Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt takes 100 meters in Brussels; Diamond League finale analysis, video

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Usain Bolt completed his season with a 100-meter victory in a solid but not spectacular 9.80 seconds in the Diamond League finale in Brussels on Friday.

Bolt, whose pre-race antics were tame by his standards, held his finger to his mouth to hush the crowd. He got off to an average start, took a clear lead around the halfway point and beat American Mike Rodgers by one tenth of a second.

“If I had got the better start it would’ve been 9.70,” Bolt said, according to the BBC.

World bronze medalist Nesta Carter and world silver medalist Justin Gatlin took third and fourth, respectively, both in 9.94 seconds.

Gatlin handed Bolt his only loss of 2013 in June, but Bolt ramped up as the summer went on, while Gatlin stayed fairly level. Bolt’s season’s best was his 9.77 in the World Championship final.

“It’s my last race of the season, the time’s close to my season’s best, I’m happy,” Bolt said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Bolt said this was his last race of the season, but 2014 could be interesting. He could run in the Commonwealth Games for the first time, and his biggest rival, Yohan Blake, will return from a hamstring injury.

Who knows, he could also race British distance great Mo Farah for charity, act in a film and play for Manchester United.

“It was not the perfect season or the best of my career,” Bolt said, according to the BBC. “But the best thing is I finished on top and dominated.”

Other notes from the Diamond League finale:

Jamaican triple world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce posted another dominant performance, taking the 100 in 10.72 with a .3 tailwind. Fraser-Pryce came up .01 shy of her world-leading time for 2013 and .02 short of her career best. Next closest was American Alexandria Anderson in 10.97.

Jamaica Warren Weir won the 200 in 19.88, edging countryman Nickel Ashmeade (19.93) and American Walter Dix (20.12). Weir, 23, perhaps the heir apparent to Bolt in the 200, took silver to Bolt at worlds in a season’s best 19.79. Dix, the double 2011 world silver medalist, posted a season’s best while wearing a camouflage body suit as he continues to return from injury.

2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson came from behind to beat 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson in the 100 hurdles. Harper-Nelson celebrated a mildly surprising win in 12.48 over Pearson (12.63) with a cartwheel. It marked Harper-Nelson’s fastest time of the year.

Ethiopian Mohammed Aman posted perhaps the most impressive time on the track in winning the 800 in a season’s best time of 1:42.37. The world champion bettered surging world silver medalist Nick Symmonds with a time nearly one second faster than any other this year. Granted, world record holder and Olympic champion David Rudisha has missed most of the season due to injury. The American Symmonds took second in 1:43.03, the second fastest time in the world this year.

American Ryan Whiting won the shot put with a throw of 21.45 meters. In a breakthrough season, Whiting won the overall Diamond League title, a silver medal at worlds and the four farthest throws in the world.

American Natasha Hastings upset a strong field in the 400 in 50.36. World gold and silver medalists Christine Ohurougu and Amantle Montsho, who were also in the field Friday, were one second faster than Hastings’ winning time Friday in Moscow.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon won the 400-meter hurdles in 48.32, his first race since winning the world title by .01 over American Michael Tinsley in Moscow. Gordon had won the world title in 47.69.

Ethiopian-turned-Swede Abeba Aregawi, the world champion, won her sixth Diamond League 1,500 of the season in 4:05.41. American Jenny Simpson, the world silver medalist, was among a handful of runners who fell in a pileup at the start of the final lap.

Americans Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat led at different parts of the final lap of the 5,000, but it was Ethiopian Yenew Alamirew who prevailed in 12:58.75. Lagat held on for second in 12:58.99, while Rupp was fifth in 13:01.37. Another American, steeplechaser Evan Jager, took eighth, setting a personal best by 12 seconds.

Usain Bolt plans to retire after 2016 Olympics

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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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