Teahna Daniels

Donavan Brazier, after another U.S. 800m record, looks to David Rudisha

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NEW YORK — Donavan Brazier lowered the U.S. indoor 800m record again at the Millrose Games, but he’s hoping later this year to achieve a career first: line up in a race with David Rudisha.

Brazier, who won the world outdoor title in 2019 to stamp himself as Tokyo Olympic favorite, clocked 1:44.22 at the Armory in New York City on Saturday. He previously lowered a 26-year-old American record at last year’s Millrose Games, when he ran 1:44.41.

“When I saw the clock going 1:42, 1:43, I was like, oh, I have a chance,” Brazier said Saturday. “To get it by point-two seconds, there’s really not much room for error there.”

Brazier wasn’t the only American record-breaker Saturday. Ajee Wilson lowered her national 800m record from 1:58.60 to 1:58.29. Elle Purrier took down Mary Slaney‘s 37-year-old U.S. indoor mile record, clocking 4:16.85, the world’s second-fastest time in history.

Full Millrose Games results are here.

The indoor season wraps up with the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships in Albuquerque next weekend, airing on NBC Sports. The world indoor championships, traditionally in early March, were postponed due to the coronavirus in host nation China.

Indoor success is fantastic, but in an Olympic year the focus is outdoors. Last Oct. 1, Brazier broke a 34-year-old American outdoor record to become the first U.S. man or woman to win a world 800m title.

It came in the absence of Rudisha, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion and world-record holder who hasn’t competed since 2017, partly due to injury. Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title, when he set the outdoor world record of 1:40.91, is considered by many the greatest race in the sport’s history as he carried the rest of the field to the fastest times in history for each placement.

Brazier, who was 15 in 2012, said he couldn’t remember watching that final live. But he said he’s watched it dozens of times on replay, more than any other race.

“It’s a work of art,” Brazier said. “He was probably in sub-1:40 shape.”

Brazier can’t fathom running as fast as Rudisha, whose world record is 1.43 seconds faster than Brazier’s American record. But he’s carried a simple mindset since being eliminated in the first round of the 2016 Olympic trials, when he was ranked third in the world for the season as a college freshman.

“If I can work as hard as I was the year before, I’ll just naturally get faster,” said Brazier, who last year ran the fastest indoor 600m in history, in addition to breaking the U.S. indoor and outdoor 800m records.

The success puts pressure on Brazier to become the first American to win an Olympic 800m title since Dave Wottle did so wearing a hat in Munich in 1972.

“I think the target’s on my back just because I won 2019, but it’s definitely not as big of a target as [Rudisha] had on his back post-2012,” Brazier said. “I’m not thinking that I’m like this David Rudisha takeover because I’m not really damn near close to his times, but I think, for now, I’ve got that small target on my back. I guess I’m just trying to make it as big as possible.”

Rudisha, if he returns to racing this year, looks questionable to defend his Olympic gold medals in Tokyo. Five of the nine fastest men in the world last year were Kenyans, and only three can go to the Games.

“He’s a hell of a racer,” Brazier said. “I don’t know how fast he’s going to be if he comes back.”

In other events Saturday, nine-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix took sixth in a 60m won by American Javianne Oliver in 7.13. Felix’s time — 7.32 seconds in an off-event for her — was .03 faster than she ran last Saturday.

Felix is bidding to race the 200m and 400m at June’s Olympic trials, where her better chance is in the 400m, where at least six women will make the Olympic team due to the 4x400m relays.

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Danielle Williams cemented as world No. 1 hurdler in Birmingham

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The 100m hurdles has been one of the U.S.’ deepest events the last several years, but Jamaican Danielle Williams looks like the favorite at the world championships in early October.

Williams, who owns the world’s fastest time this year, easily beat world-record holder Kendra Harrison and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal at a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Sunday.

Williams crossed in 12.46 seconds despite hitting her knee on one hurdle, but still two tenths clear of Harrison, whose world record is 12.20. It marked Harrison’s first loss in nine meets this year and the first time a non-American has ever beaten her at a Diamond League stop.

It looked like Williams wouldn’t make it to worlds in Doha when she false started out of the Jamaican Championships. But the final was soon after strangely canceled, and Jamaican media reported last week that Williams, the 2015 World champion who failed to make the Rio Olympics, is eligible to be chosen next month by the federation.

The U.S. had at least the two fastest women in the world each of the previous six years. Then Williams re-emerged with a Jamaican record 12.32 on July 20.

The meet airs Monday on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 4 p.m. ET and NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET. The Diamond League moves to Paris on Saturday.

In other events Sunday, Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo overtook Brit Dina Asher-Smith and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 200m in 22.24. Miller-Uibo extended her unbeaten streak to two years across all distances.

It appears Miller-Uibo will not be racing the 200m at worlds, given it overlaps with the 400m. She ranks third in the world this year at the shorter distance, trailing Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who clocked 22.00 on June 23 but was not in Sunday’s field. Miller-Uibo has ranked No. 1 at 400m four straight years.

Yohan Blake won the 100m in 10.07 seconds, holding off Brit Adam Gemili, who had the same time with a 2 meter/second tailwind. Blake, the second-fastest man in history with a personal best of 9.69, hasn’t been the same since suffering a series of leg injuries starting in 2013.

Sunday’s field lacked the world championships favorites — Americans Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin, who clocked 9.81 and 9.87 on June 30.

Surprise U.S. champion Teahna Daniels placed third in her Diamond League 100m debut, clocking 11.24 seconds. The field lacked world championships favorites Thompson and Fraser-Pryce, who each ran 10.73 at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

American record holder Ajeé Wilson won an 800m that lacked all three Rio Olympic medalists, who are barred from racing the event due to the IAAF’s new testosterone cap in middle distances. Wilson’s time, 2:00.76, was far off her 2019 world-leading time of 1:57.72 among eligible women.

Olympic and world heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam broke the Belgian long jump record twice, winning with a 6.86-meter leap. That ranks ninth in the world this year. The field lacked the last two Olympic champions, Americans Tianna Bartoletta and Brittney Reese.

A meeting of the last two Olympic pole vault champs went to Rio gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, who cleared 4.75 meters in swirling wind. London 2012 champ Jenn Suhr was third but remains No. 1 in the world this year with a 4.91-meter clearance from March 30.

Croatian Sandra Perkovic, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic discus champion, lost her third straight Diamond League meet to start the season as she returns from injury. Perkovic, who placed third behind winner Cuban Yaimé Pérez, had not lost in back-to-back meets since returning from a six-month doping ban in 2011, according to Tilastopaja.org.

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Teahna Daniels, U.S. 100m champ, sprints with dangling memory of her dad

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Teahna Daniels marked her surprise U.S. 100m title by embracing her mother, both in tears, and telling her, “I did it.” Daniels’ father was not there for the biggest moment of her young track career.

“I really just give this race to him,” Daniels said after winning in 11.20 seconds into a headwind on July 26 in Des Moines. Daniels, who was fourth at the NCAA Championships on June 8 and eliminated in the heats in her previous USATF Outdoor Championships appearance, clinched a spot for late September’s world championships in Doha.

Daniels sprinted with a gold necklace dangling. The word “Queen” was on one side. The date Jan. 26, 2018 on the other, marking Wellice Daniels‘ sudden death of a brain seizure. He was 62.

“I know he’s always at the finish line,” Daniels told the Longhorn Network earlier this year, “and I’m running to him.”

Daniels got her start as a racer at age 8. Linda Latson marveled at her daughter, in flip-flops, beating the neighborhood boys.

“I told her, go put on some tennis shoes. I have to see this again,” Latson said. “She was just like smokin’ those boys. I was like, OK, I’m going to put you on the track team.”

Daniels swept the 100m and 200m at her Florida state high school meet her last two seasons. She matriculated at Texas, leading her father to get a Longhorns tattoo above the Florida Gator on his arm.

Come the middle of Daniels’ junior year, she mentioned to her mom that the car they had purchased in high school in Orlando, without heat, wasn’t cutting it. Winter temperatures in Austin can dip into the low 40s.

Latson bought her a new Honda Civic and told Wellice in January 2018. They divorced when Daniels was 4 but stayed in contact. Wellice and a friend offered to drive the car to their daughter, 1,100 miles in mid-January, since he was planning to visit anyway to watch her at an indoor meet.

Wellice spent a weekend with his daughter, who ended up not competing due to the flu, her mom said. He was due to fly home on Sunday, Jan. 21, but learned that his ticket was no good because he failed to show for his departing flight from Florida. Wellice called Latson to tell her that he rescheduled his return trip for Monday.

“That was our final conversation,” Latson said. “He was able to spend an extra day with her.”

Five days later, Daniels was on an elevator when she received a call from her mom, who was in a panic. One of her sisters got on the line and told her that Wellice died. She dropped and started yelling, repeatedly, “My dad!”

“All I remember is my body going numb, and I just fell to the floor, and I just started to cry,” Daniels said earlier this year. “All I want to do is really like call him. I wanted to call him and say it’s not true.”

Daniels returned to competition two weeks later. She repeated as Big 12 100m champion that May, saying afterward that it was emotional for personal reasons. Months after his death, Daniels still questioned whether she should still run. She could always turn to a voicemail she saved from her father.

Daniels’ senior season, her first under new Texas coach Edrick Floréal, was about transformation. She replaced fried foods, sweets and ice cream with fruits and vegetables. Daniels lost 19 pounds since December and said in Des Moines that she wasn’t yet at her goal weight.

Before nationals, Daniels read that she was picked to finish third. But she had been motivated since NCAAs, where she entered as one of four women in the world to break 11 seconds for the year and still clocked a strong 11.00 for fourth place.

The three women who beat her at NCAAs finished fifth, eighth and 10th at USATF Outdoors and won’t be joining her in the individual 100m at worlds. College runners often struggle to extend their peak from NCAA Championships to USATF nationals the following month.

“The goal was always October,” Daniels said, referencing the later-than-usual world championships.

Daniels beamed in the mixed zone after her win in Des Moines. She said she would celebrate by indulging at Zombie Burger. Then she tugged at her necklace.

“That day really changed my life,” she said. “It pushed me to be the person I am now.”

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