David Oliver, perhaps the most consistent U.S. hurdler of the last decade, ends his track and field career with a unique, and shorter than expected, Olympic history.
Oliver, at 35, has retired, his agent, Daniel Wessfeldt, said by email Wednesday. Earlier, Oliver was announced as the director for the track and field program at his alma mater — Howard University.
From 2008 through 2016, Oliver finished in the top four in the annual world rankings in the 110m hurdles eight of nine years.
However, Oliver made just one Olympic team — in 2008, winning a bronze medal — and failed to qualify in 2012 and 2016 despite going into the Trials as a perceived favorite to finish top three.
Start with those Beijing Games. Unlike 2012 and 2016, Oliver went into 2008 with little fanfare. He had ranked sixth in the U.S. in the 110m hurdles in 2007 (though he made the world team, bowing out in the semifinals).
Oliver, who hurdles and played wide receiver at Howard, lowered his personal best from 13.14 to 12.95 in 2008. He went into the Olympics as the only man other than Cuban world-record holder Dayron Robles to break 13 seconds that year.
Oliver delivered in Rio, joining Robles and countryman David Payne on the podium. Oliver was aged for an Olympic rookie, at 26, but continued to improve in the following years as he developed a rivalry with Robles and 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang of China.
The muscle-bound Oliver’s battles with injuries began in 2009, when a calf kept him out of the U.S. Championships and worlds. Oliver rebounded in 2010, tying and then lowering the American record by .01 in back-to-back meets and posting the five fastest times that year.
Oliver again clocked the fastest time in the world in 2011, but it came in early June. He was fourth at worlds in late August. Injuries crept up again.
It was another troublesome calf that slowed Oliver to fifth place at the 2012 Olympic Trials — where he entered as the joint-second-fastest man in the U.S. that year but nowhere near his times from the previous seasons.
He came back in 2013 to win a world title in Moscow and break 13 seconds again in 2015, ranking No. 3 in the world for the year.
Oliver looked prime to return to the Olympics in 2016, ranking No. 2 in the world going into the Olympic Trials. But he pulled up after crossing the finish line in his semifinal with a hamstring injury and scratched out of the final later that day.
He returned this year but was significantly slower, failing to break 13.40 in six races, according to Tilastopaja.org. His last outing was a fifth-place finish at the USATF Outdoor Championships.
Canadian Andre De Grasse, who won a medal of every color in Rio, headlines a Diamond League meet in Rome, live on Thursday starting at 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and 2 p.m. on NBCSN.
Rome, the site of Usain Bolt‘s last individual defeat in 2013, is the first of three Diamond League meets in an 11-day span.
NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold will also air live coverage of Oslo (June 15) and Stockholm (June 18), the last two meets before the U.S. Championships. Nationals serve as the qualifying meet for the world championships in London in August.
Rio Olympic medalists prepping for nationals in Rome include shot putter Michelle Carter and pole vaulter Sandi Morris.
The meet is deeper with international stars like 1500m world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, world 200m champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands and of course De Grasse.
Every Rio Olympic medalist is here — gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, Morris and bronze medalist Eliza McCartney of New Zealand.
Little separates the trio this year. Stefanidi cleared 4.85 meters indoors, best in the world this year. Morris has cleared 4.84 meters outdoors, best in the world this year. McCartney has cleared 4.82 meters outdoors. The only woman to rival the trio in top clearances this year is 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr, who is not in Rome.
Men’s javelin — 2:35 p.m. ET
Perhaps the deepest field of the meet. It includes the top four from the Rio Olympics, plus two more men who have earned world championships medals.
The headliner is German Olympic champion Thomas Rohler, who on May 5 moved up to No. 2 on the all-time list behind Czech legend Jan Zelezny. Rohler threw 93.90 meters, but he’s still 15 feet shy of Zelezny’s world record from 1996.
Men’s 110m hurdles — 3:05 p.m. ET
Aries Merritt and David Oliver, the top two U.S. hurdlers over the last decade, go head-to-head here in a teaser for the U.S. Championships in two weeks. With Rio Olympic champion Omar McLeod not in the field, it’s wide open.
Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder, has the fastest time this season of those in Rome. The recipient of a 2015 kidney transplant eyes his first Diamond League victory in four years.
Rio silver medalist Orlando Ortega of Spain and 2015 World champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia are also entered.
Men’s 200m — 3:30 p.m. ET
The 200m is in a transition year now that both Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin have said they don’t plan to race the half-lap event anymore.
While new names have popped up in the 200m this season — Wayde van Niekerk, Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman — the Rome entries represent the old guard in the event.
There are Rio Olympic silver and bronze medalists Andre De Grasse and Christophe Lemaitre. There is Panamanian Alonso Edward, the Diamond League season champion the last three years. And U.S. Olympian Ameer Webb.
De Grasse has struggled in the 100m this season, but this is a prime opportunity to notch his first Diamond League win of 2017.
Women’s 5000m — 3:40 p.m. ET
Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba and Kenyan Hellen Obiri, two of the six fastest women all-time in this event, go head-to-head for the first time.
Dibaba, best known for her 1500m prowess (world record, 2015 World title), is also the indoor 5000m world-record holder. She won the Pre Classic 5000m in 14:25.22 on May 26.
Obiri is the only woman to run faster this year, winning in 14:22.47 in Shanghai on May 13. Obiri, raised a 1500m runner, took 5000m silver in Rio in a personal-best time after a year off to have a baby. Obiri was added to the Rome field as Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana withdrew last month due to a physical problem.
An incredible day of on-the-track performances at the World Championships on Friday included:
Aries Merritt, an Olympic champion and world-record holder, earned bronze in the 110m hurdles while running with kidney function at less than 20 percent and four days before getting a kidney transplant from his sister. “The bigger message is don’t give up,” Merritt told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “Just keep fighting. You can persevere through anything if you put your mind to it.”
Ashton Eaton, also an Olympic champion and world-record holder, ran the fastest 400m ever in a decathlon to lead after the first of two days nearly at his world-record pace. Eaton hasn’t completed a decathlon in more than two years.
The Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers won the 200m in 21.63 seconds to become the third fastest woman ever in the event.
U.S.-born women came into Worlds with 25 of the 26 fastest times in the world this year in the 100m hurdles. They won zero medals in the 100m hurdles final.
American Tianna Bartoletta won the long jump World title, 10 years after her previous gold medal in the event.
“This bronze medal is going to shine brighter than my gold,” Merritt told media in Beijing. “It’s very hard to run [three] rounds with my current state of health.”
“If I can pull it off, it would be nothing but a blessing,” Merritt told Johnson on Universal Sports. “Special things happen in the Olympic Games, so if I make it, you never know what will happen.”
Bartoletta and Merritt won the U.S.’ two medals Friday, giving it 14 overall with four golds. Kenya has more golds (six) and is second in overall medals with 11, with two days left. U.S. track and field has won at least 22 medals at each of the last eight Olympics or World Championships.
Schippers won the 200m in 21.63. The world record is held by Florence Griffith-Joyner (21.34). Second all time is MarionJones* (21.62). Schippers outleaned Jamaican Elaine Thompson (21.66) for gold.
Another Jamaican, two-time Olympic 200m champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown took bronze in 21.97 for her 17th career Olympic or Worlds medal.
“I think I’ll not sleep for the next night,” Schippers, the 2013 Worlds heptathlon bronze medalist who won 100m silver Monday and had a 200m personal best of 22.03 before the final, said on the BBC.
Schippers chose to focus on the sprints over the heptathlon earlier this year and said she doesn’t think she’ll compete in a heptathlon again.
“Now I’m a sprinter, I’m sure,” Schippers said on BBC Radio.
Olympic champion Allyson Felix did not contest the 200m at Worlds but said she will do it at the Rio Olympics, should she make the team at the Olympic trials (top three). Felix’s personal best in the 200m is 21.69.
Eaton leads the decathlon after five of 10 events after running the fastest decathlon 400m of all time, a 45.00, and screaming after he crossed the finish line. Eaton’s time would have qualified for the Olympic 400m final as recently as 2004.
“I thought the clock was off by a second, I swear,” Eaton, who took 2014 off from the decathlon to run the 400m hurdles, told media in Beijing. “They should go back and check it.”
That moved Eaton to 4,703 points and a 173-point lead over Canadian Damian Warner. Eaton is 25 points shy of his world-record pace from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
“I’m just happy to be doing a decathlon, honestly. It’s been so long,” Eaton told Johnson on Universal Sports. “If the world record’s there, I’ll go for it, but I just want to win.”
Another U.S. medal hopeful, Olympic decathlon silver medalist Trey Hardee, dropped out of the decathlon with a lower back injury suffered during the long jump.
“I’m devastated to have to withdraw from the competition,” Hardee said, according to USA Track and Field. “I tried everything to try to make it through but it just wasn’t mean to be.”
The U.S. had a chance to sweep the top four in the 100m hurdles, but two of its quartet were eliminated in the semifinals, 2013 World champion Brianna Rollins was fourth and Sharika Nelvis, the fastest woman in the world this year at 12.34, was last place in 13.06.
Jamaica’s Danielle Williams won in a personal-best 12.57, followed by Germany’s Cindy Roleder (12.59), Belarus’ Alina Talay (12.66). Rollins missed bronze by .01.
The top two from the U.S. Championships — two-time Olympic medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson and NCAA champion Keni Harrison — were eliminated in the semifinals.
Harper-Nelson crashed after hitting the second hurdle with her trail leg. Harrison false started out of the next heat.
“Caught me and took me down,” Harper-Nelson said on Eurosport. “I feel like, before I realized it, I was going to the ground.”
In the 110m hurdles, Merritt took bronze in 13.04 behind Russian Sergey Shubenkov (12.98) and Jamaican Hansle Parchment (13.03). The 2013 World champion David Oliver was seventh after knocking down the first hurdle.
Bartoletta captured the long jump title after countrywoman Brittney Reese, the 2009, 2011 and 2013 World champion and 2012 Olympic champion, failed to make the final.
In the men’s 1500m, all three Americans advanced to Sunday’s final — Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, two-time Worlds medalist Matthew Centrowitz and Robby Andrews. The field also includes Algerian Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi and Kenyan two-time defending World champion Asbel Kiprop.