HIGHLIGHTS: World lead for Sifan Hassan in Brussels; U.S. gets wins from Kerley, Cherry and McCarter; U.S. men get 0-0 tie with El Salvador in World Cup qualifier

Women's mile world-record holder Sifan Hassan (NED) (Photo: Erik van Leeuwen via Wikimedia Commons)

(For David Miller’s new comment, “Remembering Jacques Rogge,
and Dick Pound’s Olympic Near-Miss,” click here)

● Athletics ● A good crowd at King Badouin Stadium in Brussels showed up for the annual Memorial Van Damme – the penultimate stop on the Wanda Diamond League circuit for 2021 and were rewarded with a world-leading performance by Dutch star Sifan Hassan.

The 5,000 and 10,000 m winner in Tokyo, Hassan won the 1,500 m bronze and targeted the women’s mile here.

She was the only one to stay with the pacesetters through 1,000 m, with everyone else 30 m behind with two laps to go. She was all alone with 600 m to go and pushed hard down the final backstraight and all the way to the finish in 4:14.74, the best in the world in 2021 and the no. 5 performance of all time. Very, very impressive.

Ethiopia’s Axumawit Embaye led the chase group in second in 4:21.08, followed by Australia’s Linden Hall with a national record of 4:21.38. Americans Elise Cranny and Josette Norris got lifetime bests in fifth and sixth in 4:21.90 and 4:22.71, now nos. 9-10 in U.S. outdoor history.

While the World Athletics regulations for women with naturally-high testosterone levels do not allow them to compete in events from the 400 m to the mile, two women showed they can win elsewhere:

Women’s 200 m: Although American Sha’Carri Richardson drew a lot of attention, the focus was once again on Olympic silver medalist Christine Mboma (NAM) – not allowed to compete at 400 m – and Jamaica’s 100 m bronze winner Shericka Jackson.

Off the start, Richardson led early, but Jackson had control of the race coming into the straight. Just as in Tokyo, however, Mboma flew down the straight and won in 21.84 (+0.4), with Jackson second (21.95) and Dina Asher-Smith (GBR: 22.04) third. Richardson was a creditable fourth in 22.45. Mboma at only 18 is the coming star in this event.

Women’s 5,000 m: What would Francine Niyonsaba (BDI) do against Kenyan star Hellen Obiri? Niyonsaba, the Rio 800 m silver medalist, but not allowed to run that event now, was fifth in the Tokyo 10,000 m, then won the Pre Classic two-mile and the 3,000 m at the Meeting de Paris. She was right with Obiri and Eva Cherono (KEN) through 3,000 m at the head of a big pack.

Niyonsaba took the lead with four laps to go, but Obiri led a still-in-contact pack at the bell. But while Obiri looked strong coming into the final straight, she was passed by Ejgayehu Taye (ETH) and then Niyonsaba came from fourth to first in the final 80 m to win in a lifetime best of 14:25.34, no. 4 in the world for 2021. Taye was second in 14:25.63 and Obiri third in 14:26.23. It was a lifetime best for Niyonsaba by just more than 29 seconds, in her fourth career race at the distance!

American Alicia Monson was ninth at 14:42.56, a lifetime best and now no. 4 all-time U.S.

Elsewhere, the U.S. scored three speed wins:

Men’s 100 m: Olympic silver medalist Fred Kerley of the U.S. continues to prove that he’s no fluke, winning against world leader Trayvon Bromell of the U.S., 9.94-9.97 with 400 m star Michael Norman third in 9.98 (wind: +0.1 m/s). Norman and Bromell had the best starts, but Kerley came on the in the middle of the race and got to the front in the last 10 m.

Men’s 400 m: American Michael Cherry punctuated his career year with a brilliant second turn and explosive acceleration into the straight to win in a lifetime best of 44.03 – no. 5 on the world list for 2021 – over 2012 Olympic champ Kirani James (GRN: 44.41) and Isaac Makwala (BOT: 44.83).

Men’s Long Jump: South Africa’s 2017 Worlds bronze winner Ruswahl Samaai (7.95 m/26-1) and American Steffin McCarter (7.93 m/26-0 1/4) had the best jumps through five rounds. In the Diamond League’s sixth round-takes-all, McCarter improved to 7.99 m (26-2 3/4) for the lead and got his first career Diamond League title as Samaai finished with 7.89 m (25-10 3/4).

In other events:

Men’s 1,500 m: Australian Stewart McSweyn had the lead with the bell, but was passed by Spain’s Mohamed Katir just after the bell. Fellow Aussie Ollie Hoare came up for third and with 200 m to go, Katir was in charge, but he was passed by McSweyn and Hoare with 90 m go and faded badly. McSweyn charged away for the victory in 3:33.20, with Hoare second in 3:33.79 and Poland’s Michal Rozmys third (3:33.96).

Men’s 400 m hurdles: Olympic bronze medalist Alison dos Santos (BRA) was favored, but he was trailing Tokyo fourth-placer Kyron McMaster (IVB) into the home straight. But McMaster hit the eighth hurdle and slowed over the ninth and 10th barriers and dos Santos sailed by to win in 48.23 to 48.31.

Men’s Vault: Five were left at 5.85 m (19-2 1/4), but only Olympic champ Mondo Duplantis (SWE) and Americans Chris Nilsen and K.C. Lightfoot (equaling his outdoor lifetime best) could clear. At 5.91 m (19-4 3/4), Duplantis cleared, but both Nilsen and Lightfoot missed three times each, leaving Duplantis the winner.

He then cleared 6.05 m (19-10 1/4) on his third try and then moved on to a world-record height of 6.19 m (20-3 3/4), but missed all three tries.

Women’s 800 m: Jamaica’s Natoya Goule – eighth in Tokyo – had the lead with 300 m to go and held off Kelly Hodgkinson (GBR), 1:58.09-1:58.16. Jemma Reekie (GBR: 1:58.77) was third; Kate Grace of the U.S. was fifth (1:59.22).

Women’s 100 m hurdles: American Gabbi Cunningham got a good start, but Olympic silver winner Megan Tapper (JAM) came on in mid-race, only to be passed by Dutch star Nadine Visser and Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan. It took a photo to separate them, with Visser given the win as both timed 12.69 (+0.7 m/s). Tapper was third (12.77) and Cunningham fifth (12.89).

Women’s High Jump: The Olympic medalists all cleared 2.00 m (6-6 3/4): Russian Mariya Lasitskene, Australia’s Nicola McDermott and Yaroslava Mahuchikh (UKR). The Ukranian upped the ante with first-time clearance at 2.02 m (6-7 1/2), and Laskitskene passed after missing once and McDermott after missing twice. At 2.04 m (6-8 1/4), McDermott a third straight try and finished third. Laskitskene missed both tries and was second and Mahuchikh got the win, even with missing her three attempts at 2.04 m.

The non-Diamond League men’s 800 m was an easy win for Kenya’s Olympic silver winner Ferguson Rotich in 1:43.81.

In the in-city discus throw on Wednesday, Sweden’s Olympic champ Daniel Stahl won
his 14th meet in 15 tries in 2021 in 69.17 m (226-11), ahead of Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres (65.17 m/213-9). Women’s Olympic silver winner Yaime Perez of Cuba defeated Olympic champ Valarie Allman of the U.S., 66.47 m (218-1) to 64.25 m (210-9). Croatia’s two-time Olympic winner Sandra Perkovic was third (65.14 m/210-5).

The Diamond League final in Zurich (SUI) comes on 8-9 September.

● Cycling ● Friday’s hilly, 191.2 km course in stage 19 of the 76th Vuelta a Espana saw a seven-man breakaway hold on through the finish and a third stage win for Denmark’s Magnus Cort.

American Quinn Simmons and Portugal’s Rui Oliveira go away with 32 km left, but were soon joined by five others. The peloton could not catch up and while American Lawson Craddock had the lead with Simmons, Oliveira and Cort chasing, Cort won the final sprint to the line. Oliveira finished second, Simmons third and Craddock seventh.

Race leader Primoz Roglic (SLO) maintained a solid 2:30 lead over Enric Mas (ESP) in front of Saturday’s second-longest stage, with five climbs on the back half, including an uphill finish.

● Football ● The U.S. Men’s National Team opened its 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying trek in Sal Salvador, El Salvador, with a 0-0 draw.

The Salvadorans had a 51% possession edge in the game, which went back and forth and generated 20 shots, but only three on goal. The U.S. had a 13-7 edge on shots, but only got a couple of real chances on headers in the box.

The roughness of the game was described by the 30 total fouls, 19 of which were by the U.S., enlivened by a loud home crowd.

But the game ended scoreless and the U.S. will now go to Nashville on the 5th to meet Canada and on 8 September at Honduras in San Pedro Sula. Canada and Honduras tied, 1-1, in Toronto, in their first match on Thursday evening.

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