Jenny Simpson

Andre De Grasse storms to first Diamond League win in two years

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If Andre De Grasse is to make another Olympic podium push, this summer would be a good time to start surging. The triple Rio Olympic medalist earned his first Diamond League win in two years in Rabat on Sunday.

De Grasse, who suffered season-ending right hamstring injuries the last two summers, won a 200m over world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey in 20.19 seconds. It marked De Grasse’s fastest 200m since this meet in 2017, his last individual race before the first of the hamstring problems.

“I am very grateful with the victory but not happy with the time,” De Grasse said, according to meet organizers. “I want to achieve sub-20 seconds.”

De Grasse, the Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, must get faster before this fall’s world championships in Doha.

The world’s swiftest 200m men this year are comfortably sub-20 performers — Americans Michael Norman (19.70, though not expected to race the 200m at worlds) and Noah Lyles (19.72) and Nigerian Divine Oduduru (19.73). None of them were in Rabat. De Grasse’s personal best is 19.80 from Rio.

“It is a long process,” De Grasse said. “I am not fully healthy, I still have a lot of work to do to be really back in shape. I want to be back where I was two years ago.”

Full Rabat results are here. The Diamond League next stops in Stanford, Calif., for the Prefontaine Classic, live on NBC on June 30 from 4-6 p.m. ET.

In other Rabat events, world champion Phyllis Francis took fourth in the 400m won by world silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain in 50.13 seconds. Naser ranks second in the world this year behind Bahamian Olympic champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo (absent from Rabat), the only woman to beat Naser since the 2017 Worlds.

Francis was fourth in 50.76, ranking her second among Americans this year. Francis has a bye into worlds as a defending champion.

Nigerian veteran Blessing Okagbare took the 100m in 11.05, upsetting world silver and bronze medalists Marie-Josee Ta Lou (second, 11.09) and Dafne Schippers (fifth, 11.32). The race lacked world championships favorites Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain and American Sha’Carri Richardson, all of whom have easily broken 11 this season.

In the 110m hurdles, Olympic champion Omar McLeod led from the start before hitting the last hurdle and stumbling into 2015 World champion Sergey Shubenkov. Shubenkov fell across the finish line but still won in 13.12, while McLeod was fifth in 13.48. The early world championships favorite appears to be American Grant Holloway, who won the NCAA title in 12.98 and turned pro.

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba ran the fastest women’s 1500m since August 2016, a 3:55.47 to hold off Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan by .46. Dibaba, who holds the world record of 3:50.07, is undefeated at 1500m since finishing 12th at the 2017 Worlds. Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson was seventh in Rabat in 3:59.83, breaking four minutes for the second time in three seasons.

Botswana’s Nijel Amos edged past Kenyan Emmanuel Korir by .03 in a matchup of the two best 800m runners the two previous seasons. Amos clocked 1:45.57, well off the fastest time in the world this year held by American Donavan Brazier, who was absent from Rabat but beat Amos in Rome two weeks ago. Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy was third in Rabat.

Olympic and world pole vault silver medalist Sandi Morris cleared 4.82 meters for her first Diamond League win since August. The field did not include 2012 Olympic champ Jenn Suhr, who has the world’s best clearance this year of 4.91.

Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic, long one of the most dominant athletes in the sport, lost for the second straight Diamond League meet as she returns from injury.

The double Olympic and double world champion took third with a 64.77-meter effort, trailing Cubans Yaime Perez (68.28) and Denia Caballero (65.94). Perkovic has now lost three straight times dating to last season after going seven straight seasons without back-to-back defeats, according to Tilastopaja.org.

MORE: Why Caster Semenya did not race Rabat

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U.S. Olympic medalists eye responses in Rabat; stream schedule, preview

Clayton Murphy, Jenny Simpson
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Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy just watched a countryman notch his first Diamond League win. Olympic 1500m bronze medalist Jenny Simpson just saw her longtime rival clock her fastest time since 2015.

Murphy and Simpson get chances to answer at a Diamond League stop in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday (live at 1 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold).

In Rio, Murphy became the first U.S. Olympic 800m medalist in 24 years. At 21, he looked like the American face of the event for years to come. But Donavan Brazier, who is two years younger, won the 2017 U.S. title in Murphy’s absence, then broke the U.S. indoor record on Feb. 9.

Last week in Rome, Brazier did something Murphy has yet to accomplish, winning a Diamond League race. Murphy was fourth, falling to 0-3 in his career against Brazier, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Rabat provides a chance for Murphy ahead of next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where the top three per event are in line to make the team for the fall world championships. Brazier is not in the Rabat field, but the only two men to run faster than Murphy in 2018 are — Kenyan Emmanuel Korir and Botswana’s Nijel Amos.

The women’s 1500m is another marquee event in Rabat with Simpson facing world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia.

Only once has Simpson won a race that involved Dibaba, and that was five years ago. The 32-year-old American was fourth in Rome last week, 4.9 seconds behind Dibaba, who clocked her fastest time since her world-record run four years ago.

Like Murphy, Simpson recently relinquished her domestic hold of the 1500m to a younger runner, Shelby Houlihan, who was second-fastest in the world last year to Dibaba but is not in Rabat. Houlihan hasn’t raced anywhere since Feb. 24 but is entered in the Pre Classic in two weeks.

For Simpson, getting the better of Dibaba would be a heck of a message to send before nationals. Houlihan snapped Simpson’s four-year national title streak in 2018.

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

1:01 p.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
1:03 — Women’s Discus
1:38 — Men’s High Jump
2:04 — Women’s 400m
2:11 — Men’s 1500m
2:25 — Women’s 100m
2:31 — Men’s Long Jump
2:33 — Men’s 800m
2:41 — Men’s Discus
2:41 — Women’s 1500m
2:54 — Men’s 200m
3:02 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:37 — Women’s 800m
3:47 — Men’s 300m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Discus — 1:03 p.m.
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic is the headliner, but the Olympic and world champion ranks just 13th in the world this year after missing a discus podium for the first time in eight years at her season debut two weeks ago, according to Tilastopaja.org. The world’s top four women are in Rabat to challenge her, including American Valarie Allman, who in April launched the best throw by a U.S. woman since 2014.

Women’s 400m — 2:04 p.m.
Two of the four Americans to break 50 seconds since August 2017 are here, but the favorite has to be world silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain, who hasn’t lost to anybody other than Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo since the 2017 World Championships. But the 2017 World champion is in this field, American Phyllis Francis. As is Kendall Ellis, who is in her first pro season. Miller-Uibo, not in this field, is the lone woman to break 50 this year.

Men’s Long Jump — 2:31 p.m.
Olympic champ Jeff Henderson, world champ Luvo Manyonga and 2018 world leader Juan Miguel Echevarria gather for the second time this season. Last time out, they were all beaten. Still, Henderson and Manyonga rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year, and nobody has approached the Cuban Echevarria’s monster 8.68-meter leap from last year.

Men’s 800m — 2:33 p.m.
Murphy has never won a race that involved Amos and has never finished ahead of Korir in six meetings, according to Tilastopaja. While Murphy remains likely to make the three-man world team, Brazier has to be the favorite for nationals unless Murphy can win here or beat Brazier’s time from Rome — 1:43.63.

Women’s 1500m — 2:41 p.m.
Dibaba is the overwhelming favorite after her 3:56.28 in Rome last week. The only woman to go faster since the start of 2017, Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan is also here with Simpson. Missing is Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, who is working her way back from childbirth.

MORE: Caster Semenya says she’s blocked from Rabat

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Noah Lyles, Michael Norman meet in Rome; preview, TV schedule

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Noah Lyles puts undefeated streaks at stake in his first 200m of the season at a Diamond League meet in Rome, live on NBC Sports on Thursday.

Lyles, unbeaten in outdoor 200m races since the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, takes on fellow 21-year-old phenom Michael Norman at Stadio Olimpico (11:05 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold, and 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Lyles is 3-0 all time against Norman, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The U.S. boasts its best young sprint talent in more than a decade among Christian Coleman (100m), Lyles (200m) and Norman (400m), all fastest in the world since the Rio Olympics in their respective signature events. Coleman is not racing in Rome, but headlines a Diamond League stop in Oslo next week.

It evokes memories of 15 years ago, when first-time Olympians Justin GatlinShawn Crawford and Jeremy Wariner swept the 100m, 200m and 400m at the Athens Olympics.

Lyles is the showman of this generation. He raps. He dances. He roars like a Dragon Ball Z character before races and then wins them wearing Speed Racer socks. He had the word “ICON” tattooed on his side at age 20, after a season in which injury kept him out of the U.S. and world championships.

When Lyles beat Coleman in a 100m for the first time in their senior careers two weeks ago, he said it was the beginning of his legacy as a 100m and 200m sprinter (though Lyles repeated this week that he will not attempt to double at worlds in September). A rivalry was born with Coleman, who (along with his girlfriend), vented on Twitter.

Lyles and Norman have a friendlier history, finishing fourth and fifth at the 2016 Olympic trials 200m. Lyles turned professional two weeks later, forgoing college. Norman turned pro after two seasons at USC and is now the sixth-fastest 400m runner in history. While Coleman indicated he plans to go for a 100m-200m double this year, Norman is expected to focus on the 400m at nationals and, should he qualify, worlds.

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

11:05 a.m. — Women’s Javelin
12:30 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Long Jump
1:15 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:13 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s High Jump
2:23 — Men’s 800m
2:30 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Women’s 100m
2:45 — Men’s 5000m
3:05 — Women’s 400m
3:15 — Women’s 1500m
3:25 — Men’s 200m
3:35 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:45 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:15 p.m.
The four most decorated active women gather in 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr, 2016 Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi, Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris and 2015 World champion Yarisley Silva. They’ll all be eyeing the 37-year-old Suhr’s world-leading clearance of 4.91 meters for 2019. Suhr’s last Diamond League win outside of the U.S. came in 2012.

Women’s 400m Hurdles — 2:13 p.m.
Every Olympic and world champion since 2013 is represented in this field among Kori Carter (2017 Worlds), Dalilah Muhammad (2016 Olympics) and Zuzana Hejnova (2013 and 2015 Worlds). Plus the second- and third-fastest women of 2018 — Shamier Little and Janieve Russell. The only missing superstar is Sydney McLaughlin, whose 52.75 was fastest in the world last year. Muhammad is fastest this season at 53.61.

Women’s 100m — 2:35 p.m.
The two phenoms of this event — U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs and European champion Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain — go head-to-head for the first time. Hobbs won her Diamond League debut in Shanghai in 11.03 seconds, beating Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica (who is also in the Rome field). Asher-Smith won the first two Diamond League 200m of this season in the world’s fastest times of the year. The winner here likely becomes world champs favorite.

Women’s 1500m — 3:15 p.m.
Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson faces world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba for the first time since the 2017 Worlds. Simpson followed her surprise 2011 World title with national titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but the 32-year-old last won a Diamond League race in 2015 and ceded the U.S. crown to Shelby Houlihan last year. This field lacks Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon (out since 2017 due to pregnancy) and Houlihan, but it does boast Brit Laura Muir.

Men’s 200m — 3:25 p.m.
It’s not just Lyles v. Norman. Also in the field: 2017 World gold and bronze medalists Ramil Guliyev and Jereem Richards. None of them have ever beaten Lyles, though. A time to note: 19.65 seconds. That’s Lyles’ personal best. Last year, Lyles joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 four times in one season. But Lyles is still far from Bolt-at-his-best territory. He is the joint-eighth-fastest 200m man in history.

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk sets first international race since 2017

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