Usain Bolt

Diamond League preview: Usain Bolt set for 200 in Paris

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Usain Bolt is in an unfamiliar position going into Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Paris. He’s chasing another sprinter.

Bolt, the six-time Olympic gold medalist, is looking up at Tyson Gay in both the 100 and 200 meters on the IAAF world leaders lists this season. Gay owns the year’s fastest times in the 100 (9.75) and the 200 (19.74) with a little more than a month until the world championships in Moscow.

Bolt will run his second 200 of the season Saturday (3:50 p.m. ET) at Stade de France. His first, a 19.79 in Oslo on June 13, marked the fastest time in the world in 2013 until Gay ran his 19.74 at U.S. nationals June 23.

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“With the world championships approaching, I need some top-class races, to find out where I’m at so as I can place myself in relation to the others and, most importantly, in relation to myself,” Bolt told reporters in Paris.

He’ll get decent competition in Paris, even though Gay and the injured Yohan Blake are not in the field.

Bolt will face the top two finishers from Jamaican worlds trials — where Bolt received a bye — in 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Warren Weir and Nickel Ashmeade.

The biggest cheers — outside of Bolt — will go to Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, the 2011 world bronze medalist in the 200.

But the real comparison will be to Gay’s previous times. If Bolt beats Gay’s 19.74, he’ll silence some of the early doubts about his dominance this year. If he doesn’t, and if he runs slower than the Oslo 19.79, those whispers will grow a tad louder.

The women’s high jump (2:08) features the world’s top three performers this season in American 2012 Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett, 2012 Olympic champion Anna Chicherova and two-time world champion Blanka Vlasic.

The men’s 400 (2:17) brings a budding rivalry between the last two Olympic champions, LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James, who combine to own the eight fastest times this season. They’re 1-1 against each other in 2013.

The women’s 100 (2:56) includes two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, world leader Kelly-Ann Baptiste and U.S. and NCAA champion English Gardner. Another notable is versatile Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, who won a 200 in Birmingham, England, on Sunday, then won the long jump in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.

The 110 hurdles (3:30) is loaded with the last two Olympic champions (Aries Merritt and Dayron Robles), last two world champions (Jason Richardson and Ryan Brathwaite), the world leader (David Oliver) and the U.S. champion (Ryan Wilson).

Four American Olympians are in the finale, the men’s 1,500 (3:50), including 2012 silver medalist Leo Manzano, Matthew Centrowitz, who was fourth in London, two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat and two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong.

Tyson Gay beats Asafa Powell; Lausanne Diamond League recap

Kyle Snyder savors Russian Tank showdown

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U.S. wrestler Kyle Snyder waited 2 1/2 years for this news. The Russian Tank is moving up to 97kg.

Abdulrashid Sadulayev, a 21-year-old from Dagestan with the foreboding nickname, is undefeated at the senior international level since November 2013. He won the 2014 and 2015 World freestyle titles and 2016 Olympic gold at 86kg.

Sadulayev hasn’t competed since Rio but is believed to be shifting to 97kg for the Russian Championships. The news spread Sunday.

Snyder, a 21-year-old from Maryland, owns the 97kg division. He is the reigning Olympic and world champion but does not quite carry Sadulayev’s reputation. No man does.

Snyder is 13-3 internationally since Rio. He also showed grit to cap an undefeated college season, repeating as national champion for Ohio State by overcoming a rib injury and pain-killing shots at NCAAs.

Snyder is training for the U.S. trials for the world championships in two weeks, when he’ll have a bye into the final. But that preparation was interrupted Sunday when Snyder saw the Sadulayev news on Twitter.

“I know as much as, like, anybody else,” Snyder said by phone Monday evening. “I just saw it on Twitter, and people were confirming it, pretty reliable sources. Not 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure.

“My gut reaction is excited, happy. When I first saw it, I smiled because this is like an exciting match for the wrestling community, wrestling fans, and it’s an exciting match for me. It motivates me to continue to grow and continue to improve in wrestling.”

Snyder calls Sadulayev the world’s best pound-for-pound wrestler, ranking ahead of Turkey’s Taha Akgul, also a 2014 and 2015 World champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist.

Snyder has interacted with a fake Sadulayev Twitter account, but never spoken with the Russian. He believes they have shaken hands, though.

Better is Snyder’s familiarity with Sadulayev’s wrestling. He first dreamed of facing him in 2014, while watching the world championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on a web stream.

There, an 18-year-old Sadulayev manhandled men up to 11 years older, winning four of five matches by the 10-point mercy rule.

Snyder has watched all four of Sadulayev’s matches from Rio, where the Russian bulldozed to gold by a combined 28-1 margin. Snyder was 28-8 across his four wins.

“[Sadulayev] has got a very good stance,” Snyder said. “It’s very difficult to get to his legs and to break his positioning. He’s a very good finisher once he gets your leg, and he’s very good on top.”

Snyder compared the challenge of facing Sadulayev to that of another Russian, Abdusalam Gadisov, the 2014 World champion whom Snyder edged in the 2015 Worlds 97kg final.

Except Gadisov is six years older than Snyder and such a stalwart that Snyder had been watching Gadisov’s film since the seventh grade. And Gadisov didn’t make Russia’s Olympic team.

Snyder knows one American who has faced Sadulayev in competition and maybe another one or two who grappled with him in training.

Sadulayev reportedly suffered a partial knee tear months before the Olympics. He hasn’t competed since Rio, taking time off for marriage, according to USA Wrestling.

“I know that he was hurt after the Olympics, and he’s had a lot of recovery and treatments,” Snyder said.

The possibility of facing Sadulayev is so enticing that Snyder doesn’t mind discussing it despite the fact neither wrestler is guaranteed a worlds spot.

Snyder goes into the U.S. trials in two weeks as a decided favorite, though. His biggest domestic competition the previous two years was 2012 Olympic champion Jake Varner, who Snyder said won’t be at trials.

“I’m a better wrestler than I was last year,” Snyder said. “No matter how many titles I get, I don’t think I’ll ever feel pressure to win because I care more about competing hard and wrestling hard and trying to score a lot of points than I do winning.”

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Henrik Lundqvist joins Swedish throng in song at world title celebration

Henrik Lundqvist
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Singing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist joined thousands of his closest Swedish friends to celebrate their world hockey title in a central Stockholm square Monday afternoon.

The event at Sergel Square attracted the country’s prime minister (who was partially booed), Swedish royals and a flyover by the Swedish Air Force, according to German press agency DPA. Even the pregnant 2015 Miss Sweden found a way to honor the team.

Sweden won its 10th world title Sunday, ousting two-time defending champion Canada 2-1 in a shootout and at least somewhat avenging its Sochi Olympic final defeat.

The Swedish roster included NHL players who, as of now, won’t be participating in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Such as Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored one of Sweden’s two shootout goals, three years after being suspended from the Olympic final for testing positive for pseudoephedrine.

And Lundqvist, who flew to the worlds co-hosted by France and Germany to join the team mid-tournament after his New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Lundqvist stopped all four Canadian shots in the shootout, capping an exceptional stint with the team. He arrived to play the last five games and tallied a 1.31 goals-against average and .946 save percentage, the best among all goalies who played in more than two games at the tournament.

Lundqvist, 35, joined Sweden at worlds for the first time since 2008 after his identical twin brother, Joel, reached out, according to The New York Times. Joel, a former NHL forward, is the Swedish team captain but didn’t make the Olympics in 2006, 2010 or 2014, like Henrik did (winning gold in 2006).

The Lundqvist brothers had not played on the same team in 12 years. With Joel not playing in the NHL, it might be his turn to suit up at the Olympics next year, while Henrik stays in the U.S.

“Sitting in New York, 10 days ago or so, this is what I pictured myself, to be here with my brother, to hold this trophy,” Lundqvist said Sunday.

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