Bohdan Bondarenko

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, LaShawn Merritt struggle in Shanghai; Diamond League recap

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and LaShawn Merritt continued early season struggles relative to their top rivals in a Diamond League meet in Shanghai on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, the Olympic and World 100m champion, finished fifth in the 100m in 11.25 seconds (full meet results here).

That’s her slowest 100m time in a Diamond League final since before the London 2012 Olympics. She’s finished fifth, sixth, second and eighth in her last four Diamond League 100m races, including three from an injury-plagued 2014.

Fraser-Pryce, 28, bettered 11 seconds in all six of her Diamond League 100m races in 2013, when she won the World Championship in 10.71 into a headwind, but hasn’t broken 11 since 2013.

“It is a good start,” Fraser-Pryce said of Sunday’s 11.25, according to the IAAF. “I didn’t have any time in my hand and no expectations.”

Fraser-Pryce has said she might not try to defend her World title in the 200m, which could open the door wider for Olympic champion Allyson Felix to regain that title. Though Felix has said she might run the 400m at Worlds instead of the 200m.

In Shanghai, Nigerian Blessing Okagbare won the 100m in 10.98, ahead of American Tori Bowie (11.07), Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye (11.13), Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown (11.22) and Fraser-Pryce. Bowie was the fastest woman in the world last year at 10.80.

In the 400m, Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada easily outdueled World champion LaShawn Merritt for the second time this year. James clocked 44.66, followed by World silver medalist Tony McQuay (45.54) and Merritt (45.58).

“I am a little bit behind in training,” Merritt said, according to the IAAF. “I have still some work to do.”

Merritt was well off his 2014 Diamond League season-opening time of 44.44.

In the 110m hurdles, World champion David Oliver prevailed in 13.17, ahead of Cuban Orlando Ortega (13.19) and Olympic champion Aries Merritt (13.25).

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim won the high jump without taking a crack at the 2.45m world record, which he tried so often last year. Barshim cleared 2.38m, enough to top Ukrainian rival Bohdan Bondarenko, who missed two attempts at 2.38m and one at 2.41m.

Panama’s Alonso Edward took the 200m in 20.33 seconds. The race did not include any of the 2012 Olympic or 2013 World Championships medalists, nor the fastest man from 2014, Justin Gatlin.

Ethiopian World bronze medalist Almaz Ayana became the third-fastest woman all time in the 5000m by clocking 14:14.32.

The Diamond League next moves to Eugene, Ore., for the Pre Classic in two weeks. NBCSN will have coverage on May 30 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET, followed by NBC from 4:30-6.

Blind pole vaulter Charlotte Brown finishes third at state meet

Ato Boldon’s track and field season awards

Justin Gatlin
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The track and field season is just about wrapped up. The non-global championship year provided plenty of highlights, even if few of them included Usain Bolt, who ran a total of 400m in competition this year.

Here are NBC Olympics track and field analyst Ato Boldon‘s awards for the 2014 season:

Male Athlete: Justin Gatlin (Undefeated in the 100m and 200m with world-leading times of 9.77 and 19.68)

Ato’s Take: A no-brainer. He’s still a very controversial figure for obvious reasons, but this was one of the best sprint seasons ever. When you get Usain Bolt to admit he wouldn’t have beaten him this year, that means a lot. If Gatlin didn’t have the 200m season that he had, I would have given the edge to Mutaz Barshim, simply because he became the No. 2 high jumper ever behind Javier Sotomayor. Statistically, Barshim had better marks than Gatlin, but Gatlin gets the edge for being undefeated in two events.

Female Athlete: Valerie Adams (Undefeated in the shot put, 56 straight competitions without a loss)

Ato’s Take: She started to make it look a little ridiculous this year. Not only is she winning, but nobody is really close. She might be the most dominant athlete in any track and field event for the last couple years. I also like Sandra Perkovic (Croatian who won six of seven Diamond League discus competitions) and Jenny Simpson (Diamond League 1500m champion). Simpson is so much better now than when she won the World title in 2011.

Jenny Simpson on Olympic embarrassment, meeting Mary Slaney

Men’s Event: High jump (five men cleared 2.40m, with Qatar’s Barshim and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko taking several attempts at breaking the 21-year-old world record of 2.45m)

Ato’s Take: No question here, and I don’t even know what second place would be. This really started last year at the World Championships (won by Bondarenko at a championship-record height, followed by three world record attempts). It’s very rare that an event is able to sustain that momentum to another year. We’ve had good 100m, 200m seasons that dovetail a little bit into the season that follows. I don’t see any reason, especially with their ages, why they’re not going to keep this going (Barshim is 23, Bondarenko 25).

So infrequently in my career did everything stop for a field event. That was the case a lot this season. These guys rewrote the all-time top 10, they beat up on each other every week, and we were the better for it because they were jumping heights we haven’t seen in quite some time.

Photos: #ThingsBarshimCouldJumpOver

Women’s Event: 3000m Steeplechase

Ato’s Take: When I ran, the U.S. just did not factor in this race, but Emma Coburn was the third-fastest woman in the world this year. The season’s over with just two Ethiopians in front of her, and she’s younger than them (23). For the U.S., gone are the days where the medals come just from the sprints and relays. This year has indicated where there are some medals available in events that the U.S. hasn’t previously medaled in.

Men’s Singular Performance: Mutaz Barshim jumping 2.43m in Brussels

Ato’s Take: To become the second-highest jumper of all time. Gatlin’s 19.68 (200m in Monaco) because of the other people in that race (Nickel Ashmeade, Christophe Lemaitre, Tyson Gay, Curtis Mitchell) and because of the margin of victory (.31) is honorable mention, as well as Renaud Lavillenie‘s world record in the pole vault (in the indoor season).

Women’s Singular Performance: Tori Bowie’s 10.80 in Monaco

Ato’s Take: Also, Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk breaking the world record in the hammer throw (the only women’s Olympic event world record broken this year).

Men’s Surprise: Justin Gatlin’s 200m running (19.68 in July; 19.71 in September)

Ato’s Take: He had never broken 19.80 before this year, despite the fact he won Olympic and World Championships medals in the event. What also bears mentioning is the 110m hurdles. Of the 10 fastest times this year, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde had five of them. Nobody could have predicted that at the beginning of the year. And the U.S. only had one of the top 10 in Ronnie Ash.

Brussels Diamond League replay: Sunday, 2-3 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra

Women’s Surprise: Tori Bowie

Ato’s Take: Nobody knew who she was in 2013. This year she’s ending the season with the fastest time in the world in the 100m, and, for most of the season, she had the fastest time in the 200m. If she’s healthy (Bowie pulled up in her last race Aug. 24 with a leg injury), she makes the next three global championship teams and is winning medals.

Looking Forward to in 2015: The return of the Jamaicans to face Gatlin

Ato’s Take: I think Bolt’s people have figured out something. It doesn’t matter what they do from now up until the day of the 100m final in Rio. The reality is that Bolt could potentially lose Worlds next year, and I don’t think that’s going to damage his legacy. His legacy is an Olympic legacy. One thing I expect to see from Bolt is he’s going to run more 200s, and he’s already talked about it (wanting to break his 19.19 world record). The 100m is harder for him as he ages.

Also, Sanya Richards-Ross versus the world in the 400m, because she appears to be fully back (from the post-Olympic toe injury). And Christian Taylor versus Will Claye in the triple jump.

Don’t Forget AboutAshton Eaton coming back after a 400m hurdles season

Ato’s Take: He and I had a conversation about running the 400m hurdles last year, and he was really trying what many people think is one of the hardest events in track and field. He got all the way down to 48.69 seconds and ended up beating some guys who specialize in it (like the Olympic gold and silver medalists in Glasgow). A lot of people may scoff at the whole notion of the world’s greatest athlete, but in his case it’s not up for debate.

Yelena Isinbayeva set to return to pole vault training, report says

Justin Gatlin runs fastest 100m of 2014 in Ostrava

Justin Gatlin
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Justin Gatlin continued his unbeaten season by winning a 100m in a world-leading 9.86 seconds (video here) in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Tuesday.

Gatlin, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and World silver medalist, bettered his previous season’s best of 9.87. Gatlin was put into the Ostrava field after Usain Bolt pulled out of the meet two weeks ago due to a lack of training after an early season foot injury. Bolt hasn’t raced since he went head to head with a bus in Buenos Aires on Dec. 14 and appears to be out into July, if not later.

Gatlin owns the four fastest 100m times in the world this season going into next week’s U.S. Championships. He may get his toughest test against Tyson Gay on July 3 in Lausanne, Switzerland, in Gay’s return from a doping suspension.

Also in Ostrava, Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton clocked a personal best 48.94 in the 400m hurdles (video here), a non-decathlon event. Eaton, who finished third, is focusing on the 400m hurdles this season, taking a break from the decathlon in a year without an Olympics or World Championships.

Eaton ranks No. 9 in the world in the event this year and third among Americans, behind only Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley and 2005 World champion Bershawn Jackson.

Allyson Felix held on to win a 200m in 22.75 by .04. Felix, coming back from a torn hamstring at the World Championships on Aug. 16, ran 22.44 on May 31 and 22.73 last Wednesday. The world leader is fellow American Tori Bowie, who has posted 22.18.

“Getting there, you know, gradually,” said Felix, who is putting more emphasis on the 400m this season. “I’m just trying to keep making steps.”

LaShawn Merritt won a 400m in 44.16 (video here). Merritt, the 2008 Olympic champion and reigning World champion, owns four of the five fastest times this season.

Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, who made attempts at the high jump world record in New York on Saturday, wasn’t near the 20-year-old mark of 2.45m in Ostrava. He cleared 2.33m for the win but failed at three attempts at 2.40m.

Olympic pole vault champ Renaud Lavillenie of France cleared 5.83m for a victory.

Hansle Parchment won the 110m hurdles in 13.18, one tenth better than the fastest man this year, France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde. Beijing Olympic champ Dayron Robles was seventh in 13.76.

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