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VIDEO: Justin Gatlin beats Usain Bolt in Rome

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Athens 100m Olympic champ Justin Gatlin out-leaned world record holder Usain Bolt at the tape Thursday at the Diamond League meet in Rome to beat the Beijing and London gold medalist for the first time in their storied careers.

“Bolt is a great competitor and a great champion,” Gatlin told reporters. “To come out here and have a victory, it just stamps that I’m having a good season… You can never count out Usain.”

Gatlin was clocked at 9.94 seconds – a step slower than the 9.91 he posted in Beijing last month – while Bolt came in right behind him in 9.95, and said, smiling, that he was just happy to finish under 10-seconds for the first time this season. Jimmy Vicaut of France finished third in 10.02.

Bolt, who ran 9.76 in Rome last season, actually got off to a rare good start Thursday – the fastest in the field – which usually spells doom for his competitors. But the 31-year-old Gatlin was able to quickly chase him down, take a lead by the 50-meter mark, and somehow hold off the reigning Olympic champ.

“I got the perfect start. What I wanted,” Bolt told reporters. “About five steps in, I stumbled a little bit.”

Bolt then joked that he had a little bit more strength work to do after he was bothered by a mild hamstring strain earlier this season that forced him out of the Kingston Invitational. American Tyson Gay replaced him there, and ran a 2013 world’s best 9.86. Bolt’s best before Thursday was just 10.09, when he barely beat young training partner Kemar Bailey-Cole at the Cayman Invitational.

“For me, it’s just going through the season and putting things together for the World Championships,” Bolt added. “The season is still very early. I am not surprised.”

Meanwhile, Gatlin is undefeated in five races this season, and has run under 10-seconds four times if you count the wind-aided 9.88 he ran at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene last weekend.

“I have a different feel going into the season than I did last year…” Gatlin told the BBC earlier this week. “I want to go into this season with that same attitude but more calm, more collected. I want to be able to know who my opponents are and what they do and what they bring to the table.”

Anderson Varejao will miss Olympics

Anderson Varejao
AP
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One of Brazil’s most recognizable Olympians (to a U.S. audience, at least) will miss the Rio Games.

Golden State Warriors big man Anderson Varejao will miss the Olympics due to a back injury, the NBA team said Wednesday.

The Brazil men’s basketball team is now down two of its top four scorers from the 2012 Olympics.

The team was already without Atlanta Hawks big man Tiago Splitter, who underwent NBA season-ending hip surgery in February.

Splitter and Varejao were the third- and fourth-leading scorers on Brazil’s 2012 Olympic team that was eliminated in the quarterfinals after not qualifying for the Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Brazil’s Olympic roster includes four other NBA players — Leandro Barbosa, Marcelo HuertasNenê and Raul Neto.

MORE: Tony Parker leads 5 NBA players on France roster

Dhani Jones, former NFL linebacker, joins NBC’s Olympic coverage

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 01:  TV personality Dhani Jones attends the 2016 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village on April 1, 2016 in Westlake Village, California.  (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
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Former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones will serve as a reporter during NBC’s coverage of the Rio Games it was announced Wednesday.

The host of NBC primetime hit “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” Jones will travel to various venues over the course of the Games and contribute to features on a variety of platforms. He’ll also be a part of the Olympic Zone, which is a 30-minute nightly show set to air on NBC affiliates.

“Dhani is an engaging personality with a wide-range of experiences and interests – from professional athlete to primetime entertainment host to haberdashery and philanthropy. We’re excited to have him on our team in Rio,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics.

Jones has worked on various shows since his 11-year career with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals came to an end in 2011. He hosted “Dhani Tackles the Globe” on Travel Channel, and is the current host of “Playbook 360” on Spike. He has also written a memoir, The Sportsman.

Jones’ colleague on “Spartan,” Kyle Martino, will be an NBC Olympics soccer analyst after serving in that role for NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage.

MORE: Sanya Richards-Ross, Trey Hardee join NBC’s track and field coverage