HIGHLIGHTS: Crouser explodes to 22.72 m (74-6 1/2) in Des Moines; Tour de France starts with wins by Kristoff and Alaphilippe!

Shot put superstar Ryan Crouser (USA)

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Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world:

Athletics ● Continuing to re-write the record book in the men’s shot put, American Ryan Crouser authored the second-best series in history with a stunning win at 22.72 m (74-6 1/2) at the “Blue Oval Showcase” at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.

The pandemic version of the Drake Relays, the one-day meet on Saturday included 11 events, with only a handful of spectators. But Crouser showed that he might be the best putter of all time:

● He won a Tuesday competition at the same site at 22.56 m (74-0 1/4), ahead of Payton Otterdahl, far behind at 21.14 m (69-4 3/4). .

● His first throw on Saturday was 22.27 m (73-0 3/4), followed by monster throws of 22.72 m (74-6 1/2), 22.70 m (74-5 3/4), 22.63 m (74-3), 22.68 m (74-5), 22.44 m (73-7 1/2).

● That’s six throws, all beyond 22 m, only the second time that’s happened. Italy’s Alessandro Andrei did it in 1987, and his series included three consecutive world records of 22.72 m (74-6 1/2), 22.84 m (74-11 1/4) and 22.91 m (75-2) on throws 3-4-5.

● Crouser averaged 22.57 m (74-0 3/4) on his six throws; only 11 men have ever thrown further than his average! Andrei in ‘87 was the only better series, averaging 22.62 m (74-3), with all six over 22 m. In his 1990 world-record series at the Pepsi Invitational at UCLA, American Randy Barnes averaged 22.52 m (73-10 3/4) and had one throw under 22 m.

● Only 15 men in history have thrown 22.44 m (73-7 1/2) or further; Crouser did it five times in one series!

Track & Field News posted an all-time list of 74-foot puts (including in-series); there have been 41 in all and Crouser has 15 all by himself. Next is East German Ulf Timmermann, who had five between 1985-88. In the 21st Century, there have been 23 throws beyond 74 feet and Crouser has 15! (T&FN’s list does not include Barnes’s throws from 1990, or Kevin Toth’s 2003’s throw as these were years in which they recorded a drug positive, but their marks have been re-inserted for the above statistics.)

Said Crouser: “I was really, really happy with it. I wanted that big one, 23 meters (75-5 1/2), it felt like it was there, but all I can really do is set myself up as best I can and just try to let it happen the day of. I felt like I did that really well. The consistency I had out there showed that. So I was really, really happy with the consistency and the execution. It just didn’t quite connect on that big throw. But any time you’re consistent like that you kind of know it’s there.”

Given his brilliant condition, he said he would be looking for more meets, but recognized the difficulties, given the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. But already the Rio 2016 Olympic Champion, he could be a world record away from being the best putter of all time.

Highlighting the other events in Des Moines on Saturday were wins for Jeff Demps (10.09) and Josephus Lyles (20.32) in the men’s sprints and Michael Dickson in the 110 m hurdles (13.54). Lynna Irby continued her comeback season with a 22.52w (+3.7 m/s) win in the women’s 200 m (world leader Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas did not finish) and Sandi Morris (4.65 m/15-3) won the vault.

The USATF Road Mile Championships were run, with Sam Prakel edging Colby Alexander and Joe Klecker as all three ran 3:59 in the men’s division, while Emily Lipari won the women’s mile in 4:30, ahead of Marisa Howard (4:32).

There was some money for the top finishers, with $3,000 for the winners ($1,500 for the winners of the men’s 200 m, women’s 100 m and long jump). Crouser and Irby were the men’s and women’s performers of the meet and won an extra $1,500.

Cycling ● The 107th Tour de France got underway on Saturday with a full complement of riders, but many fewer fans along the route and especially at the start and finish. But the racing was tremendous, with Norway’s Alexander Kristoff finishing with a tremendous sprint to win the first stage, held in and around Nice. The mass finish had 132 riders given the same time.

Sunday’s second stage, again in and around Nice, featured two major early climbs and then two short climbs near the end, and off of the Col des Quartre Chemins, about 11 km from the finish, France’s Julian Alaphilippe surged to the lead. He was quickly joined in the breakaway by Britain’s Adam Yates and Tour rookie Marc Hirschi of Switzerland. Yates looked like a possible winner with 200 m to go, but Alaphillipe and Hirschi had more left and the Frenchman won by inches after 4:55:27 in the saddle.

The win put Alaphilippe in the leader’s yellow jersey again, by four seconds over Yates, seven over Hirschi and 17 seconds over the main contenders. Alaphilippe held the yellow for 14 stages in 2019, finally succumbing in the end to the superior climbing ability of eventual winner Egan Bernal (COL) and some bad weather. Can he hold on? For how long?

The next couple of stages are good for Alaphilippe; racing continues daily through 6 September.

On Friday, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced that the automatic disqualification of teams in the Tour de France for two positive COVID-19 tests had been relaxed:

“In the case of two or more riders from the same team testing positive for COVID-19 within a period of seven days at a Grand Tour, the UCI will give the event organiser authorisation to announce the withdrawal of the team for health reasons.”

The riders had complained that a false-positive test could cause a team to be disqualified. Second tests and blood tests could also be carried out to confirm any positive prior to the next stage being run.

Britain’s Lizzie Deignan showed she’s back in championship form with two wins on the UCI’s Women’s World Tour with two wins this week:

● At the 19th Grand Prix de Plouay, Deignan won a sprint to the finish on the flat, 101.1 km course over countrywoman Elizabeth Banks, both timed in 2:43:40.

● On Saturday, Deignan beat the best in the world at the one-day, 96.0 km La Course by Le Tour de France in and around Nice. The course had two major climbs, but was downhill over the final 24 km, so the expected mass final sprint saw Deignan edge Dutch stars Marianne Vos (2nd), Demi Vollering (3rd) and Annemiek van Vleuten (5th), plus Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma (4th), with all five given times of 2:22:51.

Vos attacked during the downhill run and looked like the winner, but Deignan led a mad dash that win the race in the final meters and denied Vos a repeat victory.

Swimming ● Japan’s Rikako Ikee was looking forward to a run at medals in front of home fans at the 2020 Olympic Games, but was felled with leukemia in 2018.

But perhaps her Olympic dreams are alive again after she competed for the first time in 592 days since her diagnosis at a two-day event at the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre.

Ikee was obviously not in top form and looked quite thin, but won her heat in the timed-final 50 m Free in 26.32, finishing fifth overall.

“I was extremely nervous, but I still blew past my target (26.86),” she told the Japan Times. “I recognized many areas for improvement. If I can iron those out, my results will get better in leaps and bounds.”

Tennis ● The most successful doubles team of all time, brothers Mike and Bob Bryan announced their retirement on Thursday (27th), just before the 2020 U.S. Open got underway.

Identical twins, the pair – both now 42 – won a staggering 119 tournaments together (Mike won five more while Bob was recovering from injuries) and were finalists in another 59 tournaments. The pair won 16 majors together, including six Australian Opens, three Wimbledons and five U.S. Open titles.

Both were two-time Olympians, winning bronzes in Beijing in 2008 and golds in London in 2012.

Said Mike: “We feel it’s the right time to walk away. We’ve given over 20 years to the tour, and we are now looking forward to the next chapter of our lives. With that said, we feel very blessed to have been able to play the game of doubles for so long. We are grateful to have had the opportunities in the beginning of the year to play and say our goodbyes to the fans. Winning our final event in Delray Beach and clinching the Davis Cup tie in Honolulu are moments we’ll forever remember and cherish.”

The brothers announced in 2019 that 2020 would be their final year and end after the U.S. Open, but the coronavirus pandemic led to an early end of their careers.