Timothy Cheruiyot

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Diamond League kicks off with focus on women’s 800m; TV/stream info

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The Diamond League season starts Friday with scrutiny on an event that will no doubt see significant change this season — the women’s 800m.

A landmark sports court ruling Wednesday is expected to force some top stars — including Olympic gold and silver medalists Caster Semenya of South Africa and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi — to take measures to reduce abnormally high testosterone for women’s events.

In that case, they would have to sit out international competition through the summer, while continuously keeping testosterone levels below the imposed limit, if they want to return to any event between the 400m and 1500m at the world championships in Doha in late September.

Friday’s Diamond League opener, also in Doha and the first of 14 stops over the next four months, will be the last one held before the testosterone-reducing rule goes into effect. Olympic Channel will air live coverage at 12 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Gold streaming commercial-free coverage at 11 a.m.

The women’s 800m field is among the strongest, including Niyonsaba, Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui of Kenya and world bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson, the American record holder. Semenya, undefeated at 800m the last three seasons, is not entered.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Caster Semenya a late entry into Doha

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

11:20 a.m. — Men’s Pole Vault
11:35 — Men’s Discus
11:55 — Women’s High Jump
12 p.m. — Women’s Long Jump
12:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
12:15 — Men’s 800m
12:27 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:37 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
12:56 — Men’s 200m
1 — Men’s Shot Put
1:07– Women’s 800m
1:19 — Men’s 1500m
1:34 — Women’s 200m
1:46 — Women’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 800m — 12:15 p.m.
While David Rudisha has been out injured for nearly two years, fellow Kenyan and former UTEP star Emmanuel Korir has emerged as the world’s best two-lapper, winning all but one of his meets in 2017 and again in 2018. In Doha, Korir’s competition includes the second-fastest man each of the last two years, Botswana’s Nijel Amos. Amos, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was the only man to bear Korir in 2018.

Watch out for American Donavan Brazier, who ascended the international rankings until an injury-shortened 2018. Already in 2019, Brazier broke the American indoor 800m record and ran the fastest indoor 600m in history.

Men’s Shot Put — 1 p.m.
Strongest field of the meet? The top seven men from the world last year. All three 2016 Olympic medalists, highlighted by Americans Ryan Crouser (gold) and Joe Kovacs (silver). Plus 2017 World champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand. The world record could be under threat given Crouser two weeks ago launched the world’s best throw since the bar was set 29 years ago.

Women’s 800m — 1:07 p.m.
Wilson, coming off an American indoor 800m record in February, eyes her first Diamond League win since 2015. Much has changed in the women’s 800m in the last four years, with the biggest tremor coming with Wednesday’s court ruling. Wilson has never won a race with Niyonsaba in the field but is now one of, if not the favorite for gold at worlds.

Men’s 1500m — 1:19 p.m.
Kenyans Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi traded the world’s fastest times the last two years, and they meet again here. While Manangoi is the world champion, Cheruiyot has lost only twice since London 2017, taking runner-up to Manangoi at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 African Championships. They are the only men to break 3:30 since the Rio Olympics. Gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz is sitting this one out.

Women’s 3000m — 1:46 p.m.
Another juicy head-to-head featuring Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world-record holder, and Hellen Obiri, the 5000m world champion and fastest 3000m runner in the last 25 years. Toss in steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, and it’s one of the most unique headlining fields to open a Diamond League season.

MORE: Why Ryan Crouser postponed an NFL tryout

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Noah Lyles matches Usain Bolt feat in Speed Racer socks

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Noah Lyles put on his Speed Racer socks and roared like a Dragon Ball Z character. Then he backed it up as usual, winning the Diamond League final 200m in 19.67 seconds in Zurich on Thursday.

“I was looking for a PR, like always,” Lyles, who missed his best time by .02 running into a slight headwind, said on Swiss TV. “But getting close to it is even better. It really humbles yourself to make sure that next year I’m going to really bring it.”

It was .01 off Usain Bolt‘s meet record from 2012. Bolt remains incomparable, but Lyles is the closest thing the sport has seen since the Jamaican’s retirement a year ago.

The dancing Lyles has four times broken 19.7 seconds this season. Only Bolt has done so before, during his peak season in 2009. Michael Johnson broke 19.7 twice in his entire career.

Lyles turned 21 last month. When Bolt was that old, his personal best was 19.75, one tenth slower than Lyles’ current best. Though Bolt lowered it to 19.30 by the time he turned 22.

Lyles is undefeated in outdoor 200m races since he finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, just missing the Rio team as an 18-year-old. He was injured at the 2017 U.S. Championships, forcing him out of the 2017 Worlds.

So Lyles never raced Bolt, but he has been the world’s best sprinter this season, also taking the U.S. 100m title in June.

Full Zurich results are here.

The last Diamond League meet of the season is Friday in Brussels, live on NBC Sports Gold at 12:05 p.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 2.

In other events Thursday, Olympic and world champion Conseslus Kipruto won the 3000m steeplechase with one shoe.

Caster Semenya extended a near-three-year win streak in the 800m, gapping the field by 2.59 seconds in 1:55.27. World bronze medalist Ajeé Wilson of the U.S. was the distant runner-up.

Semenya owns the world’s seven fastest times since the start of 2016, topped by her South African record 1:54.25 from June 30, but the 800m could look different next year.

An IAAF rule limiting testosterone in female middle-distance runners is scheduled to go into effect next season. Semenya, who was gender tested in 2009, is challenging it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot continued his recent 1500m domination, pulling away from training partner Elijah Manangoi. Cheruiyot clocked 3:30.27, beating Manangoi by .89. Cheruiyot, who took silver at 2017 Worlds behind Manangoi, went undefeated in six Diamond League races this year.

In the men’s 400m, 2017 U.S. champion Fred Kerley won a Wayde van Niekerk-less race in 44.80 seconds. That was well off the fastest time in the world this year (43.61) held by American Michael Norman (also not in Zurich). Kerley said after that he was coming off an injury.

Van Niekerk, the Olympic and world champ and world-record holder, missed all of this season after October 2017 meniscus and ACL tears playing touch rugby.

World silver medalist Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas pulled up on the last straightaway and did not finish. He was able to walk off the track.

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Noah Lyles

Track and field breakout stars dot Diamond League finals; TV, stream info

Shelby Houlihan, Mondo Duplantis
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If this week’s Diamond League finals fields show anything, it’s that 2018 has been the year of the breakthrough track and field athlete.

The world’s best gather in Zurich and Brussels, where Diamond League season champions will be crowned, live on NBCSN and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday: Zurich, 2-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold
Friday: Brussels, 2-4 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel, NBC Sports Gold

Some of the most anticipated events are highlighted by athletes with no Olympic or world outdoor championships medals to their names: Norwegian wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen and new American 5000m record holder Shelby Houlihan in the 1500m, U.S. sprint sensation Noah Lyles in the 200m, recent Louisiana high school graduate Mondo Duplantis of Sweden in the pole vault and the world’s fastest man this year — American Ronnie Baker.

Wednesday update: Ingebrigtsen withdrew from his Diamond League final with a sore throat, according to Norway’s track and field federation.

ZURICH START LISTS | BRUSSELS START LISTS

Here are 10 events to watch:

Women’s 800m — Thursday, 2:13 p.m. ET
Caster Semenya puts a near-three-year win streak against the next six fastest women in the world this year. That includes Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and American Ajeé Wilson, the world silver and bronze medalists. This will be the toughest field Semenya faces for at least eight months. This event could look very different by then with an IAAF rule limiting testosterone in female middle-distance runners scheduled to go into effect next season. Semenya is challenging it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Men’s 3000m Steeplechase — Thursday, 2:24 p.m. ET
Field includes the nine men who combine to own the 26 fastest times in the world this year. Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world champion, has looked vulnerable in 2018 with three Diamond League defeats. American Evan Jager, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, owns the second-fastest time of 2018. But he has never won against a field this strong.

Men’s 1500m — Thursday, 2:48 p.m. ET
The world’s seven fastest of 2018 are here, but focus on the top four. World leader Timothy Cheruiyot‘s only losses in the last 13 months came in arguably his three biggest meets — the 2017 World Championships and this year’s Commonwealth Games and African Championships. He finished second in each race to the same man — countryman Elijah Manangoi, who is second-fastest in the world this year. After the Kenyans are Norwegian brothers Filip Ingebrigtsen and Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the latter a 17-year-old who is the youngest sub-four-minute miler in history. He also just swept the 1500m and 5000m at the European Championships.

Men’s 200m — Thursday, 3:11 p.m. ET
Essentially a head-to-head between American Noah Lyles, the world’s best 200m runner post-Rio, and Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title in Lyles’ absence due to injury. Lyles, whose ebullience is most clearly expressed by his race socks, has won all of his outdoor 200m finals since finishing fourth at the Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old. His three fastest times came in his last three races: 19.69, 19.69 and 19.65. Guliyev just consolidated his shock world title by winning the European title in a personal-best 19.76.

Men’s Pole Vault — Friday, 1:28 p.m. ET
Three in the field have cleared 6.03 meters. Hasn’t happened since 2000. The man with the most excitement is recent Louisiana High School graduate Mondo Duplantis, who competes for Sweden, his mother’s native country. Duplantis just won the European title by clearing 6.05 meters. Only Sergey Bubka has vaulted higher outdoors in history. Also in this field: World-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France (record set indoors), world champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S. and Rio gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase — Friday, 2:11 p.m. ET
Deepest field between Zurich and Brussels? Ten women who combine to own the 28 fastest times this year. Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, who went a shocking one-two at the 2017 Worlds, take on Kenya’s best — Beatrice Chepkoech, Celliphine Chespol and Hyvin Kiyeng, who rank Nos. 1, 3 and 5 all-time.

Women’s 1500m — Friday, 2:41 p.m. ET
American Shelby Houlihan, the 2018 revelation of female distance running, takes on her toughest competition of an undefeated outdoor season. That includes Olympic and world medalist Jenny Simpson and the third-, fourth- and fifth-fastest women this year — Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay and Brit Laura Muir. Absent is world leader and world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba, whose only head-to-heads with Houlihan came at the world indoor championships in March.

Men’s Triple Jump — Friday, 2:47 p.m. ET
Christian Taylor, winner of the last two Olympics and last two worlds, has also been ranked No. 1 each of the previous three years. But Cuban-born Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Portugal owns the best triple jump of this year going into the Diamond League finals. Taylor won their last two head-to-heads in July but must leap a wind-legal 17.95 meters, which he hasn’t done since May 2017, to overtake Pichardo in the rankings.

Men’s 100m — Friday, 2:54 p.m. ET
Since the last Diamond League, American Ronnie Baker climbed to the top of the 2018 world rankings in the 100m (9.87 seconds). Baker, who grew up partially running cross-country in Alaska, has never won a U.S. or NCAA title or made an Olympic or world championships team outdoors. In Zurich, he takes on the more accomplished Christian Coleman, who at this time last year (and six months ago) was the clear favorite to succeed Usain Bolt long-term. Injuries hampered Coleman’s outdoor season, but he did beat Baker in their last head-to-head on July 13. The winner Friday could carry bragging rights into 2019.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — Friday, 3:15 p.m. ET
Rio gold medalist Brianna McNeal and world-record holder Kendra Harrison duel for the fifth time this season. Harrison owns the 3-1 edge and has the fastest time of 2018 (12.36). This will also be the last Diamond League race for the retiring Dawn Harper-Nelson, who earned Olympic gold in 2008 and silver in 2012.

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