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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.”

Adam Nelson’s comeback to continue at Olympic Trials

Adam Nelson
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Adam Nelson, the 2004 Olympic shot put champion, plans to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials six days shy of his 41st birthday.

Nelson, who has worked for NBC Sports, confirmed an ESPN.com report Tuesday that he has entered the trials.

In 2012, Nelson failed to qualify for the Olympic Trials final and retired.

“I just hope that when people think about me and my career, they see, one, that you can do this for a long time, there is a right way to do it,” an emotional Nelson told reporters then. “That when you do it the right way and you do it every single day, the hard work pays off time and time again. You’re going to have bad days, you’re going to have good days. But on balance you’re going to have more good days than bad days. I hope people that see that. The bottom line is, at the end of the day, if you don’t love it, don’t do it.”

Nelson’s comeback was first reported last summer.

He competed for the first time since missing the London Olympic team on April 30, throwing 20.48 meters, according to Tilastopaja.org. That ranks him outside the top 25 in the world this year and ninth among Americans.

It is just shy of the USA Track and Field automatic qualifying standard of 20.50 for the Olympic Trials, but athletes below the standard can be invited based on performance rank to compete at trials.

In May 2013, Nelson was elevated from 2004 Olympic silver to gold by the International Olympic Committee after Ukraine’s Yuriy Bilonog was stripped of it for doping. The Athens Olympic shot put competition was memorable given it was held at the Ancient Olympic site of Olympia.

In June 2013, Nelson was given a victory ceremony at the USA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. A wreath was placed on his head, as every medalist at the 2004 Olympics received. He listened to the national anthem play. He took a victory lap with an American flag around the track.

The next month, Nelson received his gold medal at an Atlanta airport food court, reportedly at a table in front of a Chinese restaurant.

MORE: Joe Kovacs’ emergence from family tragedy, Olympic miss to world leader

Race walker holds his own medal ceremony after Russia doping (video)

Jared Tallent
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Australian race walker Jared Tallent wasted no time after Tuesday’s report listing eight Russian Olympic track and field medalists suspected of doping during the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Tallent starred in a do-it-yourself medal ceremony, receiving the Daegu 2011 World Championships gold medal for the 50km race walk. There was no announcer, there was no national anthem and the medal wasn’t the official Daegu version, but the motivation was clear.

Tallent originally finished third in the 2011 Worlds 50km race walk. One of the Russians named Tuesday — Denis Nizhegorodov — finished second. Another Russian, Sergey Bakulin, finished first, but his result was previously disqualified for doping.

That would leave Tallent the champion, which could be made official later this year pending Nizhegorodov’s B sample from 2008 and more processes.

Tallent is already in line to be upgraded from silver to gold in the 2012 Olympic 50km race walk due to Russian doping. There will be a more formal ceremony for Tallent to receive his Olympic gold, on June 17 in Melbourne.

MORE: Russia track and field federation says no past dopers on Rio Olympic team