Usain Bolt

Video: Usain Bolt wins 100 meters in season’s best in return to London Olympic Stadium

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Usain Bolt was two tenths slower than at the same track last year, but 9.85 was plenty good enough to win the 100 meters at the London Anniversary Games on Friday.

Bolt came from behind, passing 2003 world champion Kim Collins and American Mike Rodgers midway through the race to deliver victory at London Olympic Stadium in his first appearance there since winning triple gold at the 2012 Games.

It marked a season’s best for Bolt, who appears to be coming into form leading into Moscow, where he will attempt to take back his world title in the 100. Bolt false-started out of the 100 at the 2011 worlds.

Rodgers, slated to replace Tyson Gay on the U.S. roster at the world championships in two weeks, placed second in 9.98. Jamaican Nesta Carter was third in 9.99.

Bolt’s biggest competition come worlds, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Justin Gatlin, was not in the field in London on Friday. Gatlin, who beat Bolt in Rome earlier this season, is the only other man going to worlds who has run sub-9.9 this year. 

But Bolt’s 9.85 on Friday bettered Gatlin’s season’s best of 9.89, And he did it without a very good start. There’s little doubt Bolt, now a bigger favorite going into worlds, will get faster in the next two weeks.

“I had a bad start … it’s not the best part of my game but I did OK,” Bolt told the BBC, according to Reuters. “If I’m in good shape I always think I’m going to do well. My start was poor and I need to work on that. To make a perfect race I need to make a good start and just get in to the race. Hopefully I can make a good time at Moscow and continue to do well.”

Bolt is expected to run again tomorrow in the 4×100 relay. Others in action Saturday are London Olympic champions Allyson Felix (200), Mo Farah (3,000), Jessica Ennis (100 hurdles) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (100).

Usain Bolt enters Olympic Stadium on rocket/missile

Here’s a rundown of the other events at the Diamond League meet:

Women’s 1,500: Mary Cain, 17, spent the first 1,450 meters in the back of the pack of a slow-paced, tight race before moving up on the final straight to finish fifth in her senior European debut in 4:09.77.

Kenyan Mary Kuria won in 4:08.77. Cain has run 4:04.62 this year, but her second-place time at a steamy nationals, 4:28.76, came in an incredibly slow overall final.

Cain was in last place in a field of 15 after the second and third laps against less-than-stellar competition. But Cain, who trains under Alberto Salazar, surely came into this meet focused on worlds preparation first and foremost.

“I got a little too overwhelmed in the start,” Cain told Flotrack. “I came in fifth in the end, which actually isn’t that bad. … You’re not always going to have a good race. I can learn from this now, recup. Now I know, hey, Moscow, I don’t just walk into the final and get some medal.”

Men’s 200: Jamaican Warren Weir, the Olympic bronze medalist, confirmed his status as a medal favorite at worlds by pulling away off the turn to win in 19.89 (+.2).

Is it a time that will worry his training partner Bolt? No. Bolt has run 19.73 and 19.79 this year.

Fellow Jamaican Jason Young, who did not make the worlds team, was second in 19.99, and American Wallace Spearmon was third in 20.18. Spearmon should replace Tyson Gay on the worlds team in the 200 when the official roster comes out.

It appears the three Americans — Isiah YoungCurtis Mitchell and, likely, Spearmon — will be among those fighting for bronze behind Bolt and Weir in Moscow.

Men’s 400: World and Olympic champion Kirani James had no problems with rival LaShawn Merritt not in the field.

James, of Grenada and the University of Alabama, didn’t panic at American Tony McQuay‘s blistering start and won in 44.65, a pedestrian time for him this season.

McQuay was within a step of James coming off the last turn and clocked a 45.09, well off his 44.72 and 44.74 from nationals. Still, he earned second place while clearly focusing on a fast opening 200 on Friday. The University of Florida product has a shot at bronze in Moscow.

Notable: The men’s high jump provided epic theater, with Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko outlasting U.S. Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard, 2.38 meters to 2.36. Bondarenko went after Javier Sotomayor‘s world record of 2.45, failing on two attempts at 2.47 meters. … Americans Nick Symmonds (season’s best 1:43.67) and Duane Solomon (1:44.12) went a clear 1-2 in the 800. Solomon remains the world leader (1:43.27) with world-record holder David Rudisha out of worlds with a knee injury. Solomon and Symmonds could medal at worlds. … Olympic champion Jenn Suhr (4.73) took second in the pole vault to Olympic silver medalist and world leader Yarisley Silva (4.83) of Cuba. They’re moving toward a showdown with Olympic bronze medalist Yelena Isinbayeva at worlds. The Russian Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, has announced she will step away from the sport after Moscow. … American Brenda Martinez won the 800 in 1:58.19. Martinez, second to Alysia Montano at nationals, became the first woman to go sub-1:59 three times this year, according to IAAF. Between her and Montano, we could see the first U.S. medal at worlds in the event ever. … American Shannon Rowbury posted the fastest time in the world this year to win the 3,000 meters in 8:41.46, leading a 1-2-3 U.S. finish ahead of Gabriele Anderson and Molly Huddle. Of course, the 3,000 is not part of the world championships program. Rowbury is prepping to run the 5,000 at worlds.

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Javier Fernandez rebounds to lead Grand Prix France (video)

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez was back at his best, landing two quadruple jumps to top the Grand Prix France short program on Friday.

Fernandez, who was sixth at his opening Grand Prix two weeks ago with a reported stomach bug, tallied 107.86 points in Grenoble. It’s the second-best score of his career.

The 2015 and 2016 World champion goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 13.94-point lead over Shoma Uno of Japan. Uno fell on his opening quad flip attempt.

Uno went into France as the clear favorite, the only man to break 300 total points this season. He did it at both of his competitions this fall.

Earlier Friday, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond led a group of favorites who topped the short programs for the women, pairs and ice dance. All of the free skates are Saturday.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Both U.S. men fell Friday, not helping their cases for the three-man Olympic team.

Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, fell on his opening jump combination. He failed to build on his personal-best free skate from his last competition, where he landed three quads to claim bronze at Cup of China.

U.S. silver medalist Vincent Zhou crashed on both quadruple jump attempts, two weeks after falling three times between two programs at his Grand Prix debut.

Zhou, 17 and the world junior champion, has the jumps to easily make the three-man U.S. Olympic team. But those big mistakes allow the likes of Jason Brown and Adam Rippon to pass him.

“To say the least, my performance was dismal,” was posted on Zhou’s Instagram. “It was not a representation of how I train or who I am. Smiling and waving while my heart is breaking is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I have been following my Olympic dream for as long as I can remember, fighting, being set back, conquering obstacles, and experiencing the ups and downs of striving to better myself every single day. I am capable of so much more. I am a fighter. I fully believe that I can and will draw on my spirit, inner strength, and faith to my words to perform much better in the future.”

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Internationaux de France
Men’s Short Program
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 107.86
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 93.92
3. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 91.51
8. Max Aaron (USA) — 78.64
10. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 66.12

Erin Hamlin nears end of historic U.S. luge career

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Erin Hamlin is looking forward to normalcy. She is getting married next summer in her hometown. She is thinking about career moves. She is trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It is probably her last luge season. It is definitely her last Olympic season.

As such, it would be easy to fall into the trap of saying that winning a gold medal at PyeongChang in February would be the only thing that makes this season a success.

It’s important, sure, but Hamlin is entering her 13th year of World Cup racing with a much broader view and insisting that she’s going to enjoy whatever time she has left on her sled.

“I’m not going to hyperfocus myself on one result or bust,” Hamlin said. “Very likely, it’s going to be my last time in a lot of places, sliding on a lot of tracks. So I think more so, it’s going to be a lot of soaking it all in.”

That process starts Saturday, when the World Cup season opens in Igls, Austria.

Hamlin, who turns 31 on Sunday, is coming off the finest year of her career — she won a gold medal and two silvers at the world championships for the biggest haul ever by an American luger, got two World Cup wins and finished fourth in world rankings.

She might be going out, and there’s a chance she can go out on top.

“We’re working hard to convince her to stay,” longtime U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney said.

Sweeney knows that’s probably futile.

Sliders always tend to cycle out after an Olympics, no matter if it’s bobsled, skeleton or luge, and the Americans will see plenty of veterans take their last rides this winter.

A few U.S. sliders already retired this fall, in part because they weren’t going to have a shot at an Olympic berth.

For her part, Hamlin hasn’t officially said this is the end.

“There’s never really as concrete of a plan as you hope there would be, because you never know what can happen,” Hamlin said. “But at the moment, what I’m excited to do is see what other opportunities are there and what other adventures await.”

Hamlin has been in the world’s top 10 in each of the past 11 seasons — the second-longest current streak of any woman in luge, one year behind German legend Tatjana Huefner.

She won a World Cup each of the past three years, took the world title in sprint last winter and became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in 2014 with a bronze.

A lesson learned that season: Not expecting much can work wonders. That’s one of the reasons why PyeongChang isn’t taking up all the bandwidth in her brain.

“That’s the nature of winter sports in a Winter Olympic year, there being so much focus on the Games,” Hamlin said. “How I went into the last Olympics taught me a lot. I had no expectation of walking away from the last Olympics with a medal. At this point, goal No. 1 is to make the team and beyond that, I know if I slide as I’m capable of I can be pretty fast and I can do well.”

The schedule this season is hectic.

This weekend’s stop in Austria starts a run of five races in five weekends, with the next two in Germany followed by another in Calgary, Alberta, and then on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 15-16.

When that Lake Placid World Cup is over, the U.S. Olympic team will be named.

So when Hamlin needs an escape from all that, the wedding is there to bring her back to reality.

It will be at her parents’ home in July. It will, without question, be the social event of the season in Remsen, N.Y., where the one-time high school soccer player has annually left her tiny hometown brimming with pride.

“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”

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