Omar McLeod

Grant Holloway adds 110m hurdles title to generational worlds for U.S. male sprinters

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U.S. men’s sprinting, cast into the shadows by Usain Bolt the previous decade, is back on the throne.

Grant Holloway, 21, became the third American sprinter age 23 or younger to win a world title this week, taking the 110m hurdles in Doha in 13.10 seconds on Wednesday. He came through after the U.S. failed to earn a 110m hurdles medal at the Olympics for the first time in 2016 and at worlds for the first time in 2017.

Holloway’s championship followed 23-year-old Christian Coleman winning the 100m on Sunday and 22-year-old Noah Lyles taking the 200m on Tuesday. Rai Benjamin, 22, grabbed silver in the 400m hurdles. Fred Kerley, 24, is the new favorite in Friday’s 400m final after Michael Norman, 21 and fastest in the world this year, bowed out in Wednesday’s semifinals with an injury.

All this after the U.S. earned two of 10 available men’s individual sprint gold medals between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and four out of 15 when including the 2008 Beijing Games. Bolt earned six individual golds by himself among those three Games.

But Bolt is retired. The Jamaican pipeline is dry. A new U.S. generation arrived with perfect timing.

TRACK WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

Take Holloway, who spurned SEC football offers to run track at Florida.

“I sat down with parents and asked if I wanted to be NFL or Olympian and my heart was to be an Olympian,” he said, according to Athletics Weekly. “American football is very unforgiving on the body. Do you want to walk at 30? Or be in a wheelchair at 35?”

He went on to capture NCAA 110m hurdles titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior, breaking Renaldo Nehemiah‘s 40-year-old collegiate record this past season. He then turned pro. While most NCAA athletes fail to extend their form into the world championships, especially hard with worlds so late this season, Holloway managed to peak twice.

Holloway ran the world’s fastest time this year at NCAAs, a 12.98 on June 7. His best time in his three meets between NCAAs and worlds was 13.16. He was runner-up at USATF Outdoors and sixth in his Diamond League debut.

“Everybody counted me out coming into this meet because I’ve been off my game for two months now,” Holloway, the Virginia son of a retired Naval officer and school teacher, told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I just sucked. I just ran like s—.”

But in Doha, Holloway was back in form. Before the final, his coach in Gainesville, Mike Holloway, told him, “See you in 12 seconds.”

It wasn’t quite that fast, but Holloway beat a strong field that included the reigning Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica, who stumbled to last place after hitting a hurdle. Jamaican male sprinters are likely to leave an Olympics or worlds without a gold medal for the first time since 2007.

McLeod, going into the last hurdle, fell into the lane of Orlando Ortega, getting disqualified and likely costing the Spaniard a medal (but not the gold). Instead, Russian Sergey Shubenkov took silver (13.15) and Frenchman Pascal Martinod-Lagarde the bronze (13.18). McLeod was off kilter following one of his hamstrings grabbed after the first hurdle after he felt it in warm-up.

“[Ortega] was upset,” McLeod said. “I was very upset, too. I didn’t want to cause any commotion or whatever, but I’m very, very sorry.”

In other finals Wednesday, Brit Dina Asher-Smith dominated an otherwise weak 200m final, clocking a national record 21.89 seconds. American Brittany Brown took silver in a personal best 22.22, one year after failing to make the NCAA Championships final. This world final included none of the reigning Olympic or world medalists.

Worlds continue Thursday with the women’s 400m final, featuring massive favorite Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, and the conclusion of the heptathlon and decathlon.

Also Wednesday, Olympic champion and world-record holder Dalilah Muhammad was second-fastest in the 400m hurdles semifinals to fellow American Sydney McLaughlin, the 20-year-old phenom who turned pro after one college season. That final is Friday.

In the decathlon, world-record holder Kevin Mayer of France is in third place after day one, trailing Canadian Damian Warner by 30 points.

Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson leads Olympic and world champion Nafi Thiam by 96 points after the first day of the heptathlon. Thiam also ranked second after day one in Rio and at the 2017 Worlds, coming back to win each title.

MORE: Usain Bolt’s Instagram story appears to jab at Noah Lyles

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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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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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