Shelby Houlihan, Mondo Duplantis
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Track and field breakout stars dot Diamond League finals; TV, stream info

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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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Christian Coleman edges Ronnie Baker, Noah Lyles in Rabat 100m

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Who is currently the world’s fastest man? Christian Coleman staked another claim Friday, but just barely.

Coleman won a Diamond League 100m in Rabat in 9.98 seconds, edging countrymen Ronnie Baker by .006 and Noah Lyles by .01 into a slight headwind. The field included the world’s four fastest men since the Rio Olympics — Coleman, Baker, Lyles and Mike Rodgers (fourth in 10.01).

Nobody has been faster since Rio than Coleman’s 9.82 last year. At 2017 Worlds, he finished between Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt. Then last winter, he ran faster than the 60m world record three times.

But Coleman was beaten by Baker at consecutive May meets before taking all of June off from competition with a hamstring injury. Rabat marked his first race in 44 days.

“This is a relief, finally getting a win under my belt,” Coleman said. “I look at this as kind of my re-season opening. It’s the first time I came into a meet with full confidence in my leg.”

Lyles, the U.S. 100m champion in Coleman’s absence, nearly came from behind to steal the win. It’s no surprise as Lyles is known for his 200m prowess. He would have won a 105-meter race on Thursday.

Full Rabat results are here.

Christian Coleman

In other events, Olympic and world 800m champion Caster Semenya ran the fastest women’s 1000m in nearly 16 years, clocking 2:31.01 in the non-Olympic event.

World champion Mariya Lasitskene‘s 45-meet high-jump win streak ended as she finished third behind Bulgarian Mirela Demireva. Lasitskene’s last loss had been on June 23, 2016, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Kenyan Hellen Obiri beat a strong 5000m field in 14:21.75. Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan broke the European record for second place in 14:22.34, while U.S. Olympian Molly Huddle was 10th, one minute behind Obiri.

Olympic gold medalist Brianna McNeal won the 100m hurdles in 12.51, leading a U.S. sweep of the top four with Sharika Nelvis (12.58), Christina Manning (12.72) and Dawn Harper-Nelson (12.86). McNeal has the fastest time this year of 12.38. World-record holder Kendra Harrison was not in the field.

U.S. Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz faded to 10th in a 1500m won by Moroccan Brahim Kaazouzi in 3:33.22. Centrowitz clocked 3:35.17, the fastest time by an American this year by .88 of a second.

Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas won the 200m in 22.29 seconds, overtaking Brit Dina Asher-Smith. U.S. champion Jenna Prandini was third in 22.60, one tenth ahead of rising Harvard senior Gabby Thomas, who won the Lausanne Diamond League 200m on July 5. Nigerian Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor holds the fastest time in the world this year of 22.04.

Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha won the 3000m by 1.33 seconds in 7:32.93, eight days after he was disqualified from a 5000m for nearly pulling another runner down by his shorts in Lausanne. American Paul Chelimo, the Olympic 5000m silver medalist, was fourth.

World champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S. won the pole vault with a 5.86-meter clearance. Rival and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie was shockingly eighth with three fails at 5.60 meters.

The Diamond League moves to Monaco next Friday, with love coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold.

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Cuban nearly long jumps out of sand pit with best mark in 23 years (video)

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Cuban 19-year-old Juan Miguel Echevarria unleashed the farthest long jump under any conditions in 23 years, leaping 8.83 meters (29 feet, 11 1/2 inches) at a Diamond League meet in Stockholm on Saturday.

It would have been the fifth-best jump of all time (Mike Powell‘s world record from 1991 is 8.95) if not for too much tailwind. Echevarria jumped with 2.1 meters/second wind in his favor. The maximum allowable tailwind for record purposes is 2.0 meter/second.

Echevarria must settle for having the farthest jump under any conditions since countryman Ivan Pedroso‘s controversial 8.96-meter jump at altitude in the Italian Alps in 1995 that would have been a world record. Italian media quickly questioned Pedroso’s jump, reporting a man standing in front of the wind gauge on the Cuban’s attempts.

There were 60 long jumps and triple jumps at that meet, and 56 exceeded the maximum allowable wind for record purposes. Three of the four legal jumps were Pedroso’s, including the “record” jump at 1.2 meters per second, according to 1995 reports.

Italy’s track and field federation didn’t even bother submitting the jump to the sport’s international governing body for world record ratification, given the circumstances.

STOCKHOLM: Full meet results

Back to Echevarria. He won the world indoor title on March 2 and on Sunday beat both Olympic champion Jeff Henderson from the U.S. and world outdoor champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa.

The Diamond League takes a 20-day break before the next meet in Paris. The USATF Outdoor Championships are next for top Americans from June 21-24.

In other events Sunday, Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna McNeal clocked the fastest time since July 4, winning in 12.38 seconds. The field did not include world-record holder Kendra Harrison or world champion Sally Pearson of Australia.

Armand Duplantis, the recent Lafayette (La.) high school graduate who pole vaults for Sweden, beat world champion Sam Kendricks for the first time in seven head-to-heads. Duplantis cleared 5.86 meters, while Kendricks came in second at 5.81. World-record holder and 2012 Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie holds the best clearance in the world this year of 5.95, but the Frenchman wasn’t in Sunday’s field.

Jamaican Fedrick Dacres won a discus that included the top five men in the world this year. Dacres threw 69.67 meters, the world’s farthest mark since last June 29.

Bahamian Steven Gardiner, who ranks No. 2 in the 400m and No. 3 in the 200m this year, stumbled coming around the turn of the 200m and stopped, taking off his left shoe while being attended to. World champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey won in 19.92 seconds, shy of the 2018 world lead of 19.69 shared by South African Clarence Munyai and American Noah Lyles.

In the 1500m, American Jenny Simpson aimed for her first Diamond League win in three years, but nobody could hang with Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, who clocked a meet record 3:57.64 and won by .89 of a second over Brit Laura Muir. Simpson was fourth.

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