Abderrahman Samba runs second-fastest 400m hurdles ever (video)

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Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba clocked the second-fastest 400m hurdles ever, headlining the Paris Diamond League on Saturday.

Samba, 22, won in 46.98 seconds, becoming the second man to break 47 after Kevin Young, whose world record the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is 46.78.

Samba debuted in the 400m hurdles last year and was seventh at the world championships. This year, he has lowered his personal best from 48.31 and gone undefeated.

“I told it even before — I want to become the fastest man in the world, and I work hard to achieve it,” Samba said, according to the IAAF. “It definitely did not feel like under-47 race today. I made a small mistake at the start, lost my balance on the first hurdle, so I did not expect to run so fast. But it feels great to be the second-fastest man in the history. The world record is getting close, but I just want to improve step by step and to run fast. I improved my technique since last year, and who knows, maybe I can be one second faster next year. I am speechless now.”

Samba’s time came two weeks after Rai Benjamin clocked 47.02 at the NCAA Championships, then matching Edwin Moses for No. 2 in history. Benjamin also competed in Paris, but in the 200m, taking second to USC teammate Michael Norman in his Diamond League debut.

Norman, who on March 10 broke the indoor 400m world record, won Saturday’s 200m in 19.84 into a .6 meter/second headwind, breaking 20 for the first time. Benjamin also broke 20 for the first time, clocking 19.99.

The Diamond League moves to Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday with live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at NBC Sports Gold.

MORE: Full Paris Diamond League Results

Caster Semenya ran the fourth-fastest women’s 800m ever, stepping on the gas like never before to clock 1:54.25, a personal best by .91. Only Olympic and world silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba was within a half-second of Semenya after one lap, and the only runner within 1.83 seconds of her at the finish.

Semenya, undefeated at 800m since September 2015, may be chasing the world record of 1:53.28 before a proposed IAAF rule limiting testosterone levels in female middle-distance runners would go into effect after this season. Semenya is challenging the rule to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I am not a very emotional person, and I was always about chasing records,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF. “This season is about trying good things, new challenges and to see what you are capable of.”

American Ronnie Baker won the 100m in a personal-best 9.88, matching U.S. champion Noah Lyles‘ fastest time in the world this year. None of Lyles, world champion Justin Gatlin and world silver medalist Christian Coleman were in Saturday’s race.

World silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain routed the 400m in an Asian record 49.55, beating a field that included world champion Phyllis Francis, world indoor champion Courtney Okolo and U.S. champion Shakima Wimbley. Wimbley and Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo share the fastest time of 2018 of 49.52.

In the women’s 3000m steeplechase, Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech recorded the fifth-fastest time ever in 8:59.36. Chepkoech was fourth at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet of Bahrain has the two fastest times ever, including the world-record 8:52.78, but the Rio Olympic champion has not competed since January due to a reported doping issue.

Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who went one-two at 2017 Worlds ahead while Chepkoech and Jebet missed the medals, were not in the Paris field.

World silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya clocked the world’s fastest 1500m since last July — 3:29.71. Neither Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz nor world champion Elijah Manangoi was in Saturday’s race.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov, the world’s fastest in the 110m hurdles this year (12.99), false started out of Saturday’s final. Jamaican Ronald Levy won in 13.18 in a race that lacked countryman and Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod.

Russian Mariya Lasitskene extended her high-jump win streak to 45 meets dating to 2016, according to Tilastopaja.org. The world champion cleared 2.04 meters, while three others combined to miss nine attempts at 2 meters, including Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium. Lasitskene then missed on three attempts at 2.08, one centimeter shy of the 30-year-old world record.

World champion Sam Kendricks cleared 6.01 meters to win the pole vault over recent Louisiana high school graduate Armand Duplantis of Sweden. Kendricks then failed at three attempts a would-be American record 6.05.

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Win streaks face Paris tests; Diamond League preview, stream schedule

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Two of the longest winning streaks in track and field could be tested at the Paris Diamond League, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold on Saturday.

World champions Caster Semenya (800m) and Mariya Lasitskene (high jump) are each undefeated for more than two years. Each faces some of her toughest competition in that span (toughest, in Semenya’s case) on Saturday.

Coverage streams on NBC Sports Gold starting at 12:40 p.m. ET. Olympic Channel broadcast coverage begins at 2.

Elsewhere, two NCAA champions and potential Olympic stars, Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, collide in the 200m in Diamond League debuts.

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

12:40 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:50 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:32 — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:10 — Women’s High Jump
2:12 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:26 — Men’s Discus
2:30 — Men’s 200m
2:39 — Men’s 1500m
2:53 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:03 — Women’s 400m
3:10 — Men’s 800m
3:33 — Women’s 200m
3:42 — Women’s 800m
3:52 — Men’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Triple Jump — 12:50 p.m. ET
Caterine Ibargüen
, Yulimar Rojas and Olga Rypakova, who swept the 2016 Olympic and 2017 World medals, meet for the first time this year. But the top-ranked jumper in 2018 is Tori Franklin, who broke the American record on May 12. While Christian Taylor and Will Claye have dominated men’s triple jumping the last several years, a U.S. woman has never won a Diamond League meet.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 2:03 p.m. ET
Three men with sub-47.5 personal bests are in the same race for the first time since the 2012 Olympic final (Felix Sanchez, Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement). This time it’s Rio gold medalist Clement (47.24), countryman Bershawn Jackson (47.30) and Qatari upstart Abderrahman Samba (47.41). A fourth sub-47.5 man will be at Stade Sébastien Charléty, but Rai Benjamin (47.02 at NCAA Championships) is racing the 200m.

Women’s High Jump — 2:10 p.m. ET
The top six jumpers this season gather, led by Russian Mariya Lasitskene, who has won more than 40 straight meets dating to 2016. She’ll be challenged by her usual rivals but also Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium. In Rio, Thiam’s clearance in the heptathlon would have won the high jump gold medal. Thiam ranks second in the world behind Lasitskene this season, with Paris marking their first head-to-head since September.

Men’s 200m — 2:30 p.m. ET
An intriguing faceoff between Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin, teammates at the University of Southern California better known in one-lap races. Norman finished fifth in the Olympic Trials 200m as an 18-year-old, but this year he broke the indoor 400m world record on March 10 (44.52) and clocked the fastest 400m time of the year on June 8 (43.61). Also at NCAAs on June 8, Benjamin tied Edwin Moses with the second-fastest 400m hurdles time ever, lowering his personal best from 47.98 to 47.02. Benjamin represents Antigua and Barbuda but is trying to switch to the U.S., a process held up by the IAAF’s current freeze on nation transfers.

Women’s 800m — 3:42 p.m. ET
The six fastest active women line up in the strongest track event of the meet. South African Caster Semenya has the longest winning streak (by days) on the track, having not lost an 800m since 2015. Semenya’s focus this summer is somewhat diverted to appealing the IAAF’s proposed rule change to limit testosterone levels in female middle-distance runners. That change would go into effect for next season and is expected to affect Semenya. This field also includes Olympic silver and bronze medalists Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, plus world bronze medalist and American record holder Ajeé Wilson.

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Jenny Simpson’s opportunity in Stockholm; TV, stream schedule

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Jenny Simpson has 2016 Olympic bronze and 2017 World silver, but it’s been three years since she won a Diamond League race. Opportunity knocks in a familiar place on Sunday, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Simpson headlines a 1500m field in Stockholm that includes Olympic teammate Brenda Martinez and Brit Laura Muir.

NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET and continues with NBCSN’s broadcast coverage at 10, capped by the women’s 1500m at 11:51 a.m.

Simpson knows Stockholm well. She won her first post-collegiate international race there in 2009, when she was a steeplechaser known as Jenny Barringer (though her Stockholm win was in the 5000m).

Then in 2014, Simpson won a Diamond League 1500m in Stockholm, beating a field including the world’s top runners — Genzebe DibabaAbeba Aregawi and Sifan Hassan, en route to the season title.

After ceding to U.S. Olympic 5000m runner Shelby Houlihan in the final 100 meters at the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago, Simpson can reassert her 1500m prowess on Sunday.

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

7:25 a.m. ET — Women’s Pole Vault
9 — Women’s High Jump
9:20 — Men’s Long Jump
9:38 — Men’s Pole Vault
9:49 — Men’s 100m
10:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
10:11 — Women’s 800m
10:20 — Women’s 100m
10:30 — Men’s 800m
10:35 — Men’s Discus
10:40 — Men’s 5000m
10:45 — Women’s Long Jump
11 — Women’s 400m
11:15 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
11:30 — Men’s 1000m
11:40 — Men’s 200m
11:51 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Long Jump — 9:20 a.m. ET
Olympic champion versus world champion. South African Luvo Manyonga has won all five head-to-heads with American Jeff Henderson since Henderson edged him by one centimeter for gold in Rio, according to Tilastopaja.org. In fact, Manyonga has lost just once since Rio, indoors or outdoors, and has the two farthest jumps in the world this year. Henderson ranks No. 3 in the world this year, recording his best leap since 2015.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — 10:03 a.m. ET
The revelation in track and field so far this outdoor season has been Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba. The 22-year-old debuted in the 400m hurdles last year and is now ranked 14th all-time in the event, having clocked the fastest time in the world since 2010 (and backing it up with the next-two fastest times for the year). Here, Samba and world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway go head-to-head for the third time in 11 days. Samba relegated Warholm to second place in the previous races.

Men’s Discus — 10:35 a.m. ET
Deepest field of the meet? The top four finishers from 2017 Worlds and the top five men in the world this year. Lithuanian Andrius Gudzius, the world champion, has four of the top five throws of 2018. But Jamaican Fedrick Dacres beat him at the Rome Diamond League meet. Such is the state of Jamaican athletics that the nation has two of the top six discus throwers in the world this year versus one of the top 20 sprinters in the 100m and 200m combined.

Men’s 200m — 11:40 a.m. ET
The 200m was once dominated by the U.S. and Jamaica, which combined to win every Olympic medal in the event between 2004 and 2012 and 19 of the 24 world championships medals between 2001 and 2015. Times have changed. Eight men from eight different countries across four continents have broken 20 seconds so far this year. Three of them meet here, headlined by surprise world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey and Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, both chasing the world lead of 19.69 seconds shared by South African Clarence Munyai and American Noah Lyles.

Women’s 1500m — 11:51 a.m. ET
Simpson not only eyes her first Diamond League win in three years, but also her first track victory over a field including Muir since 2015. The 25-year-old Brit has emerged the last few seasons as a force in one of the sport’s deepest events. Muir was fourth at the 2017 Worlds, second at 2018 World Indoors (Simpson wasn’t in the field) and passed Simpson in the final strides for second behind Houlihan at the Pre Classic two weeks ago. Muir has been faster than Simpson in five of their last six meetings on the track.

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