Heat, the gunshot of the biggest tests tests

EUGENE, Ore. – Hurdler Sydney McLaughlin’s knee was bloody. Lined up in three lanes outside of her, Nnenya Hailey was so hot that she looked towards the stands and begged for water.

It was before the start of the race.

Thanks in part to some capillary trigger sensors on the starting blocks, the hurdlers felt the heat as intensely as anyone on Friday on a 92-degree day at the Olympic track and field trials in the United States. .

It took five tries to launch a men’s 110-meter series. It took four more to get McLaughlin and Co. out of the blocks for their 400 qualifier.

“I’ve never had so many restarts in my life,” said McLaughlin, whose next showdown with world record holder Dalilah Muhammad could be one of the best races of the Olympic season. “My knee started to bleed a bit just from the hot track, going down so many times.”

McLaughlin won his round. Hailey was second. But with temperatures heading into triple digits this weekend, it hardly felt like a hassle-free preliminary day for runners with bigger races in reserve.

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“After the second reboot, do you know when you spit and your saliva is, like, white?” Hailey said. “I couldn’t run like that. I literally looked into the audience and thought, ‘Who has a bottle of water?’

She took a sip and passed it down the line.

Hailey also left the track with unexpected knee problems.

“Already crisp before you get here. By the time I leave it will probably be erased, ”she said.

Just 20 minutes earlier, the men had endured a similar struggle.

Four times they lined up. Four times the cannon sounded. Each time, the alarm sounds and the shot starts again to signal the illegal departure. The crowd hooted and hissed. Ato Bolden and the NBC commentators went mad, wondering aloud why the sensors weren’t turned off. Only one rider, Samuel Brixey, was disqualified, but he filed a protest and was transferred to the next lap.

“Give me a little slack, man,” Brixey said before knowing the outcome of the call. “I had three for three and they call us back and they inform a few other guys like, ‘Hey, your feet are moving.’ And then there was me, and they’re just like “red card”.

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Only six Olympic places were awarded on Friday – three in the steeplechase went to Hillary Bor, Benard Keter and Mason Ferlic; three on the men’s record went to Mason Finley, Reggie Jagers and Sam Mattis.

The rest of the day was spent qualifying. And prepare for what should be a more intense weekend. Among those who moved without too much trouble were Allyson Felix and Noah Lyles, both at 200.

Felix could clinch an Olympic spot with a top-three spot on Saturday, although she would have to choose between that distance and the 400, which straddles the Olympic calendar.

Lyles advanced to the semi-finals with his younger brother, Josephus, who trains with him in Florida.

“That humidity out there, it’s like a burden on you. This is like going through paper, ”Lyles said.

Dry heat or not, Saturday high should be 103. Sunday it is 111.

It would be hotter than any day at the world championships two years ago in the sultry Middle Eastern city of Doha, Qatar. Expenses not being a problem, the organizers installed air conditioning in the outdoor stadium to make things more tolerable there.

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Bad luck with Eugene. But USA Track and Field moved Saturday’s 20k race from two a.m. to 7 a.m. and moved the weekend distance races, the 10,000 women and 5,000 men, to the morning heat of the day. This weekend’s 12 other finals, plus the grueling heptathlon, remain as planned – all in the afternoon, all in the heat of the day.

“You don’t beat the heat. It’s not something you run away from, ”said long jumper Jarrion Lawson. “Usually the heat comes with great performance, so prepare, hydrate and compete and try to get off the track as soon as possible.”

Easier said than done for some.

” I do not even know. I lost count, ”said hurdler Jaylan McConico, who won the race that took five tries to get out of the blocks. “After two, it was like, ‘Okay, it’s getting a little old now.'”

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