KC LightfootTrack & FieldNews

KC Lightfoot, Brittany Brown Overcome Challenges For Bislett Games Victories

by Brian Pinelli

Brittany Brown celebrates after winning the women's 200-meter finals at the 2024 Bislett Games, part of the 2024 Diamond League, on May 30, 2024 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Getty Images)

In a meet stricken with surprises, KC Lightfoot and Brittany Brown emerged victorious in their events at the prestigious Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.

Lightfoot out-leaped his U.S. teammates and Olympic medalists Chris Nilsen and Sam Kendricks in the men’s pole vault, thriving under increasingly difficult and soggy conditions.

Brown upset two-time world champion Shericka Jackson of Jamaica, while nipping Marie Josée Ta at the line to win the women’s 200 meters.

The 24-year-old Missouri pole vaulter won his first career Diamond League event with a first attempt clearance of 5.82m/19ft 1in. Lightfoot – who narrowly missed an Olympic medal, finishing fourth at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – overcame light rain, while succeeding on all four of his attempts to triumph with a clean card. 

“It was good out there; I really do not normally jump in the rain – my last couple of jumps the rain started and the poles were greasy, but I did ok,” Lightfoot said.

“I never come into a comp thinking I will win, but that is just me. I guess it is because I have a lot of good days and a lot of bad days, but today I am pleased it was a good day.”

The Olympic Games Rio 2016 bronze medalist and two-time world champion Kendricks made his second attempt at 5.72m, but then was unsuccessful three times at 5.82m. The Mississippi vaulter bowed out, finishing fourth. Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 silver medalist Nilsen could soar no higher than 5.62m and finished seventh.

“It is great to have my compatriots here cheering me on – when we go out there, we know we are competing, but we still try to help each other,” Lightfoot said about Kendricks and Nilsen.

All-world rock star Armand “Mondo” Duplantis – who has flown to victory at the previous four editions of the Bislett Games – skipped the Norwegian meet after having competed and winning easily in Ostrava, Czech Republic, earlier this week.

Lightfoot stands as the American record holder, having vaulted 6.07m/19 ft 10.75 in) in June 2023. He entered Thursday night’s competition as the No. 7 ranked pole vaulter in the world.

“A short recovery after today and then I’ll compete in Stockholm (next Diamond League meeting, June 2) before heading back to the States for the American trials, which are always tough and anything can happen there,” Lightfoot said.

Out of the blocks from lane eight, Brown executed the tight curve on the Oslo track near flawlessly and surged before the finish to overtake Ta Lou-Smith. The Claremont, California, sprinter clocked a season-best winning time of 22.32 seconds. 

“I didn’t execute a good start, nonetheless I came out there and did what I needed and knew what I could do even out of lane eight,” Brown tells Team USA.

“I think this race adds on to my momentum, but not confidence as it cemented what I already knew. Last week, I ran the 100 at Pre (Prefontaine Classic) and got second-to-last. This week, I ran and won.”

The Jamaican favorite Jackson was far from top form and settled for a surprising fifth, while Brown’s U.S. teammate Anavia Battle took fourth.

Brown, 29, the 2019 world championships silver medalist, expressed her displeasure with the difficult lane assignment via social media. 

“I was definitely irritated they put me in lane 8 talking about some world rankings,” while posting her photo with hand on hips and looking quite annoyed on Instagram.

Still, the former Iowa Hawkeyes sprinter overcame her misfortune and a tough field of opponents for the timely win.

“Now, I’ll probably have some ice cream to celebrate,” Brown said. “I’ll head back into training now before U.S. trials and then it’s all about making the team for Paris. I believe I can do that, I’m excited.”

KC Lightfoot competes during the men's pole vault finals at the 2024 Bislett Games, part of the 2024 Diamond League, on May 30, 2024 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Getty Images)

Quincy Hall and Vernon Norwood, world No. 2 and No. 3, entered as the men’s 400m favorites, but Great Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith stole the show. Hudson-Smith won in a blistering personal best of 44.07 seconds.

Norwood and Hall clocked season-best times of 44.68 and 45.02, respectively, and finished third and fifth. Four-time Diamond League and Olympic champion Kirani James slid in for second place.

Both Norwood, 32, and Hall, 25, were members of the 2024 World Athletics Championships gold medal winning U.S. 4x400m relay team. Hall also claimed bronze in the men’s 400m. Both are expected to be multiple event forces at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

In the women’s 400 meters, Alexis Holmes charged from lane eight to secure third place. The 24-year-old from Connecticut – who is ranked No. 12 in the world – ran 50.40 seconds, considerably off the winning pace of Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic.

In a thrilling showdown in which the top five sprinters crossed the line separated by just 0.11 seconds, South African Akani Simbine came out on top in 9.94 seconds. Versatile U.S. sprinter Brandon Hicklin, who entered the race with the third fastest time this season (9.94), finished fifth in 10.05.

Italian 100m Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs, who has been plagued by injuries since his triumph in Tokyo, found positives out of finishing fourth in 10.03.

“The last two years have been difficult with injury, but now I have moved to the U.S. for training and have a new coach so things are going well,” Jacobs informed. “It is an Olympic year and I want to defend my title of course, so I mustn’t push my body too quickly, too soon, but I will be ready.”

Norwegian Olympic champions and fan favorites Karsten Warholm and Jakob Ingebrigtsen were both involved in dramatic, close finishes.

Ingebrigtsen pulled a ‘Superman’ diving over the finish line in the men’s 1500m to edge Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot by three-hundredths of a second. Thrilling the home crowd, Ingebrigtsen posted a world leading time of 3:29.74.

Warholm relinquished his lead after clipping the final hurdle and being passed by Brazil’s Alison dos Santos, settling for second. For Warholm, the home meet was his just his first international start this season. Dos Santos’ 46.63 time result stole the world lead by 0.01 seconds from their fellow rival Rai Benjamin, in one of track and field’s most competitive events.

The Oslo Wanda Diamond League meeting on Thursday night was the sixth of 14 events on the 2024 schedule. Many athletes are making the short Scandinavian jaunt from Norway to Sweden for the next meet at Stockholm Olympic Stadium, on Sunday, June 2.

American pole vaulters Lightfoot, Nilsen and Kendricks will all make the trip, although their chances for victory will be exceedingly tougher as Swedish-American “Mondo” Duplantis will be front and center, competing amongst the home crowd.

Brown will ambitiously pursue the 100m/200m double in Stockholm, the two events separated by just one hour and twenty-seven minutes on the evening program.

Now less than one month away, U.S. athletes’ attention is focused upon the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field, to be contested at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, June 21-30.