Sergey Shubenkov

Andre De Grasse storms to first Diamond League win in two years

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If Andre De Grasse is to make another Olympic podium push, this summer would be a good time to start surging. The triple Rio Olympic medalist earned his first Diamond League win in two years in Rabat on Sunday.

De Grasse, who suffered season-ending right hamstring injuries the last two summers, won a 200m over world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey in 20.19 seconds. It marked De Grasse’s fastest 200m since this meet in 2017, his last individual race before the first of the hamstring problems.

“I am very grateful with the victory but not happy with the time,” De Grasse said, according to meet organizers. “I want to achieve sub-20 seconds.”

De Grasse, the Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, must get faster before this fall’s world championships in Doha.

The world’s swiftest 200m men this year are comfortably sub-20 performers — Americans Michael Norman (19.70, though not expected to race the 200m at worlds) and Noah Lyles (19.72) and Nigerian Divine Oduduru (19.73). None of them were in Rabat. De Grasse’s personal best is 19.80 from Rio.

“It is a long process,” De Grasse said. “I am not fully healthy, I still have a lot of work to do to be really back in shape. I want to be back where I was two years ago.”

Full Rabat results are here. The Diamond League next stops in Stanford, Calif., for the Prefontaine Classic, live on NBC on June 30 from 4-6 p.m. ET.

In other Rabat events, world champion Phyllis Francis took fourth in the 400m won by world silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain in 50.13 seconds. Naser ranks second in the world this year behind Bahamian Olympic champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo (absent from Rabat), the only woman to beat Naser since the 2017 Worlds.

Francis was fourth in 50.76, ranking her second among Americans this year. Francis has a bye into worlds as a defending champion.

Nigerian veteran Blessing Okagbare took the 100m in 11.05, upsetting world silver and bronze medalists Marie-Josee Ta Lou (second, 11.09) and Dafne Schippers (fifth, 11.32). The race lacked world championships favorites Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain and American Sha’Carri Richardson, all of whom have easily broken 11 this season.

In the 110m hurdles, Olympic champion Omar McLeod led from the start before hitting the last hurdle and stumbling into 2015 World champion Sergey Shubenkov. Shubenkov fell across the finish line but still won in 13.12, while McLeod was fifth in 13.48. The early world championships favorite appears to be American Grant Holloway, who won the NCAA title in 12.98 and turned pro.

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba ran the fastest women’s 1500m since August 2016, a 3:55.47 to hold off Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan by .46. Dibaba, who holds the world record of 3:50.07, is undefeated at 1500m since finishing 12th at the 2017 Worlds. Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson was seventh in Rabat in 3:59.83, breaking four minutes for the second time in three seasons.

Botswana’s Nijel Amos edged past Kenyan Emmanuel Korir by .03 in a matchup of the two best 800m runners the two previous seasons. Amos clocked 1:45.57, well off the fastest time in the world this year held by American Donavan Brazier, who was absent from Rabat but beat Amos in Rome two weeks ago. Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy was third in Rabat.

Olympic and world pole vault silver medalist Sandi Morris cleared 4.82 meters for her first Diamond League win since August. The field did not include 2012 Olympic champ Jenn Suhr, who has the world’s best clearance this year of 4.91.

Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic, long one of the most dominant athletes in the sport, lost for the second straight Diamond League meet as she returns from injury.

The double Olympic and double world champion took third with a 64.77-meter effort, trailing Cubans Yaime Perez (68.28) and Denia Caballero (65.94). Perkovic has now lost three straight times dating to last season after going seven straight seasons without back-to-back defeats, according to Tilastopaja.org.

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Shelby Houlihan stars, Noah Lyles outduels Michael Norman in Lausanne (video)

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Noah Lyles and Michael Norman were supposed to author the race of the year at the Diamond League meet in Lausanne on Thursday, but the most impressive performance of the night came from Shelby Houlihan.

Houlihan, an Olympic 5000m runner who has surged in the 1500m this season, won her third straight major 1500m, lowering her personal best by 1.72 seconds, clocking 3:57.34 and beating a field that included Caster Semenya. Houlihan kicked from fourth place with 150 meters left, while Semenya was already out of it, finishing sixth.

In all, Houlihan has dropped her 1500m personal best by 6.05 seconds in the last month and a half, winning the Prefontaine Classic on May 26 and the USATF Outdoor Championships on June 23.

“I didn´t have many expectations coming into the race today and was actually a bit worried as I was not feeling very well,” Houlihan said, according to race organizers. “I had to talk to myself during the race to stay in a comfortable position and the incredible crowd here brought my home during the last 200 meters.”

Houlihan is now the fourth-fastest U.S. woman in history in the 1500m behind Shannon RowburyMary Slaney and Jenny Simpson.

Minutes after Houlihan crossed the line, Lyles matched his personal best and the fastest time in the world this year to win the 200m in 19.69 seconds. Norman was second in 19.88.

“Yesterday I said I want to be an icon, being consistent is the first step towards that,” Lyles said. “19.69 is great, but you can always improve. I feel I can do a lot better. I need to improve my technique on the bends and who knows. I don’t want to put a limit on myself. My life goals are big. I want to be as good if not better than Michael Johnson and Justin Gatlin.”

Lyles and Norman raced each other for the first time since they finished fourth and fifth in the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m as 18-year-olds. Both were undefeated in outdoor 200m races since trials, though neither raced at 2017 Worlds.

Full Lausanne results are here.

The Diamond League next moves to Rabat, Morocco, on July 13 with live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold.

In other events, Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire continued her undefeated season in the 100m, winning in 10.90 seconds. Olympic champion Elaine Thompson was second in 10.99, while U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs did not start in what would have been her senior international debut.

In the men’s 5000m, Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha nearly pulled countryman Selemon Barega down by his shorts coming around the final turn. Kejelcha failed and ended up falling himself. Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew won in 13:01.09, the fastest time in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi cleared 4.82 meters in the pole vault to beat 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr on count back. Seven women cleared 4.72 meters in a competition for the first time in history, according to the IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov beat Olympic and world 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica for the second time this week, clocking 12.95 seconds. McLeod was fifth in 13.41. Shubenkov has the four fastest times in the world this year and is the only man to break 13 seconds in 2018.

U.S. champion Shamier Little won the 400m hurdles over a field that included Olympic gold and bronze medalists Dalilah Muhammad and Ashley Spencer. Little clocked 53.41, well off the fastest time in the world this year held by Sydney McLaughlin (52.75), who was not in the Lausanne field.

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Noah Lyles, Michael Norman finally meet again; Diamond League preview

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Neither Noah Lyles nor Michael Norman has been to an Olympics or world championships, but their race in Lausanne is arguably the most anticipated sprint of the season.

The men’s 200m headlines Thursday’s Diamond League meet, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA (2-4 p.m. ET) and NBC Sports Gold (1:10-4).

The last time Lyles and Norman went head-to-head was the 2016 Olympic Trials, where they finished fourth and fifth in the 200m, just missing the three-man Olympic team as recent high school graduates.

Since, Lyles has gone undefeated in outdoor 200m races, but he missed last year’s world championships due to injury. Lyles, who turned pro after trials, also won the U.S. 100m title two weeks ago in the fastest time in the world for 2018 (9.88, since matched by countryman Ronnie Baker).

Norman, meanwhile, broke the indoor 400m world record on March 10 (44.52) running for the University of Southern California. He followed that with the fastest outdoor 400m time in the world this year (43.61) at the NCAA Championships on June 8.

Lyles and Norman both entered the 200m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships two weeks ago, but Lyles chose not to race it while Norman withdrew before a final delayed three hours by a thunderstorm.

The Lyles-Norman show may become the premier act in track and field in the post-Bolt era. The sport’s other sprint names are either winding down their careers (Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix) or injured (Wayde van Niekerk and Christian Coleman).

Lausanne marks their first race together of this Olympic cycle and, hopefully, the first of many.

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

1:10 p.m. — Women’s Javelin
1:15 — Women’s Long Jump
1:20 — Men’s Shot Put
2:02 — Women’s 400m
2:12 — Women’s 200m
2:15 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:22 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
2:30 — Men’s High Jump
2:32 — Women’s 800m
2:42 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:52 — Women’s 100m
3:02 — Men’s 5000m
3:18 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
3:28 — Women’s 1500m
3:38 — Men’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 2:15 p.m. ET
The top six women in the world this year (indoors or outdoors) meet in a rematch of sorts of the Prefontaine Classic on May 26. Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champion, won at Pre, but then took third at USATF Outdoors behind Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte. Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece as well as New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney cleared season-best heights since Pre.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 2:22 pm. ET
Russian Sergey Shubenkov injected some life into this event on Monday by clocking 12.92 seconds, the second-fastest time in the world since Aries Merritt‘s world-record 19.80 on Sept. 7, 2012. Shubenkov, the 2015 World champion, will try to beat not only Merritt here, but also 2016 Olympic and 2017 World champion Omar McLeod. Plus Ronald Levy, who won Jamaican nationals in McLeod’s absence and then won at the last Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday. U.S. champion Devon Allen is also in this field.

Women’s 100m — 2:52 p.m. ET
U.S. and NCAA champion Aleia Hobbs tests herself against Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and the fastest women in the world this year in her senior international debut. Hobbs leads the world with seven sub-10 clockings in 2018, but Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire has the two fastest times (10.85 and 10.88). World and U.S. 200m champions Dafne Schippers and Jenna Prandini also line up here.

Women’s 1500m — 3:28 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya is always a must-see, but what she did Saturday was eye-popping even by her standards. The South African Olympic and world champion lowered her 800m personal best by .91 in Paris, clocking the fastest time in the world in 10 years. Semenya is undefeated at 800m since September 2015 and also perfect at 1500m this year, having clocked the then-fastest time in the world for the season at her last two outings in April and May. If Semenya is to do that again, she’ll have to beat world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba‘s 3:56.68 from June 8. Dibaba is unfortunately not in this field, but Semenya could have her hands full with U.S. champion Shelby Houlihan, Brit Laura Muir and Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, who lowered her personal best by nearly two seconds to win in Stockholm on June 10 in the world’s No. 2 time this year.

Men’s 200m — 3:38 p.m. ET
Lyles and Norman are each undefeated at 200m outdoors since the Olympic Trials, though Norman rarely raced it for USC. Each man has comfortably broken 20 seconds. They are the favorites here. But watch out for Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards, the world bronze medalist who had the fastest split in the 4x400m at worlds to help upset the U.S.

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