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Why some of track’s biggest names are not at the World Championships

July 19, 2022 Updated Tue., July 19, 2022 at 8:25 p.m.

Sha’Carri Richardson, pictured in 2021, failed to qualify for the World Track and Field Championships in Eugene.  (Tribune News Service)
Sha’Carri Richardson, pictured in 2021, failed to qualify for the World Track and Field Championships in Eugene. (Tribune News Service)
By Kevin Draper New York Times

The best runners, jumpers and throwers in the world are all in Eugene this week, competing in the World Track and Field Championships. At least, most of them. But not all.

Some are injured. Some failed to qualify. Some are serving doping bans. Some had visa issues. Some are missing out for a combination of reasons, or for no public reason at all.

These are some of the most notable absences.

Sha’Carri Richardson: Richardson won the 100-meter race at the U.S. Olympic trials last year and looked to inherit the mantle of next great American sprinter. But things have only gone downhill for her since.

She missed the Olympics last summer because of a positive test for marijuana and has raced only sparingly in the past year. At the U.S. championships last month, she did not make it out of the first round of qualifiers. Her attempt to make it to the world championships in the 200 fell flat, too.

Afterward, she sparred with the assembled news media.

Cole Hocker: In less than two months last year, Hocker won the 1,500 at the NCAA championships, won the same event at the Olympic trials and finished sixth at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 21-year-old’s scintillating form continued into 2022. He won the 1,500 at the United States indoor championships and skipped the far less prestigious world indoor championships to focus on the outdoor championships.

Alas, his plan went awry in his first heat of the 1,500 at the U.S. championships, when his famed kick let him down in the final 50 meters. Afterward, his agent said he had been injured.

Tara Davis: A breakout social media star who finished sixth in the long jump at the Olympics, Davis was not able to compete at the U.S. championships because of a knee injury.

Molly Seidel: As bronze medalist in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics, Seidel was offered her spot in the world championships eight months ago. Since then, however, her running has been hampered by injuries. Seidel dropped out in the middle of the Boston Marathon in the spring, and, earlier this month, said she had a stress reaction in her sacrum, a bone at the bottom of the spine.

Seidel was replaced in the marathon by Keira D’Amato, who set the American marathon record in Houston this year. D’Amato placed eighth Monday in Oregon and was one of three Americans to finish in the top 10.

Eliud Kipchoge: The greatest marathoner – he has won 14 of the 16 marathons he has started, including winning at the past two Olympics – Kipchoge has made a habit of skipping the world championships to instead compete in the far more lucrative big city marathons. Kipchoge follows the standard elite marathoner schedule of running one in the spring and one in the fall, breaking form only in Olympic years.

He’ll next compete in the Berlin Marathon in September.

Francine Niyonsaba: Niyonsaba, of Burundi, was one of the best 800 runners in the world, winning a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics. But in 2019, it was ruled that Niyonsaba could no longer compete in mid-distance events because of her naturally elevated testosterone levels.

She has since moved up to longer distances and finished fifth in the 10,000 at the Tokyo Olympics but withdrew from the world championships this week after missing training because of a stress fracture.

Raven Saunders: With her multicolored hair, masks of the Joker and the Incredible Hulk, and oh-by-the-way incredible strength, Saunders was one of the most memorable characters at last year’s Olympics, winning a silver medal in the shot put.

Saunders was also one of the few athletes to mount a protest in Tokyo, raising her arms in an X while accepting her medal, saying later that the gesture was “for oppressed people.”

Saunders finished only fourth in qualifying, but she will still be in Eugene doing media interviews and playing fantasy track and field.

Sam Kendricks: The back-to-back world champion in the pole vault, Kendricks was expected to be one of the few who could challenge Swedish pole vaulting champion Mondo Duplantis. But Kendricks had knee surgery in early May and did not recover as quickly as expected.

Randolph Ross and Lawrence Cherono: Two athletes were suspended from competition by the Athletics Integrity Unit – the anti-doping arm of the world track-and-field federation – on the eve of the world championships.

Ross, an American who won a gold medal in Tokyo in the 400 relay, was provisionally suspended for what the AIU said was “conduct during the course of an investigation into a potential whereabouts violation.” A whereabouts violation occurs when an athlete is not where they said they would be when anti-doping testers attempt to test them.

Cherono, a Kenyan who is one of the best marathoners in the world, tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned heart medication known mostly as the drug that teenage Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for before this year’s Winter Olympics.

Peres Jepchirchir: The marathon champion at the Tokyo Olympics, Jepchirchir withdrew from the world championships because of a hip injury.

Steven Gardiner: The reigning world and Olympic champion in the 400, Gardiner wrote on Instagram last week that he had to withdraw because of an inflamed tendon.

Garrett Scantling: It is not clear why Scantling, who finished fourth in the decathlon in Tokyo, is not competing. Scantling qualified for the world championships at the United States’ combined events championship in April with a score that ranked him as the third-best American of all time, behind only Dan O’Brien and Ashton Eaton.

But Scantling was not on USA Track & Field’s list of world championship participants.

Scantling, his agent and the national federation have not explained why.

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