Shelby Houlihan stars, Noah Lyles outduels Michael Norman in Lausanne (video)

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Noah Lyles and Michael Norman were supposed to author the race of the year at the Diamond League meet in Lausanne on Thursday, but the most impressive performance of the night came from Shelby Houlihan.

Houlihan, an Olympic 5000m runner who has surged in the 1500m this season, won her third straight major 1500m, lowering her personal best by 1.72 seconds, clocking 3:57.34 and beating a field that included Caster Semenya. Houlihan kicked from fourth place with 150 meters left, while Semenya was already out of it, finishing sixth.

In all, Houlihan has dropped her 1500m personal best by 6.05 seconds in the last month and a half, winning the Prefontaine Classic on May 26 and the USATF Outdoor Championships on June 23.

“I didn´t have many expectations coming into the race today and was actually a bit worried as I was not feeling very well,” Houlihan said, according to race organizers. “I had to talk to myself during the race to stay in a comfortable position and the incredible crowd here brought my home during the last 200 meters.”

Houlihan is now the fourth-fastest U.S. woman in history in the 1500m behind Shannon RowburyMary Slaney and Jenny Simpson.

Minutes after Houlihan crossed the line, Lyles matched his personal best and the fastest time in the world this year to win the 200m in 19.69 seconds. Norman was second in 19.88.

“Yesterday I said I want to be an icon, being consistent is the first step towards that,” Lyles said. “19.69 is great, but you can always improve. I feel I can do a lot better. I need to improve my technique on the bends and who knows. I don’t want to put a limit on myself. My life goals are big. I want to be as good if not better than Michael Johnson and Justin Gatlin.”

Lyles and Norman raced each other for the first time since they finished fourth and fifth in the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m as 18-year-olds. Both were undefeated in outdoor 200m races since trials, though neither raced at 2017 Worlds.

Full Lausanne results are here.

The Diamond League next moves to Rabat, Morocco, on July 13 with live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold.

In other events, Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire continued her undefeated season in the 100m, winning in 10.90 seconds. Olympic champion Elaine Thompson was second in 10.99, while U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs did not start in what would have been her senior international debut.

In the men’s 5000m, Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha nearly pulled countryman Selemon Barega down by his shorts coming around the final turn. Kejelcha failed and ended up falling himself. Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew won in 13:01.09, the fastest time in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi cleared 4.82 meters in the pole vault to beat 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr on count back. Seven women cleared 4.72 meters in a competition for the first time in history, according to the IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov beat Olympic and world 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica for the second time this week, clocking 12.95 seconds. McLeod was fifth in 13.41. Shubenkov has the four fastest times in the world this year and is the only man to break 13 seconds in 2018.

U.S. champion Shamier Little won the 400m hurdles over a field that included Olympic gold and bronze medalists Dalilah Muhammad and Ashley Spencer. Little clocked 53.41, well off the fastest time in the world this year held by Sydney McLaughlin (52.75), who was not in the Lausanne field.

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Noah Lyles, Michael Norman finally meet again; Diamond League preview

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Neither Noah Lyles nor Michael Norman has been to an Olympics or world championships, but their race in Lausanne is arguably the most anticipated sprint of the season.

The men’s 200m headlines Thursday’s Diamond League meet, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA (2-4 p.m. ET) and NBC Sports Gold (1:10-4).

The last time Lyles and Norman went head-to-head was the 2016 Olympic Trials, where they finished fourth and fifth in the 200m, just missing the three-man Olympic team as recent high school graduates.

Since, Lyles has gone undefeated in outdoor 200m races, but he missed last year’s world championships due to injury. Lyles, who turned pro after trials, also won the U.S. 100m title two weeks ago in the fastest time in the world for 2018 (9.88, since matched by countryman Ronnie Baker).

Norman, meanwhile, broke the indoor 400m world record on March 10 (44.52) running for the University of Southern California. He followed that with the fastest outdoor 400m time in the world this year (43.61) at the NCAA Championships on June 8.

Lyles and Norman both entered the 200m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships two weeks ago, but Lyles chose not to race it while Norman withdrew before a final delayed three hours by a thunderstorm.

The Lyles-Norman show may become the premier act in track and field in the post-Bolt era. The sport’s other sprint names are either winding down their careers (Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix) or injured (Wayde van Niekerk and Christian Coleman).

Lausanne marks their first race together of this Olympic cycle and, hopefully, the first of many.

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

1:10 p.m. — Women’s Javelin
1:15 — Women’s Long Jump
1:20 — Men’s Shot Put
2:02 — Women’s 400m
2:12 — Women’s 200m
2:15 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:22 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
2:30 — Men’s High Jump
2:32 — Women’s 800m
2:42 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:52 — Women’s 100m
3:02 — Men’s 5000m
3:18 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
3:28 — Women’s 1500m
3:38 — Men’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 2:15 p.m. ET
The top six women in the world this year (indoors or outdoors) meet in a rematch of sorts of the Prefontaine Classic on May 26. Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champion, won at Pre, but then took third at USATF Outdoors behind Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte. Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece as well as New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney cleared season-best heights since Pre.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 2:22 pm. ET
Russian Sergey Shubenkov injected some life into this event on Monday by clocking 12.92 seconds, the second-fastest time in the world since Aries Merritt‘s world-record 19.80 on Sept. 7, 2012. Shubenkov, the 2015 World champion, will try to beat not only Merritt here, but also 2016 Olympic and 2017 World champion Omar McLeod. Plus Ronald Levy, who won Jamaican nationals in McLeod’s absence and then won at the last Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday. U.S. champion Devon Allen is also in this field.

Women’s 100m — 2:52 p.m. ET
U.S. and NCAA champion Aleia Hobbs tests herself against Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and the fastest women in the world this year in her senior international debut. Hobbs leads the world with seven sub-10 clockings in 2018, but Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire has the two fastest times (10.85 and 10.88). World and U.S. 200m champions Dafne Schippers and Jenna Prandini also line up here.

Women’s 1500m — 3:28 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya is always a must-see, but what she did Saturday was eye-popping even by her standards. The South African Olympic and world champion lowered her 800m personal best by .91 in Paris, clocking the fastest time in the world in 10 years. Semenya is undefeated at 800m since September 2015 and also perfect at 1500m this year, having clocked the then-fastest time in the world for the season at her last two outings in April and May. If Semenya is to do that again, she’ll have to beat world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba‘s 3:56.68 from June 8. Dibaba is unfortunately not in this field, but Semenya could have her hands full with U.S. champion Shelby Houlihan, Brit Laura Muir and Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, who lowered her personal best by nearly two seconds to win in Stockholm on June 10 in the world’s No. 2 time this year.

Men’s 200m — 3:38 p.m. ET
Lyles and Norman are each undefeated at 200m outdoors since the Olympic Trials, though Norman rarely raced it for USC. Each man has comfortably broken 20 seconds. They are the favorites here. But watch out for Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards, the world bronze medalist who had the fastest split in the 4x400m at worlds to help upset the U.S.

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Abderrahman Samba runs second-fastest 400m hurdles ever (video)

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Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba clocked the second-fastest 400m hurdles ever, headlining the Paris Diamond League on Saturday.

Samba, 22, won in 46.98 seconds, becoming the second man to break 47 after Kevin Young, whose world record the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is 46.78.

Samba debuted in the 400m hurdles last year and was seventh at the world championships. This year, he has lowered his personal best from 48.31 and gone undefeated.

“I told it even before — I want to become the fastest man in the world, and I work hard to achieve it,” Samba said, according to the IAAF. “It definitely did not feel like under-47 race today. I made a small mistake at the start, lost my balance on the first hurdle, so I did not expect to run so fast. But it feels great to be the second-fastest man in the history. The world record is getting close, but I just want to improve step by step and to run fast. I improved my technique since last year, and who knows, maybe I can be one second faster next year. I am speechless now.”

Samba’s time came two weeks after Rai Benjamin clocked 47.02 at the NCAA Championships, then matching Edwin Moses for No. 2 in history. Benjamin also competed in Paris, but in the 200m, taking second to USC teammate Michael Norman in his Diamond League debut.

Norman, who on March 10 broke the indoor 400m world record, won Saturday’s 200m in 19.84 into a .6 meter/second headwind, breaking 20 for the first time. Benjamin also broke 20 for the first time, clocking 19.99.

The Diamond League moves to Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday with live coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at NBC Sports Gold.

MORE: Full Paris Diamond League Results

Caster Semenya ran the fourth-fastest women’s 800m ever, stepping on the gas like never before to clock 1:54.25, a personal best by .91. Only Olympic and world silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba was within a half-second of Semenya after one lap, and the only runner within 1.83 seconds of her at the finish.

Semenya, undefeated at 800m since September 2015, may be chasing the world record of 1:53.28 before a proposed IAAF rule limiting testosterone levels in female middle-distance runners would go into effect after this season. Semenya is challenging the rule to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I am not a very emotional person, and I was always about chasing records,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF. “This season is about trying good things, new challenges and to see what you are capable of.”

American Ronnie Baker won the 100m in a personal-best 9.88, matching U.S. champion Noah Lyles‘ fastest time in the world this year. None of Lyles, world champion Justin Gatlin and world silver medalist Christian Coleman were in Saturday’s race.

World silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain routed the 400m in an Asian record 49.55, beating a field that included world champion Phyllis Francis, world indoor champion Courtney Okolo and U.S. champion Shakima Wimbley. Wimbley and Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo share the fastest time of 2018 of 49.52.

In the women’s 3000m steeplechase, Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech recorded the fifth-fastest time ever in 8:59.36. Chepkoech was fourth at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet of Bahrain has the two fastest times ever, including the world-record 8:52.78, but the Rio Olympic champion has not competed since January due to a reported doping issue.

Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who went one-two at 2017 Worlds ahead while Chepkoech and Jebet missed the medals, were not in the Paris field.

World silver medalist Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya clocked the world’s fastest 1500m since last July — 3:29.71. Neither Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz nor world champion Elijah Manangoi was in Saturday’s race.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov, the world’s fastest in the 110m hurdles this year (12.99), false started out of Saturday’s final. Jamaican Ronald Levy won in 13.18 in a race that lacked countryman and Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod.

Russian Mariya Lasitskene extended her high-jump win streak to 45 meets dating to 2016, according to Tilastopaja.org. The world champion cleared 2.04 meters, while three others combined to miss nine attempts at 2 meters, including Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium. Lasitskene then missed on three attempts at 2.08, one centimeter shy of the 30-year-old world record.

World champion Sam Kendricks cleared 6.01 meters to win the pole vault over recent Louisiana high school graduate Armand Duplantis of Sweden. Kendricks then failed at three attempts a would-be American record 6.05.

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