Justin Gatlin

Gatlin ready to finally beat Bolt in Rome

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World record holder Usain Bolt has gotten the best of Justin Gatlin in all three head-to-head races of their careers, including at the London Olympics last summer when Gatlin took bronze. But the two are set to square off again Thursday night in Rome, and this time Gatlin thinks he can win.

“My season has been going really good,” Gatlin told the AP. “From Beijing to Shanghai to Doha and hopefully I can keep that streak going.”

And why not? The 31-year-old Athens gold medalist had the best race of his life at last summer’s London Games, and has already run under 10-seconds twice already this season, while Bolt’s 2013 season best is 10.09 to barely win at the Cayman Invitational.

“I have a different feel going into the season than I did last year,” Gatlin told the BBC. “It was a little more highly strung last year because it was the Olympic Games and I wanted to make sure it was the best season I ever had. 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.”

Gatlin said he’s been working hard on his finish, and has been training to match the “extraordinary” speed of Bolt and his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake in the last 20 meters of the 100m. But Bolt, who’s won in Rome the last two seasons – including a blazing 9.76 after a similarly slow start to 2012 – said he’s back to 100 percent and isn’t worried about anyone but himself.

The two Olympic champions will face American Mike Rodgers, who’s finished second to Gatlin twice this season, and Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, who at 37-years-old was still able to show his 10-second speed last month. Actually, Bolt is tied for the second worst 2013 time in Thursday’s field. Go figure.

Tommie Smith, John Carlos set to join Team USA at White House

FILe - In this Oct. 16, 1968, file photo, U.S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos stare downward while extending gloved hands skyward during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. Australian silver medalist Peter Norman is at left. Smith and Carlos, the American sprinters whose raised-fist salutes at the 1968 Olympics are an ageless sign of race-inspired protest, will join the U.S. Olympic team at the White House next week for its meeting with President Barack Obama. Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Olympics after raising their black-gloved fists in a symbolic protest during the U.S. national anthem. They called it a ``human rights salute.''
The USOC asked them to serve as ambassadors as it tries to make its own leadership more diverse. (AP Photo/File)
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the American sprinters whose raised-fist salutes at the 1968 Olympics are an ageless sign of race-inspired protest, will join the U.S. Olympic team at the White House next week for its meeting with President Barack Obama.

Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Olympics after raising their black-gloved fists in a symbolic protest during the U.S. national anthem. They called it a “human rights salute.”

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun asked them to serve as ambassadors as the federation tries to bring more diversity to its own ranks. They will join the team at the White House next Wednesday, then later that evening at an awards celebration in Washington.

The sprinters have been referenced frequently in the recent protests, spurred by Colin Kaepernick, during national anthems at NFL games. One player, Marcus Peters of the Chiefs, raised his own black-gloved fist before Kansas City’s season opener.

“I think Tommie and John have played an important and positive role in the evolution of our attitudes about diversity and inclusion, not only in the United States but around the world,” Blackmun said Friday night at a dinner to celebrate the U.S. performance in Brazil this summer.

MORE: Usain Bolt says he received offers to play wide receiver in the NFL (video)

Wilson Kipsang: I am very focused on the marathon world record

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The men’s marathon world record has been broken five of the last nine years at the Berlin Marathon.

Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang, who broke the world record at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, believes that he can do it again on Sunday, when the race will stream live on the NBC Sports app beginning at 2:30 a.m. ET.

“I’ve trained well and, three years down the line from my world record here, I feel good and believe I have the potential to attempt the world record once more,” he said at today’s press conference, according to the IAAF. “Running at the top level, there is a lot of wear and tear on the body, especially when you are running for a time, but I am very focused on the world record.”

Kipsang clocked 2 hours, 3 minutes, 23 seconds when he broke the world record in 2013. A year later, fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto lowered it to 2:02:57 on the same course. Kimetto will not race in Berlin this year.

Kipsang will be challenged by Kenyan compatriot Emmanuel Mutai, who has the fastest time (2:03:13) in the field, and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele.

Bekele is a three-time Olympic track champion and the 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder, but acknowledged that his marathon personal best of 2:05:04 places him a distant fourth in the field.

“I consider my personal best of 2:05 to be slow compared to the best runners,” he said. “I want to run as fast as I can on Sunday and beat my best.”

MORE: Berlin Marathon to live stream on NBC Sports app