Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt recovers to beat Justin Gatlin in Zurich; Diamond League recap (video)

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Usain Bolt wasn’t dominant, but he didn’t need to be. The six-time Olympic champion came from behind, as usual, to beat a field that included Justin Gatlin at a Diamond League meeting in Zurich on Thursday.

Bolt won in 9.90 seconds, overcoming countryman Nickel Ashmeade (9.94) and Gatlin (9.96) over the final 50 meters. Bolt and Gatlin went gold-silver at the World Championships in Moscow earlier this month, where Bolt won in 9.77 to Gatlin’s 9.85.

“I wasn’t as fit,” Bolt told Swiss broadcaster SRF Sport. “The more the season goes, the more tired I get. … I’m just trying to get through the season injury free.”

Bolt’s reaction time — .186 — was the slowest in the field of nine. Ashmeade burst out in .123.

Bolt’s pre-race antics included a Bruce Lee-type display of hand-waving martial arts. After he won, Bolt threw his congratulatory flowers into the crowd, over his back wedding style, and signed autographs. Some fans held up a sign offering free chocolate to Bolt. It is not known if Bolt took them up on the request.

Bolt is expected to race in the Diamond League finale in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 6.

“I have to go and prepare, see what I can to do improve my start,” Bolt said.

Other notable results from Zurich:

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, just as dominant as Bolt in the women’s sprints, won the 200 meters with ease in 22.40. The field was missing Olympic champion Allyson Felix, out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. Murielle Ahoure, second to Fraser-Pryce at worlds, was second again in Zurich, in 22.66.

In the men’s 400, world champion LaShawn Merritt got the better of Grenadian rival Kirani James again, 44.13 to 44.32, as they went one-two.

American David Oliver backed up his world title by beating a world-class field again in the 110-meter hurdles despite getting hit with a piece of a broken hurdle from another runner. Oliver, who failed to make the 2012 Olympic team, crossed first in 13.12 seconds, leading a one-two-three U.S. finish with Ryan Wilson (13.24) and Jason Richardson (13.26) just behind. The Olympic champion and world record holder, Aries Merritt had another disappointing showing, getting sixth in 13.34, his same placement at worlds.

South African Caster Semenya, she of the gender controversy in 2009 and 2010, ran a season’s best in the 800 meters, 2:01.83, but it was only good enough for seventh. Semenya, the 2009 world champion, has battled injury this season and didn’t run a time fast enough to qualify for worlds.

World silver medalist Nick Symmonds won the 800 in 1:43.56. The race was missing Olympic champion and world record holder Kenyan David Rudisha and the man who clipped Symmonds in Moscow, Ethiopian Mohammed Aman.

In the women’s 5,000, Ethiopian Olympic and world champion Meseret Defar (14:32.83) held off countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba (14:34.82), the Olympic and world champion in the 10,000, in what was reported to be the first time in seven years.

Ukrainian high jump world champion Bohdan Bondarenko won with ease, but he failed in an attempt to break Javier Sotomayor‘s 20-year-old world record for the third time this summer.

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Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi lead U.S. Olympic marathon team

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Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi shared nothing in marathon running before the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday, but the two men from vastly different backgrounds were together, alone, leading the race with five miles left.

Rupp, 29, pulled away to win in 2:11:12 on the streets of Los Angeles. The former Oregon Catholic high school prodigy became the first American to make an Olympic marathon team in his 26.2-mile debut since 1968.

Keflezighi, a 40-year-old born in war-torn Eritrea who moved to the U.S. in 1987, crossed the finish line 68 seconds later in second place. He will become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time in Rio in August.

Rupp and Keflezighi, the only U.S. men to make an Olympic podium in distances longer than 1500m since 1984, were so close to each other in their three-mile leading stretch that their Olympic silver medals could have clanked against each other had they been wearing them.

Keflezighi, in his 23rd marathon and in front of Rupp at the time, didn’t take kindly to the six-inches-taller marathon rookie breathing on him. He let Rupp know about it on the streets of LA.

“It’s not a track, the road is open,” Keflezighi recalled in a press conference, shortly before exchanging a laughter-inducing glance with Rupp, who fittingly walked in to sit on a stool to Keflezighi’s immediate right mid-answer. “It was not a very friendly conversation.”

Now Rupp and Keflezighi are U.S. Olympic marathon teammates. Along with Jared Ward, who finished third Saturday, 1:47 behind Rupp, to make his first Olympics.

Full results are here.

In the women’s race, Amy CraggDesi Linden and Shalane Flanagan were the top three, all returning to the Olympics, with Flanagan collapsing at the finish line. Full recap here.

Rupp and Keflezighi broke away on their own around the 20th mile. Rupp then dropped Keflezighi in the 23rd mile. The reigning Olympic 10,000m silver medalist fist pumped crossing the finish line.

“It was a bit of a change running the marathon, but there’s no bigger honor than being able to represent your country at the Olympics,” Rupp then told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Dathan Ritzenhein, a three-time Olympian and a pre-race favorite with Keflezighi and Rupp, dropped out of the race around mile 20 in the hottest U.S. Olympic marathon trials of all time. The temperature at the men’s start at 10:06 a.m. local time was 66 degrees.

The Rio Olympic men’s marathon will be on Aug. 21, the final day of the Games. Keflezighi’s 2004 silver is the only U.S. men’s marathon medal since Frank Shorter took gold in 1972 and silver in 1976.

Rupp has said he prefers the 10,000m and might not race the marathon at the Olympics. If he doesn’t, the fourth-place trials finisher, Luke Puskedra, will move onto the team.

“I think [Rupp] is a 2:05 [marathon] guy, someday,” Rupp’s coach, three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar, told media after Saturday’s race. (The fastest American marathoner of all time, Ryan Hall, clocked a best of 2:04:58 at the 2011 Boston Marathon.)

Rupp could contest two races in Rio, the 10,000m (Aug. 13 final) and the marathon, or the 10,000m and the 5000m (Aug. 20). Rupp finished seventh in the 5000m in London.

“I would say that the 10k is still my primary focus,” said Rupp, who would have to make the Olympic track team at those trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10, in a USATF interview published Jan. 28. “Really, it just comes down to what I think I have a better chance in as a second event, whether that’s the 5k or the marathon.”

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Amy Cragg wins marathon trials; Shalane Flanagan collapses at finish

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No doubt Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan bonded as training partners en route to the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, escaping a black bear the clearest example.

They couldn’t have been closer after finishing first and third to make the Olympic team Saturday.

Flanagan collapsed in Cragg’s arms two strides after the finish line at the hottest U.S. Olympic marathon trials ever in Los Angeles. She was then helped into a wheelchair.

Cragg won the race in 2:28:20, redeeming after she finished fourth to miss the team by one spot at the 2012 trials. Flanagan came in third Saturday to make her fourth Olympic team, 25 seconds behind second-place Desi Linden and 58 seconds behind Cragg.

Full results are here.

Cragg, 32, waited for Flanagan at the finish line, holding an American flag, hugging Flanagan and then, suddenly, keeping the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist from falling onto the pavement.

Flanagan, the 2012 trials winner and a pre-race favorite, said there was a point in the 26.2 miles where she thought she was “done.”

Cragg talked her through it. They spent most of the final half of the race alone in the lead.

“Sweet baby Jesus, I’m so thankful for [Cragg],” Flanagan, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner ever, said minutes after finishing, with an ice pack over her shoulders, clutching a water bottle in her right hand and holding onto Cragg’s right shoulder with her left hand.

Cragg held up Flanagan during the interview and then helped her back into the wheelchair.

The temperature at the start of the men’s race at 10:06 a.m. local time was 66 degrees, hottest ever at a marathon trials (the first trials were in 1968). The women began 16 minutes later.

Cragg finished fourth at the 2012 marathon trials, then made that Olympic team in the 10,000m on the track and finished 11th in London in her Olympic debut. She moved from Providence, R.I., to Portland, Ore., in the fall to join Flanagan’s training group.

“Finishing fourth, looking back on it now, was so good for me,” Cragg told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “It made me more determined than ever as an athlete. I’ve worked really hard the last four years, basically, to move up one spot.

“I just knew, training with Shalane, would give me all the confidence I need.”

Cragg dropped Flanagan in the final two miles. Before that, she said she asked Flanagan if she was OK. Flanagan replied, no, I’m not.

“She seemed like she was even struggling a little bit just to say that,” Cragg said. “Before the last water stop, I kind of looked at her, and she was turning bright red. I knew the heat was getting to her. I told her, I’m going to get you a water bottle, dump the whole thing on your head.”

Linden, arguably the pre-race co-favorite with Flanagan, repeated her 2012 trials finish of second place, surging in the final mile past Flanagan.

At the London Olympics, Linden pulled out 2.2 miles into the race with right hip pain, what would later be diagnosed as a femoral stress fracture.

“It’s been this Sisyphean task where I get to the top, and then the rock crumbles down,” Linden said Saturday. “I want to do it better this time.”

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher was fourth. She plans to compete at the track trials in July in Eugene, Ore., to go for Rio.

Goucher finished 65 seconds behind Flanagan, her former training partner, and said she missed workouts last week while sick. The 37-year-old said she may have picked up an illness from her 5-year-old son, Colt.

“I kept asking myself if I was doing all that I could, and I was,” Goucher told media, in tears. “They were just better. … I didn’t fight this hard to just fold right now, so yeah, I’ll be trying to make the 10k team [at track trials in July].”

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