Usain Bolt

Video: Usain Bolt wins Paris 200 meters in world-leading time

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Usain Bolt took back the world lead from Tyson Gay in the 200 meters, winning in 19.73 seconds at a Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday night.

Gay was not in the field at Stade de France, nor was Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake.

Still, anything less than a world-leading time from Bolt would have thrown more doubt over his favorite status as August’s world championships draw closer. Gay ran a 19.74 to win U.S. nationals in June and owns the two fastest 100-meter times in the world this season.

Bolt benefited from running in lane six Saturday, having Jamaican teammate and Olympic bronze medalist Warren Weir (second in 19.92) to pace off of in lane seven. Still, Bolt admitted he didn’t run the turn as well as he would have liked in a post-race interview on French TV.

Bolt also confirmed after the race he will compete in London’s Olympic Stadium on July 26-27, a Diamond League meet being dubbed the Anniversary Games one year after the Olympics.

Gay, Blake and Bolt are not expected to race against one another until the world championships. Blake may not race at the world championships at all, having withdrawn from Jamaican trials last month due to injury.

Videos: Bolt shows off DJ, dance, soccer skills in Paris

Other highlights from Paris:

Women’s 100: Two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.92) held off Nigerian Blessing Okagbare (10.93), both running season’s bests with a slight headwind. Okagbare was going for a rare feat over seven days after winning a 200 in Birmingham, England, on Sunday and a long jump in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.

The Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure (11.01), Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste (11.10) and U.S. champion English Gardner (11.13) rounded out the top five. Gardner had run a 10.85 to win nationals and a 10.96 to win the NCAA title for Oregon in June.

Baptiste still owns the world lead in 10.83, but this was a positive performance from Fraser-Pryce, who looks to be in the driver’s seat heading toward worlds.

Men’s 110 hurdles: Olympic champion Aries Merritt erased any concerns over his third-place finish at nationals by winning in 13.09, a season’s best for the world-record holder by .14.

Merritt’s teammates at worlds, David Oliver (13.13), Ryan Wilson (13.15) and Jason Richardson (13.22), were third, sixth and seventh, respectively. 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles, who won’t run at worlds due to a dispute with Cuba’s federation, was ninth (last place) in 13.40.

Men’s 400: Grenada’s Kirani James (43.96) ran his second-ever sub-44 race to win over American rival LaShawn Merritt (44.09) in another battle of the last two Olympic champions.

James now owns the two fastest times of the season, pairing the 43.96 with a 44.02, while Merritt set a season’s best with the 44.09. James, 20, is the only non-American to go sub-44. Michael Johnson has done it a record 22 times.

It should be a two-man show at worlds. Nobody else has run within six tenths of a second of James and Merritt this year, according to IAAF.

Notes: Ethiopian triple Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba — the Baby-Faced Destroyer — won the women’s 5,000 in a world-leading 14:23.68, beating a field that included her sister Genzebe. … British Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford injured his hamstring, the same body part that took him out at 2011 worlds. “Looks like bad news people. The old injury strikes. Hamstring pull,” he tweeted.

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Ted Ligety out for rest of season

SOLDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 25:  (FRANCE OUT) Ted Ligety of the USA takes 1st place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on October 25, 2015 in Soelden, Austria.  (Photo by Michel Cottin/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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Ted Ligety will undergo back surgery and miss the rest of the Alpine skiing season, the latest in a series of health setbacks for the double Olympic champion, according to his social media.

Ligety, who won the combined at Torino 2006 and the giant slalom at Sochi 2014, said he had “stabbing (nerve) pain all the way down my leg” since the season-opening race in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 23.

“That has no (sic) allowed me to ski at the level that I expect of myself,” was posted on Ligety’s social media Monday. “I have seen many doctors and therapists, undergone an array of treatments and therapies to no effect. Unfortunately surgery (microdiscectomy) means my season over … I will be back strong and fast again.”

Ligety also ended last season prematurely, after tearing his right ACL on Jan. 27. He also suffered three herniated disks in his back and tore a hip labrum in 2015.

Of his last seven giant slaloms dating to last season, Ligety has failed to finish four times and placed fourth, fifth and 11th.

Ligety’s World Cup giant slalom podium drought is his longest since he notched the first top-three finish of his career in 2006. He racked up 40 podiums in a decade.

Ligety, 32, also owns the last three world giant slalom titles, plus five World Cup season titles in the discipline, in addition to his Sochi gold.

If healthy, Ligety would have tried next month to become the first male Alpine skier to take gold at four straight world championships.

With Ligety’s absence, the U.S. will have zero past men’s Olympic or world gold medalists at a world championships for the first time since 2001.

Worlds are in St. Moritz, Switzerland, from Feb. 6-19.

MORE: Franz Klammer stars in commercial with Alpine skiing champions

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen make for contrasting favorites at U.S. Championships

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen
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Ashley Wagner and Nathan Chen trained on the same ice for the last three years. They enter this week’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City as favorites, but took different routes to arrive there.

Wagner, 25, seeks her fourth national title, following the worst Grand Prix result of her 10-year career.

Still, Wagner is the 2016 World Championships silver medalist, which carries the most weight of all with the PyeongChang Olympics coming in 13 months.

Wagner, the most accomplished U.S. women’s singles skater in a decade, can become the oldest U.S. women’s singles champion in 90 years.

“Mentally, I’m feeling very confident,” Wagner said last week. “At this point in my career it is very easy for me to get mentally worn out and worn down, but I usually feel strongest when my training is backing me up and when I know that I am physically fit.”

Chen, 17, is an even bigger favorite in the men’s field. The Salt Lake City native is already one of the most accomplished young skaters in U.S. history, taking two novice and two junior national titles.

In this his first senior international season, Chen had the best fall series of a U.S. man since Evan Lysacek won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Chen’s autumn culminated with a silver medal at December’s Grand Prix Final, beating the reigning Olympic and world champions in the free skate.

This week, Chen can become the youngest U.S. men’s singles champion in 51 years. He would do it one year after taking bronze and suffering a hip injury later that day that required season-ending surgery.

“I never thought that I would get there that fast,” Chen said.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule

Chen was already working with Armenian coach Rafael Arutyunyan in Los Angeles when Wagner joined the training group in the middle of 2013.

Chen was barely 14 years old at the time, but Wagner, by then already a two-time U.S. champion, had learned about him back in 2010.

Wagner saw Chen win the U.S. Championships novice division at age 10, beating skaters six and seven years older than him, including her younger brother, Austin.

“And my brother retired after that year because of Nathan Chen,” Wagner said with a hint of humor.

Under Arutyunyan, a noted jumping technician, Wagner developed into the top consistent challenger to the dominant Russians.

She endured failure — finishing fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships and last-place programs at the Grand Prix Final. She experienced success — national and international feats not done by an American since Michelle Kwan.

Most of the U.S. skaters whom Wagner came up with have retired. Her closest recent domestic rivals — Olympic teammates Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds — struggled with poor performances and injury, respectively, in the last year.

If Wagner prevails as she should in Kansas City, the next step is returning to the podium at the world championships in two months in Helsinki, where three Russians, three Japanese and a Canadian will try to keep her off of it. A second straight world medal would make Wagner the best U.S. hope for an Olympic women’s singles medal since 2006.

“The biggest thing about her is her mental toughness,” Chen said of Wagner, “especially when she goes to competitions and zones in on what she wants to do and comes out with the result she wants.”

MORE: Gracie Gold makes desperate move after rock bottom

Mental toughness is something Chen hopes to develop with experience. He already owns the physical tools, most notably an arsenal of quadruple jumps.

Chen, whose adorable 2010 U.S. Championships exhibition at age 10 aired on NBC, is now electrifying. He attempts six quads combined in two programs.

At his last event, the Grand Prix Final in December, Chen recorded the highest free skate score, bettering Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, who both were off their game. He finished second overall behind Hanyu, becoming the second-youngest men’s medalist in the event’s 22-year history.

NBC Olympics analyst Tara Lipinski, who took 1998 Olympic gold at age 15, has, like Wagner, known about Chen since 2010. Lipinski was in Spokane, Wash., for those U.S. Championships seven years ago.

“I remember thinking, oh boy, this kid is so talented, but not really thinking much of it because he was itty-bitty,” Lipinski said of Chen, who has grown a foot since 2010, to 5 feet, 5 inches. “Over time and with growth spurts, everything can change. But that’s why he’s so special. Every year, he improves. You talk about this quad revolution. He’s leading it.”

Chen responded to critics of his artistic skills this season by spending weeks away from Arutyunyan, which the coach supported.

“There is a brain of an adult in this kid’s head,” Arutyunyan said.

Chen went from Los Angeles to work in Michigan under Marina Zoueva, a Russian known for coaching the last two Olympic champion ice dance teams.

NBC Olympic analysts Johnny Weir and Lipinski saw an upgrade in Chen’s artistic components in his fall competitions. If he can challenge the top international skaters artistically, he can beat them with his jumping strength.

“The way that men’s figure skating is progressing, it’s about the quad game and how many you can do,” Wagner said. “It’s starting to look a little bit like ping-pong on the ice. … Going into the next couple of years, the ones that are going to stand out are the ones that do quads and are able to have a full, well-rounded program.”

In Sochi, the U.S. earned no singles figure skating medals for the first time since 1936.

The U.S. hasn’t earned men’s and women’s figure skating medals in the same Olympics since 2002, but it’s certainly looking possible with 13 months until PyeongChang.

“Of course, my goal would be to win the Olympics,” Chen said. “I feel like that’s everyone goal. It’s still a goal for me, but we’ll see how realistic it becomes over the next season.”

MORE: Jason Brown again slowed by injury going into U.S. Championships