American track star Keni Harrison is over the moon about the small family reunion she's about to have in Eugene, Oregon.
The world record-holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 100-meter hurdles has competed in five global outdoor track and field championship events since 2015--and all of those events have been held at faraway international destinations. It's been rare that her parents or any of her nine siblings have been able to see her perform on the world's biggest stage.
The 29-year-old Harrison is stoked about having the world championships of track and field held on U.S. soil for the first time July 15-24 in Eugene, Oregon. She enters the World Athletics Championships with the world-leading time in her event (and is among the favorites to win gold) and will have at least 10 family members cheering her on from the stands of the newly renovated Hayward Field track stadium.
"To finally have Worlds in the U.S. is going to be awesome," says Harrison, whose family hails from Clayton, North Carolina. "For [my family] to be able to see what I love to do, being able to support me, is going to be really cool. I hope that I'm able to inspire them with my performance."
There should be inspiring performances galore at the 10-day meet that will include about 1,900 athletes from 200 countries. Without a doubt, it will be the most prestigious track meet held in the U.S. since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The World Indoor Championships were held in Portland, Oregon, in 2016 and several high-level international meets have been held in Eugene and New York City, but none has the star power and global championship pedigree that will be on display in the coming days at Hayward Field.
The meet will be a showcase of the world's best sprinters, distance runners, hurdlers, throwers and jumpers for the 12,900 fans expected to pack the stadium every day. American track and field fans will be able to see the events broadcast live on TV instead of via tape delay or at off-hours of the day.
NBC Sports will broadcast 43 hours from Eugene, with live afternoon and primetime shows both weekends of the event, plus additional coverage on USA Network and CNBC. All network and cable TV windows will be simul-streamed via NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, with NBC's programming also available on Peacock.
How To Watch The World Athletics Championships in the USA
Among the brightest stars competing include American 400-meter hurdles phenom Sydney McLaughlin, who won gold at last summer's Tokyo Olympics with a new world record and then lowered it to 51.41 with a win at the U.S. championships on June 26 in Eugene. She'll headline the U.S. team that also includes reigning Olympic champions Athing Mu (women's 800 meters), Ryan Crouser (men's shot put), Valarie Allman (women's discus), and Katie Nageotte (women's pole vault).
Top international stars include 35-year-old Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won gold in the women's 100-meter dash at the 2009, 2013, 2015, and 2019 World Athletics Championships as well as the 2008 and 2012 Olympics; Mondo Duplantis, an American-born Swedish pole vaulter who recently set another world record by clearing 6.16 m (or 20 feet 2 1/2 inches) at a meet in Stockholm; Kenya's Faith Kipyegon, who set an Olympic record of 3:53.11 while winning the women's 1500 meters last summer at the Tokyo Olympics; and Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Karsten Warholm, who won the men's 1500 meters and 400-meter hurdles, respectively, at last summer's Tokyo Olympics.
Adding a bit of a competitive twist was the recent news that South African athlete Caster Semenya is entered in the women's 5,000m. The three-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion in the 800 was born and raised as a female, but she has intersex characteristics. Recent World Athletics rule changes prohibit women with "differences of sexual development" from competing in races of 1 mile or shorter unless they take medication to suppress their testosterone levels. The 31-year-old Semenya recorded her 5,000m personal best of 15:31.50 earlier this year, but the medal contenders have all run a minute faster.
The U.S. also boasts several reigning world champions from 2019 competing in Eugene, including Dalilah Muhammad (women's 400m hurdles), Nia Ali (women’s 100m hurdles), Donavan Brazier (men’s 800m), DeAnna Price (women’s hammer), Christian Taylor (men’s triple jump), and Grant Holloway (men’s 110m hurdles).
Other top American medal contenders include Harrison, who owns a world-best clocking of 12.34 seconds in the 100m hurdles; Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton, the world's top 200-meter runners this season; and Devon Allen, the 2022 U.S. champion in the men's 110m hurdles who will be joining the Philadelphia Eagles as a wide receiver later this summer.
Last but certainly not least, American track and field legend Allyson Felix--who owns a record 18 career world championship medals (including 13 gold) and 11 Olympic medals--will be making her final international track appearance and has a very good chance at one more gold in the U.S. mixed 4x400m relay.
The Road To Welcoming the World Championships to the United States
The U.S. has been one of track and field's dominant countries since the early 20th century and especially since the advent of the world championships in 1983. American athletes have won 170 gold medals since the inaugural event in Helsinki, Finland--110 more than next-best Kenya--and look well-equipped to top the medal table for the 14th time in 16 events.
So why has it taken so long for the U.S. to host the world championships? Since the first championships, the meet has been held at 10 European sites (including Helsinki twice), three Asian cities (Osaka, Beijing, Daegu), Moscow, Doha, and even Edmonton, Canada. The U.S. was supposed to host last year, but the pandemic bumped the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to last summer, pushing the World Athletics Championships back a year.
With the major renovations to Hayward Field unveiled in 2021, the U.S. is finally ready to host track and field's elite.
“This is a very important marketplace for us, it’s the largest sports market in the world and we need to be there in higher profile,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said recently. “We don’t want to come out of the world championships in Oregon without a very defined footprint for our sport in that country.”
While track geeks will watch the World Athletics Championships with awe-inspiring drool on a daily basis, even casual fans will be impressed by the speed, strength, agility, and precision of what many consider the greatest collection of diversity, event-by-event excitement, and athletic range in all of sports.
“It’s honestly crazy to me that the world championships have never been on U.S. soil," Muhammad said. "It will bring more fans to the sport and just grow it. We do produce such amazing athletes in the U.S. so it’s about time, I think, that we get the fan support.”
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