Five events to watch at Prefontaine Classic
The 2017 World Track and Field Championships left questions that could carry over into 2019 and 2020. What does Allyson Felix have left? When will Justin Gatlin cede the world’s fastest man title? How much longer will Caster Semenya be unbeatable?
Those questions might not be answered at this weekend’s Prefontaine Classic (NBC and NBC Sports Gold broadcast schedule here), but it could be the most important meet of a year without a world championships to sort them out.
Felix races the 400m, now her trademark event after a decade as mainly a 200m sprinter, for the first time since taking bronze at worlds in London in August. She does so against the women who beat her both at worlds in London and in Rio.
Update (Friday, 4:30 p.m.): Allyson Felix has withdrawn from the Pre Classic.
Gatlin withdrew from Pre on Wednesday, but the man now seen as the heir to Usain Bolt‘s sprint throne, Christian Coleman, races the 100m for the first time since worlds, too. Coleman may have been edged by Gatlin in their one-two at worlds, but he is 14 years younger and coming off an indoor season where he ran the 60m faster than the world record three times (twice under legal conditions).
If Coleman stays fast at Pre, through the summer and 2019, we may look back on 2017 as the transition year between the retiring Bolt and rising Coleman more so than Gatlin’s return to the top.
Semenya faces all of her closest 800m rivals on Saturday, though “close” must be used loosely. Her dominance may be impacted going into next season if the IAAF’s new testosterone limits on middle-distance runners are implemented. This Diamond League season presents what could be the final opportunities for American Ajee’ Wilson and others to take on Semenya before the women’s 800m landscape changes significantly.
Eugene start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):
9:37 p.m. -- Men’s Pole Vault
9:42 -- Men’s Javelin
10:52 -- Men’s 800m
11:06 -- Men’s 2 Mile
3:40 p.m. -- Women’s Pole Vault
3:43 -- Men’s Triple Jump
3:48 -- Men’s International Mile
4 -- Men’s High Jump
4:03 -- Women’s 400m Hurdles
4:10 -- Women’s 800m
4:18 -- Men’s 100m
4:26 -- Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
4:41 -- Women’s 100m
4:50 -- Women’s 1500m
4:58 -- Men’s Shot Put
5:03 -- Men’s 110m Hurdles
5:10 -- Women’s 5000m
5:31 -- Women’s 400m
5:44 -- Men’s 200m
5:51 -- Men’s Bowerman Mile
Here are five events to watch on Saturday:
Women’s 800m -- 4:10 p.m. ET
Olympic champion Caster Semenya faces the fastest American of all time, Ajee’ Wilson, for the first time since the 2017 Worlds, where Semenya breezed past Wilson and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba in the final straight. Semenya is undefeated at 800m for 22 straight meets dating to September 2015, according to Tilastopaja.org.
Men’s 3000m Steeplechase -- 4:26 p.m. ET
First matchup between Olympic and world champion Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya and top American Evan Jager this season, and Jager’s first steeplechase anywhere since Sept. 1. Kipruto relegated Jager to silver at the Olympics and bronze at the world championships. Jager has never won a race with Kipruto in the field but does have the world’s fastest time since the Rio Games.
Women’s 100m -- 4:41 p.m. ET
The top five women from the 2017 World Championships, led by gold medalist Tori Bowie and Jamaican Elaine Thompson, who swept the 100m and 200m in Rio but was shockingly fifth at worlds. Thompson suffered her second 100m defeat since the start of 2016 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 4. Bowie has been absent from the Diamond League since worlds in August. Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahouré of the Ivory Coast and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers have a chance here.
Men’s Shot Put -- 4:58 p.m. ET
Every reigning Olympic and world medalist is in this field, plus the six men who combined for the world’s 33 best outdoor throws since the start of 2013. It’s headlined by Rio gold and silver medalists Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs of the U.S. and New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh, who on March 25 matched the farthest throw in the world since 1990. Crouser defeated Walsh at the Drake Relays on April 28.
Women’s 400m -- 5:31 p.m. ET
Shaune Miller-Uibo led the 2017 Worlds final coming off the last curve but stumbled and ended up fourth with American Phyllis Francis the surprise winner. Pre is the outdoor 400m season debut for Miller-Uibo and Francis. Miller-Uibo has already in 2018 run the fastest times ever for 300m indoors and 150m on a straightaway.
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