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

Michael Phelps to participate in Shark Week

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NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic champ Michael Phelps is participating in Discovery network’s Shark Week this summer, although he won’t be asked to outswim one.

It’s not immediately clear what Phelps will be doing, although Discovery President Rich Ross said Tuesday he’s intrigued about seeing the fastest human swimmer interact with nature’s fastest. Perhaps Phelps can be encouraged to go underwater in a shark cage, he said.

The week of shark-themed programming in mid-summer is annually Discovery’s biggest event. Now that it is approaching its 29th year, programmers are on the lookout for a new wrinkle.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic swimming medals, 23 of them gold.

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World Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview

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Alex Shibutani says he and sister Maia have made a statement the past two years.

“With our ability to perform when the stakes are highest,” he said.

The stakes don’t get much higher than this week.

The Shibutani siblings, breakout world silver medalists a year ago, lead three U.S. couples who finished in the top six at the 2016 World Championships into this year’s worlds in Helsinki.

It is the strongest ice dance field since the Sochi Olympics. The PyeongChang Winter Games medal contenders will be confirmed this week.

The clear favorites are Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions competing this season for the first time since taking silver in Sochi. Virtue and Moir returned from their two-year break to post the three highest total scores of all time in their last three international competitions.

“This is probably the most prepared we’ve been for a world championships,” Moir said, while adding, “this was a warm-up season.”

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The Shibutanis finished second (with a personal-best score) to Virtue and Moir at the most recent event, the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea in February. The margin separating the two couples — 5.1 points — was considerable.

“We’re sort of in a way in a race against ourselves to try and see how good we can get and how good we can become,” Alex Shibutani said. “Each competition along the way is another step to that eventual goal [the Olympics].”

At worlds, the Shibutanis are in the medal mix with France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won the last two world titles.

The French, already the youngest world champs in 40 years, are trying for the first ice dance three-peat in 20 years.

But they have not progressed this season, unable to match or better their winning score from the 2016 World Championships.

Papadakis and Cizeron train in Montreal with Virtue and Moir, but they struggled (held against their own standard) in both competitions outside of French borders this season. And in different areas — step sequences, twizzles, lifts.

Conversely, it looks like the Shibutanis’ biggest obstacles are well behind them. They went from a world bronze medal in their first senior season together in 2011 to four straight years off the podium.

The Shibutanis hit a nadir at the Sochi Olympics with a ninth-place finish, worst of the three U.S. couples. Maia’s tights snagged on Alex’s sequined jacket during a lift.

The devoted vloggers countered doubts after Sochi by stressing their youth — Alex was 22 then; Maia was 19. They talked about weathering the journey and sticking to a meticulous creative process.

It paid off with their first U.S. title last year, followed by that world silver medal in Boston.

“Last year’s results at the world championships were very energizing for us,” Alex Shibutani said. “People are aware of the career trajectory that we have had. We’ve set ambitious goals because we were so motivated following that result and that exciting string of competitions that we had last season.”

The Shibutanis were actually outscored by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the U.S. Championships free dance in January. They stormed back with that personal best at Four Continents, though, erasing any doubt that they are the U.S. couple expected to make the podium in Helsinki.

The U.S. has earned 12 ice dance medals at the last 12 World Championships. In that same span, the U.S. brought home eight medals combined from men’s, women’s and pairs.

The Shibutanis feel confident they will extend recent American success in their discipline.

They would also create more history for sibling skaters. They’re already the most accomplished brother-sister duo since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won three straight world medals followed by Olympic silver in Albertville.

“We really elevated the way that we compete and perform,” at Four Continents last month, Alex Shibutani said. “Our skating has reached another level.”

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