Noah Lyles

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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Noah Lyles: I will win 3 gold medals at Tokyo Olympics

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Noah Lyles is counting down the days until he can kick back and read comic books, record some music he’s written, spend money on fashionable clothes and do whatever other non-track things come to mind.

The home screen on the American sprinter’s phone already tells him it’s about that time: “ I am the 2019 200 world champion” greets him when he glances down. But there’s one more event for him at the world championships _ the 4×100 relay _ before a four-week break to slow down.

Then, a new mantra will appear on his phone for him to stare at: Win the 100m and 200m at the Tokyo Olympics.

He wants to live up to the one-word tattoo written across his rib cage — “ICON.”

His win in the 200m at worlds started him on the path. His success in Tokyo would only serve to send the 22-year-old even further on his way.

“They are going to say I’m an icon,” Lyles confidently proclaimed in an interview with The Associated Press.

With no Usain Bolt around, Lyles is being trumpeted as the next big thing in track and field. Mention it to him, though, and he rolls his eyes. He knows track is searching for another superstar and he’s happy to help fill the role. But it will happen on his time, not anyone else’s schedule. It’s why he didn’t run the 100m at worlds this season.

He’s taking things slow to be fast.

“If you want to see me do great things, you have to let me do it the way I have to do it,” said Lyles, who signed long-term deal with Adidas in 2016.

MORE: Bolt Instagram story appears to jab at Lyles after world 200m title

Some of his biggest rivals are U.S. teammate Christian Coleman along with Andre De Grasse of Canada. Like Lyles, they plan to run the 100m-200m at the Tokyo Games. Coleman won the 100m at worlds before skipping the 200m, while De Grasse finished behind Lyles in the 200m and earned a bronze in the 100m.

At the top of Lyles’ to-do list in the offseason will be to improve his starts. He can get away with a slower initial burst in the 200m — he runs such a smooth, tight curve — but not so much in the 100m. He’s going to back to the drawing board.

“People underestimate how hard it is to change a start,” Lyles said. “There are so many quick movements in a start and there are probably a list of 10 things that you have to make sure you’re doing to make sure it’s good. But in your mind, you can only focus on maybe one — two at the most. It comes down to muscle memory.”

Check back on his progress in, say, a month or so.

Because soon he will be on vacation mode. He’s looking forward to really doing nothing. Maybe a trip to Bermuda and then working on another hip-hop album (he’s written numerous songs over a long season). He will definitely read some comic books, watch some anime movies and build things with Legos (anything with a “Star Wars” theme.)

Shopping trips are on his agenda, too. He’s into high-end fashion these days, with boots, jackets and rings catching his eye.

It keeps him motivated to keep on winning.

“Luckily, I have been funding my (shopping) habit by winning races,” Lyles cracked. “But that bill adds up quickly. I had to stop myself in July from buying clothes for about three months so I could say I don’t have a problem.”

He has no problem being an entertainer. He loves the spotlight, which is good since he’s in it so much. He won a national title at 200m in July by holding off Coleman.

“I like to have fun,” said Lyles, who was born in Gainesville, Fla., and went to high school in Alexandria, Va. “I enjoy what I do, and I want people to enjoy watching.”

He’s setting lofty plans for Tokyo — not one, not two, but three gold medals (counting the 4x100m relay).

“You might think that’s crazy with Christian out there, and he’s putting down some good times,” Lyles said. “There’s nothing in my mind that says I can’t get on the line and do the same thing. I’m going to get three golds. I keep saying that to myself.”

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