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U.S. Olympic Trials: Live Updates, Qualifiers, and Analysis

Rudy Winkler set an American record during the finals of the men’s hammer throw at the Track and Field U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The men’s hammer throw and the women’s triple jump, two of the track and field events that the United States has historically been the worst at, had a chance to shine Sunday evening, as did the women’s high jump. Here what happened:

With his second throw in the finals, Rudy Winkler both set a national record and achieved the second-farthest throw in the world this year, behind only Paweł Fajdek of Poland, a four-time world champion in the event. Winkler has a chance at becoming the first American man to medal in the hammer throw since 1996.

He will be joined by Daniel Haugh and Alex Young, neither of whom have attended an Olympics before, but they do have the fifth and 10th farthest throws this year.

The American high jump team at the Tokyo Olympics will look a lot like the one at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Vashti Cunningham won the event by being the only jumper fly over the bar at 6 feet 5 inches. Inika McPherson and Nicole Greene both surpassed 6 feet 4 inches, but McPherson placed second by virtue of doing it cleanly on her first attempt, while Greene needed two attempts. Cunningham and McPherson both competed in Rio, while Greene was a national champion at the University of North Carolina.

Keturah Orji, the American outdoor record-holder, and Tori Franklin, the American indoor record-holder, took the top two places in the women’s triple jump final, as expected. Orji won the event with a 14.52 meter jump, while Franklin won the crowd by demanding (and receiving) loud staccato claps from the crowd before each jump. They will be joined in Tokyo by Jasmine Moore, a University of Georgia freshman who took second at the N.C.A.A. championships last weekend.

An American woman has never medaled in this event at the Olympics, though Orji finished fourth in Rio.

Allyson Felix celebrated with her daughter after qualifying for the Olympics in the 400 by placing second on Sunday.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Allyson Felix has qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, where she will take aim at becoming the second most decorated track and field athlete in Olympic history.

Felix qualified for next month’s Olympics in Tokyo by finishing second in the 400-meter finals at the Olympic trials, with a time of 50.02 seconds. Felix, who started on the outside in lane eight, was in fourth place rounding the curve into the final homestretch, but caught two competitors to book her plane ticket to Tokyo. The crowd at Hayward Field gave her a standing ovation.

In Tokyo she will race both the 400 meters and the 4×400 meter relay. Medaling in both would give her 11 career Olympic medals, surpassing Carl Lewis and leaving her one short of Paavo Numi, the “Flying Finn” who won numerous distance medals in the 1920s.

Joining Felix in the 400 meters in Tokyo will be Quanera Hayes and Wadeline Jonathas. Hayes has run the sixth-fastest time outdoors this season, while Jonathas has the eighth-fastest time, and took fourth place at the 2019 world championships.

Felix, 35, first attended the Olympics as an 18-year-old in 2004 in Athens, where she won a silver medal in the 200, the event she specialized in throughout her career. But she took silver in the 400 five years ago in Rio, and has been on three consecutive gold medal-winning 4×400 meter relay teams.

The last few years have brought a number of challenges off the track for Felix. Her daughter, Camryn, who has made a number of appearances at the trials, was born via an emergency C-section at 32 weeks in 2018. Camryn, or Cammy as Felix calls her, was quick to join Felix on the track after she qualified for Tokyo.

Felix later detailed how her sponsor, Nike, did not support her during this period and would not guarantee in future contracts that she “wouldn’t be punished if I didn’t perform at my best in the months surrounding childbirth,” as she wrote in The New York Times. Felix is now sponsored by Athleta.

Vashti Cunningham won the women’s high jump final on Sunday.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

It’s only the third of ten days at the Olympic trials, but a number of finals have already been contested.

Assuming the athletes have hit the qualifying standard in their respective event, we already know a number of athletes who have qualified to go to Tokyo. So far, Team U.S.A. consists of:

  • Ryan Crouser

  • Joe Kovacs

  • Payton Otterdahl

  • Woody Kincaid

  • Grant Fisher

  • Joe Klecker

  • Valarie Allman

  • Micaela Hazlewood

  • Rachel Dincoff

  • Sha’Carri Richardson

  • Javianne Oliver

  • Teahna Daniels

  • Rudy Winkler

  • Daniel Haugh

  • Alex Young

  • Keturah Orji

  • Tori Franklin

  • Jasmine Moore

  • Quanera Hayes

  • Allyson Felix

  • Wadeline Jonathas

  • Michael Norman

  • Michael Cherry

  • Randolph Ross

  • Keni Harrison

  • Brianna McNeal*

  • Christina Clemons

*McNeal has been suspended for five years for antidoping violations, but was allowed to compete while she appeals her suspension. If she is unsuccessful in her appeal, Gabbi Cunningham, who finished fourth, will take McNeal’s spot.

  • Trayvon Bromell

  • Ronnie Baker

  • Fred Kerley

Shelby Houlihan won the Women's 1500 Meter final during the 2020 Toyota USATF Indoor Championships last year.
Credit…Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The biggest story of the trials so far is what happened before they even began when Shelby Houlihan, American record-holder in the 1500 meters, announced she had tested positive for a steroid and had been banned from the sport for four years. Houlihan blamed her positive test on meat she says she ate in a burrito, and has vowed to appeal the judgment.

Surprisingly, U.S.A. Track & Field said she could still run in the trials, a decision that was seemingly against the rules of international sporting organizations and antidoping bodies. A number of those groups — as well as some of Houlihan’s fellow competitors — condemned the decision, and it was quickly reversed.

Houlihan is not the only athlete with a chance at an Olympic medal who is missing from the Trials. Christian Coleman, who won the 100 meter race at the 2019 world championships, was banned for 18 months after missing his third drug test in a year. Brianna McNeal, who won gold in the 100 meter hurdles at the Rio Olympics, has been banned for five years for “tampering within the results management process,” but is running at the trials while she appeals her suspension, which should be heard before the Olympics begin.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

If you only want to watch the marquee races Sunday night, you’re in luck. But if you are a die-hard fan of the jumping and throwing events, you might have to work a little bit harder.

NBC will have coverage of the trials from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET. They will start with the women’s 100 meter hurdles semifinals and end with the men’s 100 meter finals, covering three other finals and a number of running qualifying rounds between.

But if you tune in right at 9 p.m. ET, you’ll be missing part of the finals in three field events, which start as early as 7:25 p.m. ET (men’s hammer throw) and as late as 8:55 p.m. ET (women’s triple jump). Those events, as well as a number of decathlon events, can be streamed online at NBCOlympics.com.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

It was 87 degrees when the men’s hammer throw final began at 7:25 p.m. ET, and it will not be much cooler when the men’s 100 meter final is run a few hours later. The heat will affect athletes competing in every event, but especially competitors running longer distances.

The full affect will not be on display Sunday, as the longest finals are the men’s and women’s 400 meter races. But on Monday night the women running in the 10,000 meter finals will have to decide whether and how much to dial things back because of the heat.

Through the first two days there has been a persistent north-to-south breeze in Hayward Stadium, in the face of runners on the backstretch and behind them on the homestretch.

Ben True, who finished an agonizing fourth in the men’s 10,000 meter finals on Friday evening, said the wind prevented him from making a necessary surge, costing him a chance at making the Olympic team.

“There was a pretty stiff wind on the back stretch and I thought if I made a move the three guys behind — Woody, Grant, and Joe — were all going to be able to match me,” True said.

Allyson Felix will be competing to make her fifth Olympic team tonight.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

There are four race finals on Sunday evening, with some of the most prominent track and field stars, like Allyson Felix and Noah Lyles, competing. Here’s a look at each of those races:

The nine-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix is looking to make her fifth, and final, Olympics team in this event. She took second in this event at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and won it at the world championships in 2015. Quanera Hayes, all of just 19 years old, has the best time this season of any runner in the field, and Wadeline Jonathas has looked blazing fast. But this is one of the most competitive, and hardest to predict, races at the trials, and almost no combination of the top three will be surprising.

The men’s 400 is a young man’s game, as half the field ran in the N.C.A.A. championships last weekend. The winner of that race, and the man with the fastest personal best in the field, is Randolph Ross of North Carolina A&T. His teammate Trevor Stewart has run the fastest time in qualifying rounds. The comparatively grizzled veteran Michael Cherry is 26, and has run on a number of medal winning 4×400 meter relay teams.

The finalists in this event will not be known until the semifinals (9:03 p.m. ET) are contested. The American women swept this event at the Rio Olympics, but the field going into Tokyo is wide open. One of the medalists, Nia Ali, isn’t competing, and another, Brianna McNeal, has been banned from the sport for five years for “tampering within the results management process,” but is allowed to run at the trials while she appeals her suspension. The third Olympic medalist, Kristi Castlin, has qualified for the semifinals but hasn’t run particularly well this season.

The finalists in this event will not be known until the semifinals (9:19 p.m. ET) are contested, but to say field is deep is an understatement. Ten of the 14 fastest men at 100 meters this season are American, led by Trayvon Bromell and Marvin Bracy. The biggest names are Noah Lyles, who won the 200 at the world championships in 2019, and the 39-year-old Justin Gatlin, who won the event 17 years ago at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Valarie Allman, first, center, Micaela Hazlewood, second and Rachel Dincoff, third, left, stand on the podium after the women's discus throw at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

To qualify for the Olympics it is not enough just to finish in the top three in an event. Just ask Micaela Hazlewood.

Hazlewood, who competed in the discus and shot put for Purdue University and then as a graduate student for the University of Kentucky, finished second in the discus finals Saturday night, throwing a personal best 62.54 meters.

But she is missing the qualifying standard that would stamp her ticket to Tokyo.

If each country was allowed to qualify three athletes in each track and field event at the Olympics, the competition would be impossible to manage, with dozens of rounds of qualifiers. So there is a qualifying standard, a minimum distance, height or time an athlete must achieve to compete in the Olympics.

For the women’s discus, the qualifying standard is 63.50, and the deadline to achieve it is June 29. Hazlewood’s plan to achieve it, and therefore join the Olympic team, in the next 10 days?

“That is what I am going to leave here today and try and figure that out,” Hazlewood said Saturday night, when asked if she had any meets lined up. “Probably hit a couple of them trying to hit that mark.”

An extra 96 centimeters is all it will take.

Ryan Crouser with his world record throw displayed on the screen.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Already an Olympic gold medalist and record holder in the shot put, Ryan Crouser added a new line to his already impressive resume on Friday night: World Record Holder.

Crouser uncorked a throw of 76 feet, 8 ¼ inches, not just besting the record previously held by Randy Barnes, but smashing it by a full ten inches. The previous record was also set under dubious circumstances, as just two months later Barnes tested positive for steroids, and was banned for 27 months. Eight years later Barnes tested positive for androstenedione, and was banned from track and field for life.

Crouser’s biggest competition in Tokyo will probably be his American teammate Joe Kovacs, who finished in second place on Friday night. Kovacs also finished second to Crouser at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and is a two time world champion at the shot put.

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