudisha has been out injured for nearly two years, fellow Kenyan and former UTEP star Emmanuel Korir has emerged as the world’s best two-lapper, winning all but one of his meets in 2017 and again in 2018. In Doha, Korir’s competition includes the second-fastest man each of the last two years, Botswana’s Nijel Amos. Amos, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was the only man to bear Korir in 2018.

Watch out for American Donavan Brazier, who ascended the international rankings until an injury-shortened 2018. Already in 2019, Brazier broke the American indoor 800m record and ran the fastest indoor 600m in history.

Men’s Shot Put — 1 p.m.
Strongest field of the meet? The top seven men from the world last year. All three 2016 Olympic medalists, highlighted by Americans Ryan Crouser (gold) and Joe Kovacs (silver). Plus 2017 World champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand. The world record could be under threat given Crouser two weeks ago launched the world’s best throw since the bar was set 29 years ago.

Women’s 800m — 1:07 p.m.
Wilson, coming off an American indoor 800m record in February, eyes her first Diamond League win since 2015. Much has changed in the women’s 800m in the last four years, with the biggest tremor coming with Wednesday’s court ruling. Wilson has never won a race with Niyonsaba in the field but is now one of, if not the favorite for gold at worlds.

Men’s 1500m — 1:19 p.m.
Kenyans Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi traded the world’s fastest times the last two years, and they meet again here. While Manangoi is the world champion, Cheruiyot has lost only twice since London 2017, taking runner-up to Manangoi at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 African Championships. They are the only men to break 3:30 since the Rio Olympics. Gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz is sitting this one out.

Women’s 3000m — 1:46 p.m.
Another juicy head-to-head featuring Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world-record holder, and Hellen Obiri, the 5000m world champion and fastest 3000m runner in the last 25 years. Toss in steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, and it’s one of the most unique headlining fields to open a Diamond League season.

MORE: Why Ryan Crouser postponed an NFL tryout

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Ryan Crouser eyed an NFL tryout, then Olympic gold, now the bathroom mirror

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In an alternate universe, Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser could be run blocking or pass rushing in the NFL.

Crouser, who continues a historic start to his season Saturday at the Drake Relays on NBC Sports (broadcast schedule here), said he was offered a tryout with the Indianapolis Colts before the 2016 Olympic Trials.

“They have a special scout. He looks for athletes outside of the traditional football realm to come in and maybe play a more specific role, mostly probably on defense or offensive lineman,” Crouser, who is 6 feet, 7 inches and 310 pounds, said in a phone interview this week. “I said, we’ll see how [Olympic] trials goes.”

They went pretty well. Crouser, who came into the meet ranked No. 2 in the nation, won trials at Oregon’s Hayward Field with the second-farthest throw in the world for the year.

The Colts’ special scout, Jon Shaw, was unavailable for comment until next week given hectic NFL Draft prep. But the organization has a history of giving chances to Olympians, including signing sprinters Marvin Bracy and Jeff Demps, though neither played in a regular-season game.

“Then the Olympics went pretty much perfect, so I ended up postponing it after that,” Crouser said of the Colts’ offer. “I’ve had a pretty successful career since then.”

In Rio, Crouser, whose dad, two uncles and two cousins are accomplished discus, javelin or shot put throwers, broke the 28-year-old Olympic record held by his technique idol, East German Ulf Timmermann. Crouser used the glide motion until his senior year at Gresham (Ore.) Barlow High.

“I watched tons of film of Ulf Timmermann,” said Crouser, who was born four years after Timmermann’s Olympic title. “Technically, he was the best glider ever. The throw that I watched literally thousands of times was his Olympic record that I broke in 2016.”

In 1990 and 1991, Timmermann was among many East German athletes reported to have used illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. Timmermann always denied using anabolic steroids, according to Olympic historians.

Crouser, who has a clean testing record, is inching into Timmermann’s territory on the all-time list of farthest throws. At a small meet in California that he rode in a truck to last Saturday, Crouser threw 22.73 and 22.74 meters on consecutive attempts. They marked the longest throws in the world since American Randy Barnes set the still-standing world record of 23.12 in 1990. Barnes tested positive for an anabolic steroid two months later.

“#CleanWR,” Olympic teammate Darrell Hill commented on an Instagram image of Crouser standing next to the 22.74 scoreboard.

Crouser was careful when asked how he views the top names on the all-time list, and whether it would be good for the shot put for Barnes’ record to go down. “I would say just among all the shot putters, everybody would just like to see that,” said Crouser, who is now 15 inches shy of that Barnes mark. “I’d love to get that record off the books, I guess, in a sense. It makes me have to train smarter, chasing the 23.12, instead of saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got the clean world record.'”

There’s reason to believe Crouser can up his personal best again at Drake and certainly later this summer and at the world championships in Doha in late September.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve felt,” Crouser, who has gained 20 pounds of “quality weight” since Rio with the well publicized 5,000-calorie-a-day shot putters’ diet, said of that season-opening meet last Saturday. “I really wasn’t tapered down too much.”

Crouser then revealed he suffered a small pectoral tear (the right pec, “the one you don’t want”) six weeks ago and missed two weeks of throws training. It took even longer to rehab strength back into it.

“It’s a really good starting point,” Crouser said, “but hoping to go further this year.”

He celebrated the personal best by eating a Chipotle burrito and, the next day, reeling in a half-dozen crappies near his Olympic training center home in Chula Vista. Fishing is a longtime hobby for Crouser, a Portland native who chose the University of Texas over the University of Oregon because it had a better mechanical engineering program.

He once caught and released a white sturgeon that was 11 feet and 600-plus pounds on the Columbia River. An all-conference basketball player in high school, Crouser broke a rim dunking. He also smashed a gingerbread house, Christmas ornament and canned pumpkin pie with a 20-pound sledgehammer (video here).

But to know the man is to be in his bathroom. Crouser has always marked his goal throw distances on that mirror, first with sticky notes (because his mom wouldn’t let him write on it) and recently in dry erase in Southern California. Around late November, when he resumed offseason training, Crouser for the first time penned “23.13” on it.

“It’s feeling like a much more realistic distance,” he said. “In the past I thought if everything went perfect, I could throw it. Now it’s feeling more and more reasonable.”

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