Mike Rodgers

Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles
Getty Images

U.S. sprint show in Rabat; Diamond League preview, TV schedule

Leave a comment

The world’s four fastest men since the Rio Olympics gather for a 100m showdown on Friday. They’re all Americans.

Christian ColemanNoah LylesRonnie Baker and Mike Rodgers headline a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, live on NBC Sports Gold at 1:55 p.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 3 p.m.

The question when Usain Bolt retired last year was who would succeed him as the world’s fastest man. Bolt is irreplaceable in the sport, so, fittingly, it has been a group effort. Though none of these Americans have come close to Bolt’s world record 9.58.

Coleman came first. In 2017, he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds, one tenth faster than the NFL Combine record. Then he clocked 9.82 seconds at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships, which remains the fastest time in the world since the Rio Games. Then he beat Bolt in the semifinals and final of the 2017 Worlds, taking silver to Justin Gatlin overall.

This past winter, Coleman ran faster than the 60m world record three times in the indoor season. He looked like the next sprint king — especially given Gatlin is 36 years old — until slowed by a hamstring injury in the spring. Rabat marks Coleman’s first race since May 31.

Lyles and Baker took the baton from Coleman this outdoor season. Baker, who grew up running cross-country backdropped by moose in Alaska, beat Coleman in back-to-back May meets.

Lyles, fourth in the 200m at the Olympic Trials shortly after his high school graduation, dropped down to the 100m at USATF Outdoors last month and won in the fastest time in the world this year, edging Baker. Baker responded by matching Lyles’ 9.88 a week later.

Rodgers, a 33-year-old veteran without any global championship 100m medals, has clocked his best times in three years in a bit of a resurgent season.

There are no world championships this summer. Looking ahead, Coleman, Lyles and Baker have the credentials and the youth to be early favorites for the 2019 Worlds and 2020 Olympics.

Jamaica’s men’s sprint program has tumbled like the bizarre end to Bolt’s career. They have no men in the top 20 in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada just prematurely ended his season for a second straight year due to hamstring injuries.

Maybe somebody else comes along — Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes (personal best 9.91) must be mentioned — but for now the U.S. owns the 100m for the first time in a more than a decade. That will be clear to anybody watching Rabat on Friday.

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

1:55 p.m. — Men’s Long Jump
2:07 — Women’s High Jump
2:23 — Women’s Shot Put
2:30 — Men’s Pole Vault
3:04 — Men’s 400m
3:12 — Women’s 800m
3:21 — Men’s 1500m
3:32 — Women’s 200m
3:34 — Men’s Javelin
3:39 — Men’s 3000m
3:42 — Women’s Triple Jump
3:57 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
4:05 — Women’s 5000m
4:30 — Men’s 100m
4:38 — Women’s 1000m
4:46 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Pole Vault — 2:30 p.m. ET
London Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks even split their six head-to-heads so far this season, with Lavillenie holding a 16-14 career heat-to-head, according to Tilastopaja.org. The last time both men entered a meet and neither won was the Rio Olympics. That gold medalist, the struggling Thiago Braz of Brazil, hasn’t won an international outdoor competition since the Games and ranks No. 92 in the world this outdoor campaign. All are in the Rabat field.

Women’s 200m — 3:32 p.m. ET
Six women could realistically win this. Like rising Harvard senior Gabby Thomas, who was runner-up at the NCAA Championships on June 9, then won the Lausanne Diamond League 200m last Thursday. The Rabat field is clearly tougher, with Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, world indoor 60m champion Murielle Ahoure of Cote d’Ivoire and U.S. champion Jenna Prandini

Men’s 3000m — 3:39 p.m. ET
This field has just about every 5000m star one could hope for, minus Selemon Barega, the Ethiopian who was grabbed by the shorts by countryman Yomif Kejelcha in the Lausanne 5000m last Thursday. Kejelcha is in this field, but their grudge match must wait. Also here: Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, who took advantage of the Ethiopian exchange to win in Switzerland. And world champion Muktar Edris of Ethiopia, plus Olympic and world medalist Paul Chelimo of the U.S.

Women’s 5000m — 4:05 p.m. ET
World champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya takes on a diverse field. Start with Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world-record holder who ranks fourth all-time in the 5000m and handed Obiri her first defeat at the distance since 2016 at the Pre Classic on May 26. There’s also Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, once arguably the world’s top 1500m runner who was third in the 5000m at 2017 Worlds. Then there’s American Molly Huddle, who has transitioned to the marathon but makes her Diamond League season debut here.

Men’s 100m — 4:30 p.m. ET
The key will be Coleman’s health. The Coleman from last summer and winter beats Lyles and Baker. If Coleman is not 100 percent, things get interesting. Coleman and Baker are excellent starters — Coleman a bit better than Baker — while Lyles should be in chase mode. He had enough track to pass Baker at nationals and win by .02.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic stars demand IAAF rescind testosterone rule

Tyson Gay added as U.S. fills out Olympic track and field roster

Getty Images
1 Comment

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Consider this a second chance for Tyson Gay. Maybe his last one, too.

The 33-year-old sprinter was handed a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team as a relay runner Monday, more than two years after his doping positive cost the Americans their silver medal from the 2012 Games.

Gay dominated the sprints for a time before Usain Bolt burst onto the scene in 2008. The American is still ranked second all-time behind Bolt with a time of 9.69 seconds in the 100.

But the last several years have been a struggle, filled with injuries and setbacks – none bigger than a positive doping test in 2013 that cost him one year out of the sport and forced the relay team to surrender its medal.

Gay finished fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 at the recently completed Olympic trials, but coaches stuck to the order of finish for the 100 meters, taking Gay and sixth-place finisher Christian Coleman, along with Mike Rodgers, whose spot was locked in thanks to his fourth-place finish.

In Gay, the U.S. gets a two-time Olympian and 2007 world champion at both 100 and 200 meters – choosing him over high-schoolers Noah Lyles and Michael Norman, who finished 4-5 in the 200 at trials.

Asked before the trials what it would mean to make the team, Gay said: “A hell of a lot. I’m considered the old one of the bunch now. It definitely means a lot to me to still keep up with these young guys here, use some of my veteran skills to my advantage.”

Also added for relays on the 127-person team, which includes 84 first-time Olympians, were Arman Hall, Tony McQuay and Kyle Clemons (men’s 4×400), Ariana Washington (women’s 4×100) and Francena McCorory and Courtney Okolo (women’s 4×400).

Some other things to know about the U.S. track and field team:

LIKE A FINE WINE: At 41, Bernard Lagat is still going strong – making his fifth Olympic team. The ageless 5,000-meter runner showed just about everyone that age is merely a number. “I don’t believe I’m old,” Lagat said. “If you believe you’re old – I’m going to run like an old man.”

JUST A KID: For a few days, 18-year-old high jumper Vashti Cunningham was set to be the youngest to compete for the U.S. Olympic track team in four decades. That lasted until 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin came along and made the team in the 400-meter hurdles and took that distinction. To think, she had a little case of stage fright to begin the trials. It hardly showed as she set the world junior record to finish third and earn her place in Rio. “This has to be the icing on the cake,” the prep star from New Jersey said. “Regardless of what happens in Rio, I made it here and I’m just so thankful for all of that.”

FEEL-GOOD STORY ENDS WELL: 800-meter runner Boris Berian made the team despite an uphill climb – working at McDonald’s after dropping out of college to earn extra money to train and recently winning a lawsuit over Nike over what gear he could wear that nearly kept him off the starting line.

FEEL-GOOD STORY ENDS NOT AS WELL: 110-meter hurdler and defending Olympic champion Aries Merritt finished fourth – missing the team by one spot less than a year after returning from a kidney transplant. He had a positive outlook, though. “For me to be where I am is a miracle,” said Merritt, who operated at 10 percent kidney function when he captured a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships last summer.

DOUBLE DIP: Why stop at one event when you can double? There are plenty of athletes doubling up in Rio, including Galen Rupp (marathon, 10,000 meters), LaShawn Merritt (200, 400), Tianna Bartoletta (100, long jump), Tori Bowie (100, 200) and Justin Gatlin (100, 200). But Molly Huddle, who qualified for the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, was entered only in the 10K. And Allyson Felix, who had designs on a 200-400 double, didn’t make the 200 lineup.

For the entire U.S. Olympic track and field roster, click here.

MORE: Justin Gatlin speeds up, but another gear needed vs. Usain Bolt

U.S. sprinters past, present trade relay barbs

Justin Gatlin
Getty Images
9 Comments

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The only loss for the Americans at the Penn Relays came in the men’s 4x100m, as the U.S. team bobbled its victory away on a bad baton handoff between Tyson Gay and Isiah Young for the final leg, which led to a disqualification.

Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin gave the Americans an early lead in the race, and things were moving along well during Gay’s third leg. But the muffed handoff for the final leg cost the Americans. Both the winning Jamaican squad and the second American team surpassed them.

Young finished third, but the team was disqualified because the handoff occurred outside the pass zone. The second U.S. team of Sean McLean, Wallace Spearman, Calesio Newman and Remontay McLain finished in 39.02.

The mistake led to some inflammatory comments from U.S. great Leroy Burrell about continued problems with handoffs by U.S. relay teams.

“Well, I think we’ve got to put our team together a little earlier, possibly,” Burrell said in a television interview. “I think, we’ve had the same coaches working with these guys for many years, and we’ve had failure after failure. So it’s possible that, you know, it might be time for a bit of a regime change with the leadership.

“I think the athletes have to be the catalysts that make that happen. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get the stick around. I saw thousands of relay teams yesterday — maybe not thousands, but hundreds of relay teams get it around. But the professionals can’t. That’s just not good for our sport.”

Rodgers didn’t take kindly to those remarks.

“People keep pointing their fingers and downing us, but nobody has ever tried to come out there and help us,” he said. “Nobody from the past. Not Carl [Lewis] or Leroy. They haven’t been out there. I can’t really respect their opinions because they’re supposed to be leaders in our sport and in the USA, and they’re not coming out there to drop some knowledge on us, so I don’t care what they have to say.”

Lewis criticized U.S. relays in March.

Gatlin was equally critical of Burrell.

“I’m tired of people who have been part of Team USA take shots at Team USA,” Gatlin said. “To put us in the same boat as high schoolers is insulting.”

VIDEO: Race against Usain Bolt’s world record with ‘BeatBot’