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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Lindsey Vonn sets date for proposal to enter men’s race

ALTENMARKT/ZAUCHENSEE, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 15: Lindsey Vonn of USA celebrates during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Downhill on January 15, 2017 in Altenmarkt/Zauchensee, Austria (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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The U.S. Ski Team plans to submit a proposal in the spring for Lindsey Vonn to be able to race against men in November 2018, according to the Denver Post.

“I know I’m not going to win, but I would like to at least have the opportunity to try,” Vonn said, according to the newspaper. “I think I’ve won enough World Cups where I should have enough respect within the industry to be able to have that opportunity.”

Vonn’s idea is to race in Lake Louise, Canada, an annual late fall stop on both the men’s and women’s World Cup schedules. The men generally race in Lake Louise one week before the women do.

Vonn’s greatest success has come at Lake Louise, with 18 victories in 41 downhill and super-G starts dating to 2001.

Vonn previously requested in 2012 to be able to race against men in Lake Louise, but that was denied by the International Ski Federation (FIS). The federation said then “that one gender is not entitled to participate in races of the other.”

It doesn’t look like the federation’s stance has changed.

“You can set up a day where a female racer can compete against men racers, just as a show, but it has nothing to do with competition,” FIS women’s race director Atle Skaardal said, according to the Denver Post. “I don’t see that it’s going to change in the next years — no driving forces to urge a change like that. This is something the teams could do also in training. But why would you want to have a competition in this direction?

“I just don’t see the interest. For me it’s a meaningless comparison. It doesn’t matter if she’s one second behind or a half-second ahead. We compete female against female and men against men. To me it doesn’t matter if one gender is faster or slower. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, just because it’s of interest to one racer. I haven’t heard of any other sport being dragged into this kind of position.”

Vonn raced for the first time in 322 days on Sunday, finishing 13th in a World Cup downhill in Austria. It was actually an encouraging result, as Vonn said she wasn’t skiing to her limit in her first race back.

Her upcoming goals are to compete in the 2018 Olympics, after missing Sochi due to injury, and earn 11 more World Cup wins to break Ingemar Stenmark‘s career record of 86 victories. She can overtake Stenmark next season if she stays healthy and continues to win at her usual pace.

Vonn said in the spring that she would postpone retirement by one year and compete in the 2018-19 season if it meant being able to race the men.

But Skaardal’s comments suggest that won’t be possible.

“It’s definitely frustrating to hear that he said that, because I respect Atle very much,” Vonn said, according to the Denver Post. “He does a great job on the World Cup, and he is a former racer, so he understands. It’s disappointing to hear he doesn’t support it. But maybe if we organize something and a plan is put in front of him, maybe he would change his mind. I think most of the men are supporting me.”

Vonn is expected to race this weekend in a downhill and super-G in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, streamed live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Wayne Gretzky compares Hayley Wickenheiser to NHL legend

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The greatest male hockey player of all time paid the greatest female player of all time quite the compliment at her retirement ceremony Saturday.

“You played with heart, desire, finesse, speed, skill,” Wayne Gretzky said to Hayley Wickenheiser. “The only other person, the greatest player to ever live, I think he would be happy if I said you were the female Gordie Howe. Congratulations.”

The Canadian legend Wickenheiser announced her retirement Friday, after six Olympics and four gold medals. On Saturday, she was honored before a Calgary Flames-Edmonton Oilers game. A highlight was a speech by Gretzky, who now works in the Oilers’ front office.

Wickenheiser’s first Olympics, Nagano 1998, marked the only Winter Games for Gretzky. Gretzky played in the first Olympics with NHL participation in Nagano, finishing fourth with Canada, and retired in 1999 without an Olympic medal.

“You’ve opened so many doors for so many young girls to be able to one day win a gold medal,” Gretzky said to Wickenheiser. “To me, that’s more important than anything.”

Wickenheiser then took the mic at center ice and reciprocated.

“A big part of why I play the game is because of this man standing right here, Wayne Gretzky,” she said, later adding, according to Canadian media, “In Salt Lake City [2002] when we won the gold medal, the first two people I saw when we stepped off the ice were Wayne and [former Oilers All-Star defenseman] Kevin [Lowe] standing in our dressing room cheering for us.”

As part of the Wickenheiser ceremony, a tribute video was played including messages from Canadian Olympian and Hall of Famer Mark Messier, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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