Usain Bolt

Will Usain Bolt be challenged in 100 meters at World Championships?

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On June 6, it appeared the men’s 100 meters at the World Championships would not be an open-and-shut case.

Justin Gatlin dealt Usain Bolt defeat that night in Rome, 9.94 seconds to 9.95, a punctuation to Bolt’s crawling pace to start the season.

At the time, Tyson Gay was the world’s fastest man for the year.

Yohan Blake was set to return from a hamstring injury two days later.

Hope floated that the 100-meter final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Aug. 11 could be a four-man race. At the least, somebody could step up to challenge the Jamaican legend. That hope is all but gone now.

Gay, the 2007 world champion and tied as the second fastest man of all time, told The Associated Press on July 14 that he failed a drug test in May. It’s since been reported he failed multiple drug tests this year. He’s out of the World Championships.

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Blake, the 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist, continued to be plagued by hamstring problems as spring turned to summer. He pulled out of the World Championships two days after Gay’s drug test came to light.

“After the 2012 Olympics, I was telling people who weren’t into track and field, ‘Hold onto your popcorn because next year is going to be even more exciting. We’re going to have the same people,”‘ Gatlin told the AP. “Never in a million years would I think it would end up like this. I still think it’s going to be exciting.”

Gatlin followed up his 9.94 in Rome with a pair of 9.89s (one legal, one wind-aided) at the National Championships on June 21 and a 9.94 into a slight headwind in Monaco on July 19.

Bolt lowered his season’s best to 9.94 at the Jamaican National Championships on June 21 and then to 9.85 at the London Anniversary Games on July 26. Only Gay has run faster than 9.85 this year, and those times look like they could be erased.

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Now, 9.85 is a mortal time for Bolt, the six-time Olympic gold medalist whose world record from the 2009 World Championships is 9.58. It’s also an attainable time for Gatlin. The American bettered it three times last year, including a 9.79 in the Olympic final that earned a bronze medal, eight years removed from his Olympic gold and two years into his comeback from a doping suspension.

“Do I see him as a threat?” Bolt told Sport magazine. “I see everybody beside me as a threat.”

But the prevailing theory is that Bolt is capable of much faster than 9.85 come Sunday’s final. That Gatlin is not. Bolt has proven to post average times (for him) in the spring and early summer and then turn it on for major championships.

Track worlds clouded by doping issues, missing stars

“I want to be like Michael Jordan and the other greats,” Bolt said in Moscow, according to multiple outlets. “I want to set myself higher than the rest because I want to be among the greatest of all time and be discussed as someone great like Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and Pele.

“I want to be among these guys, and if I want to be that I have to keep pushing myself regardless of who I am facing so that when I retire I’ll be remembered among the greatest sportsmen.”

In 2009, Bolt entered the World Championships with a season’s best of 9.79. He ran 9.58 to win the world title.

In 2011, Bolt entered the World Championships with a season’s best of 9.88. He was disqualified in the final of the World Championships for a false start, but he came back to run a 9.76 in September.

In 2012, Bolt came into the Olympics with a season’s best of 9.76. He won his second straight Olympic 100-meter gold in 9.63.

To give Gatlin credit, the gap between silver and bronze in Moscow might be even greater. After Bolt and Gatlin, two other men from the 2012 Olympic final are entered in Moscow. Neither Churandy Martina nor Richard Thompson have bettered 10 seconds this year.

The favorites for bronze start with Jamaican Nesta Carter, a longtime member of the nation’s 4×100 relay team who has struggled to overcome Bolt, Powell or Blake to qualify for individual events. Carter has run sub-10 five times this year, including a 9.87, and he’s the fifth fastest man of all time.

But his two major meet appearances in the 100 were failures. He didn’t make it out of the semifinals at the 2007 World Championships and jogged the final 10 meters for a 10.95 in 2011.

He didn’t even make the Jamaican team at trials, taking fourth, but got in when Blake withdrew.

Brit James Dasaolu came out of nowhere to clock a 9.91 in July. It made him the second fastest Brit ever, only trailing 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie. There’s a lot of mystery about Dasaolu, given his personal best before this year was 10.09, and he hasn’t run since that 9.91.

Frenchmen Jimmy Vicaut and Christophe Lemaitre and American Mike Rodgers are also in the hunt.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Schedule
Preliminary Round (Bolt has a bye): Saturday, 2:10 a.m. ET
Heats (Bolt’s debut): Saturday, 12:15 p.m. ET
Semifinals: Sunday, 11:05 a.m. ET
Final: Sunday, 1:50 p.m. ET

Medal Picks
Gold: Bolt
Silver: Gatlin
Bronze: Carter

Eliud Kipchoge wins Berlin Marathon; no world record

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Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge won the Berlin Marathon but missed the world record by 35 seconds, slowed by rain and humidity.

The Kenyan clocked 2:03:32, just missing the three-year-old record of 2:02:57. Countryman Dennis Kimetto set that mark at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

Kipchoge, who has won nine of his 10 career marathons, said Sunday marked the toughest conditions under which he has run 26.2 miles.

“My mind was to run at least a world record,” the 32-year-old said. “Next time. Tomorrow is a [new] day. … I still have a world record in my legs.”

The two other men chasing the record — Kenenisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang — dropped out after 18 miles.

Instead, the runner-up was surprise Ethiopian Guye Adola, who ran the fastest debut marathon ever on a record-eligible course in an unofficial 2:03:46.

Adola stuck with Kipchoge until the last mile as both men trailed off Kimetto’s world-record pace.

Kenyan Gladys Cherono won the women’s race by 18 seconds in 2:00:23. It’s her second Berlin win in three years.

Many expected to see a men’s world record Sunday. Kipchoge, Bekele and Kipsang had all run within 16 seconds of the mark in the last two years but had never raced together in the German capital.

Berlin is the world’s fastest marathon. The men’s world record has been lowered six times since 2003, each time in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate.

Kipchoge was the pre-race favorite.

On May 6, he ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s staged sub-two-hour marathon attempt on an Italian Formula One track. It was contested under special conditions that made it ineligible for record purposes with pacers entering mid-race.

Kipchoge won Berlin in 2015 in 2:04:00 despite insoles flopping out the back of his shoes the last half of the race.

Bekele and Kipsang teased the world record in a memorable Berlin duel last year, with Bekele winning six seconds shy of it.

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Yuzuru Hanyu falters as Javier Fernández wins opener

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Even Yuzuru Hanyu can struggle in September.

The Olympic and world champion singled his first jump, doubled a few more and fell in the free skate of his opening event of the Olympic season on Saturday. Video is here.

He squandered an 11.52-point lead over two-time world champion Javier Fernández from Friday’s short program at the Autumn Classic in Montreal.

Hanyu ended up 10.83 points behind Fernández overall, even though the Spaniard also fell in his free skate.

Full scores are here.

It’s a familiar feeling for Hanyu, who saw Fernández pass him in the free skate at the 2015 and 2016 Worlds.

The Japanese megastar also been known to have clunker programs at fall events in past seasons. In every one of his senior seasons, Hanyu has been beaten in one of his first two competitions.

Hanyu came to Montreal with a sore knee, which reportedly led him to take the quadruple loop out of his repertoire for one weekend.

Still, Hanyu was marvelous in the short program. His score was the second-highest under the 13-year-old judging system.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November. The Autumn Classic is a lower-level event.

Hanyu, 22, next skates at the Rostelecom Cup in four weeks. He will face 18-year-old U.S. champion Nathan Chen, who beat Hanyu at the Four Continents Championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue in February.

The figure skating season continues next weekend with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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