Christian Coleman

Joe Kovacs roars with world shot put title by one centimeter

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Before his final throw, U.S. shot putter Joe Kovacs found his coach in the crowd at the world championships Doha. That coach also happened to be his wife, Ashley, who in the last year helped convince Kovacs not to retire.

She reminded him of the goal going into the competition — set a personal best and get onto the podium. Kovacs went back to the circle, lifted the 16-pound ball and prepared to heave.

“I took a big breath,” he said. “But when I put that ball in the neck, I felt everything line up.”

Kovacs recorded that personal best. He moved from fourth place to first. He had launched the joint-fourth-best throw in history — 22.91 meters, or 75 feet, 2 inches — and the farthest in 29 years.

Kovacs, the 2015 World champion who earned silver at the Rio Olympics and 2017 World Championships, beat the reigning Olympic champion Ryan Crouser and reigning world champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand each by one centimeter. All threw farther than the previous world championships record in what was the greatest shot put competition in history.

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Kovacs, taught the shot put by his mom in a Pennsylvania school parking lot, re-emerged as the world’s best after a rough couple of years. In 2018, he was fifth at the USATF Outdoor Championships. He lost his Nike sponsorship. He wasn’t getting invited to Diamond League meets.

“I was hearing everybody kept trying to tell me that I should be done,” the 30-year-old said. “And I honestly thought maybe I should kind of hang it up.”

He spoke to his wife, a former thrower at Kentucky who has two master’s degrees and now coaches Kovacs and others at Ohio State. They wed last November.

“We said, you know, our goal is through Tokyo,” he said. “Let’s put it all together and let’s go full speed ahead.”

This season, Kovacs was sixth, third, fourth and fifth in Diamond Leagues before placing second at nationals. He was relieved simply to make the world championships team. Crouser, who on April 20 launched the world’s best throw since 1990, and Walsh were still a class above. It was still that way going into the final round on Saturday night. Then Kovacs launched the throw of his life and let out roar after roar before the distance was recorded.

“I’m just proud that I was able to stay in my own head and not watch Ryan and Tom throw so far and get tight,” he said.

In other events Saturday, the U.S. men ended a 12-year gold-medal drought in the 4x100m with an American record. The U.S. women earned bronze. More on the relays here.

Sifan Hassan, who fled from Ethiopia for the Netherlands at age 16 as a refugee, became the first runner to sweep the 10,000m and 1500m at a world championships.

Hassan led after each lap and ran away to win in 3:51.95, the sixth-fastest 1500m ever. She did it days after her coach, Alberto Salazar, was banned four years in a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case.

An emotional Hassan was vehement that she’s a clean athlete and believes in Salazar. Hassan noted that she was atop the world rankings in the 1500m as far back as 2014, two years before she joined Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project. She also said she knew Salazar was under investigation when she joined the group, but she never saw proof of wrongdoing.

“It was a very hard week for me. I was just so angry. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I just ran all out,” she said on the BBC. “I’ve been so good athlete since 2014. Now people just start talking all (expletive).”

Hassan relegated reigning Olympic and world champion and new mom Faith Kipyegon to silver in a Kenyan record and Gudaf Tsegay to bronze in a time that made her the second-fastest Ethiopian in history.

American Shelby Houlihan took a bittersweet fourth in 3:54.99, smashing Shannon Rowbury‘s American record by 1.3 seconds.

“I wanted a medal. I wanted to win,” Houlihan told Lewis Johnson on Olympic Channel. “But, if I can get an American record, you can kind of walk away happy with that.”

Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World champion and Olympic bronze medalist, was eighth in 3:58.42, her fastest time in three years.

Hellen Obiri repeated as world champion in the 5000m, where Hassan would have been the favorite had she entered. Obiri clocked 14:26.72, leading a Kenyan one-two with Margaret Kipkemboi.

Three Olympic champions were eliminated in qualifying for Sunday finals — Americans Brianna McNeal (100m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (by one centimeter in the long jump) and German Thomas Röhler (javelin).

Both U.S. 4x400m teams won heats to advance to Sunday finals.

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Doha.

MORE: Brianna McNeal DQed from 100m hurdles in first round

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U.S. men end 4x100m relay drought with first title in 12 years

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The U.S. men are global 4x100m champions for the first time in 12 years, coinciding with the program’s return to the top in sprinting after Usain Bolt‘s retirement.

Christian ColemanJustin GatlinMike Rodgers and Noah Lyles authored an American record 37.10 seconds — third-fastest time in history — to win the world title in Doha on Saturday night.

The U.S. men had botched handoffs, been disqualified or were flat out beaten by Jamaica or Great Britain at the last three Olympics and five world championships.

In Friday’s preliminary heat, they were third and nearly disqualified for a handoff between Rodgers and Cravon Gillespie on the edge of the zone.

But this final group, led off by the world 100m champion, anchored by the world 200m champion and filled with two veterans, left no doubt. The beat European record-breaking Great Britain by .26 of a second and Japan by .33. Jamaica, in its first worlds without Bolt, did not qualify for the final.

Gatlin, a 37-year-old likely in his last world championships, earned relay gold for the first time in nine attempts between the Olympics and worlds.

“This gold means so much to me, probably a lot more than a lot of the medals I’ve won individually,” he said.

The U.S. women took bronze behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Jamaica and a silver-medal British team anchored by Dina Asher-Smith. The Americans’ finish is indicative of their standing in the flat sprints with no individual Olympic gold-medal contenders.

The U.S. quartet Saturday — Dezerea Bryant, Teahna Daniels, Morolake Akinosun and Kiara Parker — included zero women who have earned an individual Olympic or world championships medal.

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Christian Coleman out of world championships 200m

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New world 100m champion Christian Coleman will not attempt the sprint double at the world championships after all, citing soreness after Saturday night’s final in pulling out of the 200m before first-round heats Sunday.

It ends hope of a potential showdown with rival Noah Lyles.

“After you run a PR, you just take your body to somewhere you haven’t been, I was just kind of feeling just a little sore,” Coleman said on NBC on Sunday after winning the 100m in 9.76 seconds. “We just thought it was best to not go out here and try and push my body.”

Coleman was not on the start list for the heats, which do include three Americans — the world No. 1 Lyles, Kenny Bednarek and Rodney Rowe.

It’s not a huge surprise given Coleman won the 100m title on Saturday night, making the 200m a quick turnaround. Lyles decided before the USATF Outdoor Championships in July to also stick to one individual event, the 200m, despite the fact he beat Coleman in a 100m in May.

Coleman ranks ninth in the world this year in the 200m, .41 slower than Lyles’ 2019 leading time of 19.50. Coleman took second to Lyles at USATF Outdoors, 19.78 to 20.02.

Coleman and Lyles are expected to be part of the U.S. 4x100m relay team later at worlds. Both are also expected to attempt the 100m-200m double at the Tokyo Olympics, where the schedule is more favorable to attempt it than at worlds.

A runner must finish in the top three in each individual event at the Olympic trials to make it possible.

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