Justin Gatlin, Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt vs. Justin Gatlin for last time in 2013; Diamond League preview

Leave a comment

Usain Bolt’s had a dominant year, unless you look at the times.

Bolt lost once all season, by .01 of a second, and won triple gold at the World Championships last month. He stayed healthy and made consistent improvement through the summer while his past rivals fell to failed drug tests (Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell) and injury (Yohan Blake).

Going into his final race, a 100 meters in a Brussels Diamond League meet on Friday, Bolt rated his 2013 an eight out of 10.

“I won,” Bolt, 27, said, “but I wouldn’t say it was in Usain Bolt fashion.”

He’s right. Bolt’s season’s bests are 9.77 and 19.66. (Gay has actually run faster than Bolt this year, but you’ve got to believe his 9.75 will be wiped out once his doping consequences come down).

If Bolt doesn’t go faster Friday (2:45 p.m. Eastern time), he will finish the year with his slowest season’s best in the 100 since 2010 (9.82) and in the 200 since 2007 (19.75). He will go into 2014, the lightest year in track with no Olympics or worlds, with doubts over his dominance. Blake will return healthy. The younger Jamaicans Warren WeirKemar Bailey-Cole and Nickel Ashmeade will probably be faster.

And then there’s Justin Gatlin, who is four years older than Bolt and probably under greater pressure to perform in 2014 as he phases out of the typical prime age for sprinters.

Gatlin was the one man who beat Bolt this year, in a 100 in Rome in June, and took silver to Bolt’s gold in the 100 at worlds by .08. That margin in Moscow was the smallest victory by Bolt in an Olympics or worlds ever.

If Gatlin can summon a surge to defeat Bolt in Brussels (Universal Sports, 2 p.m. ET), the track and field landscape will only get more interesting going into 2014.

Here are other storylines in Brussels (full start lists/timetable):

Men’s Shot Put (12:30): All the medalists from Moscow are in the field — David StorlRyan Whiting and Dylan Armstrong — as well as two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski. If you remember worlds, Storl’s winning throw was at first called a foul but then allowed by officials after reviewing a photographer’s camera.

Men’s 400 Hurdles (2:04): Trinidad and Tobago world champion Jehue Gordon takes on American Michael Tinsley in a rematch of a thrilling worlds final, won by Gordon by .01 of a second.

Women’s 100 (2;13): One more chance for Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to demolish a field. Fraser-Pryce’s season’s best is 10.71. Only one other woman in the field has gone sub-10.9 this season — American Barbara Pierre.

Men’s 200 (2:20): Weir, the world silver medalist and Olympic bronze medalist, is the clear favorite here. But check out American Walter Dix, the four-time world and Olympic medalist, coming back from yet another injury. Dix set a rather interesting record in a 100 in Zurich, Switzerland, last week. He finished in ninth place in 10.07 seconds, the fastest ever time for a ninth-place finish in a 100 meters race. Most elite races, of course, field eight competitors.

Women’s 400 (2:55): Christine Ohuruogu and Amantle Montsho face off again. Ohuruogu dipped to beat Montsho at worlds, even though they both crossed in 49.41 seconds. Also in the field are the top Americans from worlds — Natasha Hastings and Francena McCorory.

Men’s 800 (3:03): American Nick Symmonds gets one more shot at Ethiopian Mohammed Aman, who overtook Symmonds at worlds for gold. Symmonds took the two-lap race at last week’s meet in Zurich, but Aman was not in the field. Perhaps Symmonds will be aided by the presence of American Duane Solomon, who took out the pace hard at worlds and finished sixth.

Women’s 100 Hurdles (3:15): It’s one more opportunity for 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson to show she’s past a hamstring injury. The Australian peaked at worlds with back-to-back 12.50s, grabbing silver behind American phenom Brianna Rollins, who has run four times faster than Pearson’s best this year. Rollins isn’t in the field in Brussels, but the third- and fourth-place finishers from Moscow are — Tiffany Porter and Dawn Harper-Nelson.

Women’s 1,500 (3:21): American Jenny Simpson takes aim at Ethiopian-turned-Swede Abeba Aregawi, who has won five Diamond League 1,500s this season in addition to the World Championship. Simpson, who won in Monaco in July in an Aregawi-less field, took silver to the Swede in Moscow after winning the world title in 2011.

Usain Bolt plans to retire after 2016 Olympics

Follow @nzaccardi

Rio Olympic, Paralympic medals to be unveiled June 16

Rio 2016
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The medals for the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games will be unveiled June 16, 50 days before the Olympic Opening Ceremony, Rio Games and International Paralympic Committee officials said Friday.

The Olympic and Paralympic medals are different designs.

It’s the closest to the Opening Ceremony that Olympic medals have been unveiled since 2000:

Sochi 2014 — Eight months ahead of time
London 2012 — One year ahead
Vancouver 2010 — Four months ahead
Beijing 2008 — 17 months ahead
Torino 2006 — Two months ahead
Athens 2004 — 13 months ahead
Salt Lake City 2002 — Four months ahead
Sydney 2000 — One month ahead

MORE: Pelé on Rio Olympics, lighting the cauldron

Bob Bowman talks new book, Olympic memories, Michael Phelps

Bob Bowman
Getty Images
Leave a comment

While at TODAY to discuss his new book, “The Golden Rules,” with Matt Lauer, U.S. Olympic men’s swimming head coach Bob Bowman sat down with OlympicTalk last week.

In “The Golden Rules,” Bowman details 10 steps to world-class excellence in life and work, illustrating them with lessons learned from coaching not only Michael Phelps, but also several more world-class swimmers and his own personal experiences.

Bowman answered questions about his book, Phelps’ training for the Olympic Trials and his memories from coaching the past two decades:

OlympicTalk: Why write and come out with a book now?

Bowman: Well, quite honestly, I think this is when it could get the most widespread coverage. The message can be the most effectively given, because it’s in our Olympic window. I’ve been working on it for four years, so it’s kind of been a long process. Right after London I started working on it. It just seemed like this year is perfect timing.

OlympicTalk: In May 2012, you said you would take a year off from coaching after the Olympics. Now that you’re back, and now coaching a college program, how much longer do you see yourself coaching?

Bowman: I think a long time now. One thing I learned on that break, I’m a terrible vacationer. I have to make myself sit at the beach. I’m probably going to work as long as I can work. It’s what I love to do. So, I’m healthy, don’t see why I won’t go for a long time.

EXCERPT: Bowman and Phelps’ first conversation about a comeback

OlympicTalk: Do you and Phelps have an idea of what you’d like to focus on in his final pre-Olympic Trials meet in Austin (June 3-5)?

Bowman: There are a couple of things that he needs to do. You know, he hasn’t really done too many 200m frees [in his comeback]. I think you’ll see him in a 200m free. And he has some goals that he has for the other events that he’d like to hit before trials, so that’s what we’re working on.

OlympicTalk: If Phelps wants to swim the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays in Rio, does he need to put up a fast time at trials?

Bowman: Well, I think he needs to put up a time, sometime, to let us know that he’s on that level. Intuitively, we know, but, yeah, he’s going to have to put up some times. It could be [in Austin].

OlympicTalk: As U.S. Olympic men’s head coach, what are your early thoughts on the relays?

Bowman: I think in the 4x200m [free], we’re looking pretty strong. I think we have some young guys that are very good. We’ve got Michael, Ryan [Lochte], the kind of mainstays. Conor [Dwyer] is on fire. He’s been training with us in altitude

The 4x100m is still a little bit of a question mark, but I feel better about it as we go along. I think we’ve got some young guys coming up who are going to step up. Nathan [Adrian] is obviously very solid. I think Michael put in a really solid 100m. So I feel better about it. I don’t know exactly how far we can go, but I think we’re a lot better than we were a year ago.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. had a disastrous 11th-place finish in preliminaries at the World Championships 4x100m free relay on Aug. 2, without Phelps, Lochte or Adrian.

OlympicTalk: Two years ago, we were all concerned about Allison Schmitt after she failed to make the World Championships team. She’s swimming well again. What happened in the last two years? 

Bowman: She’s really just gone through some very tough times, battling depression, and she’s kind of come out the other side. I think she’s really worked very hard on her mental aspects of swimming. The physical was never really a question. She’s trying to put all the pieces together. And now she’s really kind of become a much stronger person, and it’s really showing. Her training is as good as it’s ever been.

Editor’s Note: Bowman expects Schmitt to swim three events at the Olympic Trials — 100m, 200m and 400m freestyles. Schmitt took gold in the 200m and silver in the 400m at the 2012 Olympics.

MORE: Phelps’ concussion, more highlights from ‘The Golden Rules’

OlympicTalk: Other than those you’ve coached, who is the most impressive swimmer you’ve seen?

Bowman: I’d have to say [Katie] Ledecky. She has been so consistent at such a high level. Someone asked me about the most amazing swims I’ve ever seen are, and I’m going to have to say that one of them is certainly Katie’s 8:06 that she swam in Austin [an 800m freestyle world record on Jan. 17]. 4:03/4:03 [splits]. For a long time, 4:03 was a world record [in the 400m freestyle], and I thought it would never be touched. To do two of those? Absolutely amazing.

OlympicTalk: What about international swimmers?

Bowman: I’ve always been a big Ian Thorpe fan. He’s such an incredible swimmer at his peak. There have been so many. [Kosuke] Kitajima the breaststroker. There have been some really, really kind of dominant swimmers during their window in time. Which, as I see that now, I’m even more amazed that Michael’s been able to maintain that level for so long.

OlympicTalk: What’s your favorite of Phelps’ Olympic swims?

Bowman: That’s hard to say. His best in terms of just a pure performance was his 200m free in Beijing [then a world record; Phelps has said that’s his best swim at an Olympics]. A dominating performance. My personal favorite is the 4:03 [400m individual medley] from Beijing [still a world record]. But I also love his 400m IM from Athens, his first gold medal. So those are kind of my top three.

OlympicTalk: We’ve all heard the stories of Phelps in Sydney in 2000, forgetting his credential and leaving his suit strings untied. What do you remember about those Games?

Bowman: I remember that we were so happy to be there, and the thing I loved is he got faster. Every time he swam, he got faster. He did a best time every time he swam. But there was so much more left to do. I’ve just seen a video, NBC’s doing a little promo this week, they show him diving in in Sydney. He kicks his legs back. He doesn’t kick underwater. There are like a million things he could have done better. So that’s what I remember. He was just a kid having fun.

OlympicTalk: Did you make any rookie Olympic mistakes as a coach in Atlanta or Sydney?

Bowman: No, because the kid [I coached in Atlanta] was the same age as me [laughs]. I didn’t have to do anything. Eric Wunderlich, he trained himself [Wunderlich was 26 in Atlanta; Bowman was 32]. Actually, in Sydney, I don’t know if I made any mistakes, but I probably just didn’t know how the game was played. It was just inexperience in the schedule, reminding Michael to have his credential. Those kinds of things. I think that’s what I didn’t really think of.

VIDEO: Bowman discusses ‘The Golden Rules’ on TODAY