Walter Dix

Walter Dix motivated for first healthy season since 2011

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Walter Dix felt ready to take down Usain Bolt after sweeping the 100m and 200m at the U.S. Championships in 2011.

“I want [Bolt] to be at his best, so when I beat him there will be no excuses,” he said in Eugene, Ore., three years ago.

Dix didn’t conquer the great Jamaican. He won two silver medals at the 2011 World Championships, behind Bolt in the 200m and Yohan Blake in the 100m, after Bolt infamously false started out of the final in the lane next to Dix.

The last two years, it’s been Dix who hasn’t been at his best. He was beaten by a balky left hamstring in the 100m at both the 2012 and 2013 U.S. Championships, missing the London Olympics and Moscow World Championships.

U.S. sprinting attention since reverted to Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay. Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion back from a four-year doping ban, and Gay, the American record holder who hasn’t raced since revealing he failed at least one drug test last spring.

Dix has noticed he’s not a marquee attraction anymore, but he’s not taking it personally and making no excuses.

“I have been hurt the last couple years; it’s part of the game,” said Dix, now 28 and “a free agent” after being a Nike-sponsored athlete from 2008 through 2012. “The people that are running good times are the ones whose names are being said the most. Gatlin was right behind Bolt at the last World Championships. Gay was right behind Bolt in 2012. Those are the experienced guys. They show up when it comes to major meets. You can’t take anything away from them. I have to wait my turn.”

That’s patience from a man whose young confidence complemented Bolt’s no-worries attitude a few years ago. After the 2008 Olympic 100m semifinals, Dix reportedly looked at Bolt, who is eight inches taller, and said, “There ain’t going to be no jogging in the final.”

But there was. Bolt ran a world record 9.69, slowing and slapping his chest crossing the finish line, .22 ahead of Dix’s bronze-medal effort. Dix offered one of the quotes of the Olympics in an NBC interview afterward, summing up Bolt’s performance.

“The guy can run,” Dix said.

Dix did not witness Bolt’s triple gold feat at the World Championships last summer. He was focused on training in Europe, where he ran 9.99 seconds in Rieti, Italy, on Sept. 8, wearing a camouflage racing suit and sunglasses. It was his first sub-10-second 100m since that comment about beating Bolt in 2011.

Dix said last season marked the best finish to a year of his career, motivation he carried over to fall work in the weight room. He’s also moved from Southern California to train under University of South Carolina assistant Kevin Brown and has received encouragement from 2004 Olympic 200m champion Shawn Crawford, a South Carolina native.

On Saturday, Dix anchored a U.S. 4x100m team at the Penn Relays and held off a hard-charging Jamaican to win by .01. It wasn’t Bolt. It wasn’t Blake. It was Oshane Bailey, who owns a personal best of 10.11 seconds, a half-second slower than Bolt’s record and nearly a quarter-second slower than Dix’s top time from 2010.

Dix’s next races are in Jamaica on Saturday, the Cayman Islands on May 7 and Puerto Rico the following week. He hopes to be part of the U.S. team at the first IAAF World Relays Championships from May 24-25. He’s not yet entered in any bigger Diamond League meets, the ones frequented by Bolt, who made his own injury news this year.

“Part of the sport is being hurt and having to come back,” Dix said. “I think I should be better [than before the injuries]. I’m stronger.”

Fully healthy, Dix believes he’s in shape to challenge his best 100m time of 9.88. He’ll need to be to achieve his goal for this year.

“Win every race that I run,” Dix said.

Second fastest women’s marathoner ever banned for doping

Five events to watch at Prefontaine Classic; broadcast schedule

Vashti Cunningham
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The Prefontaine Classic fields are so stacked that it is the best Diamond League meet so far this season, even with the reported absences of Allyson FelixGenzebe Dibaba, Matthew Centrowitz and Galen Rupp.

In addition to Olympic sprint champion headliners Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceJustin GatlinSanya Richards-Ross and LaShawn Merritt, the meet features duels between reigning Olympic and World champions in multiple events.

The Diamond League’s lone trip to the U.S. doubles as the best gauge of form this spring ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials (July 1-10).

The annual meet in Eugene, Ore., is a Friday-Saturday affair:

Friday
USATF.TV — 11:20 p.m. ET

Saturday
NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra — 3:30-5 p.m. ET
NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra — 5-6 p.m. ET

Here are the start lists. Here is the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Friday
9:55 p.m. — Men’s hammer throw
11:11 — Women’s long jump
11:15 — Women’s discus
11:18 — Men’s shot put
11:37 — Women’s 800m
11:53 — Men’s 10,000m
12:27 a.m. (Saturday) — Women’s 5000m

Saturday
3:15 p.m. — Men’s triple jump
3:18 — Men’s pole vault
3:33 — Men’s 110m hurdles
3:42 — Men’s mile
3:53 — Women’s 100m
4:03 — Men’s 400m hurdles
4:09 — Women’s high jump
4:12 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
4:26 — Men’s 800m
4:32 — Men’s javelin
4:35 — Men’s 400m
4:43 — Men’s 5000m
5:04 — Women’s 200m
5:13 — Men’s 100m
5:22 — Women’s 1500m
5:33 — Women’s 100m hurdles
5:42 — Women’s 400m
5:51 — Men’s Bowerman Mile

Here are five events to watch (all times Eastern):

Women’s long jump — Friday, 11:11 p.m.

The most loaded field event of the meet. It includes five of the six women to earn medals at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Championships, with the lone absentee a Russian who is ineligible to compete due to the country’s ban.

It’s headlined by Olympic champion Brittney Reese and World champion Tianna Bartoletta, both Americans. There’s also reigning World silver and bronze medalists Shara Proctor of Great Britain and Ivana Španović of Serbia and U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Janay DeLoach.

Men’s pole vault — Saturday, 3:18 p.m.

The U.S. is suddenly a factor in this event, after Sam Kendricks became the first American man to win a Diamond League contest on May 14 in Shanghai. The 23-year-old Kendricks has the highest clearance in the world this year at 5.92 meters, higher than anybody from the 2015 World Championships and any American since 2008.

In Eugene, Kendricks will face Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and World champion Shawn Barber of Canada in a rematch of Shanghai.

Women’s high jump — Saturday, 4:09 p.m.

World Indoor champion Vashti Cunningham is the star here. The 18-year-old daughter of retired NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Randall Cunningham could be an Olympic medal favorite, especially if Russians aren’t allowed to compete in Rio.

Russians took two of three medals at the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 World Championships.

Without them in Eugene, Cunningham could very well beat a field that includes 2013 World bronze medalist Ruth Beitia of Spain and 2005 World silver medalist Chaunté Lowe, a strong opponent for Cunningham at the Olympic Trials on July 3. Lowe is 14 years older than Cunningham. Beitia is 19 years older.

Men’s 100m — Saturday, 5:13 p.m.

Three of the five fastest men of all time line up here in Justin GatlinTyson Gay and Asafa Powell, who were all born in 1982 and likely all seeking one last Olympics in Rio.

Joining them is Andre De Grasse, the 21-year-old Canadian who shared bronze at August’s World Championships behind Usain Bolt and Gatlin.

Gatlin will be the favorite, given he is 31-2 in individual sprints since the start of 2014 with the only losses coming to Bolt at Worlds last summer.

Women’s 100m hurdles — Saturday, 5:33 p.m.

With six Americans in the field of eight, this is arguably the closest event to a U.S. Olympic Trials field. It includes six of the seven fastest women in the world last year.

Only the top three at the Olympic Trials on July 8 make the team for Rio. The top finishers Saturday among 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson, 2013 World champion Brianna RollinsNia AliKeni HarrisonSharika Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers will become favorites to make Team USA.

MORE: Usain Bolt set to race two biggest Jamaican rivals

Slovakia eyes Peter Sagan in mountain bike at Olympics

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Peter Sagan, the reigning World road race champion, could also compete in mountain biking at the Rio Olympics if the Slovakian Cycling Federation has its way.

The federation requested a second Olympic mountain bike quota spot specifically for Sagan, in addition to the one it earned through results from its regular mountain bikers. It awaits a response from the International Cycling Union (UCI).

“We think, if Peter will present in MTB cross-country in Rio, it would be a benefit to all cycling, not only for Slovakia,” a Slovakian Cycling Federation official said in an email. “However, it depends on the terms of the UCI.”

Sagan won the World junior title in mountain biking at age 18 in 2008 before focusing primarily on road racing. He did compete in two mountain bike events earlier this year.

Sagan has entered four Tours de France and won the green jersey in all of them as the top sprinter, amassing four individual stage wins along the way. He also owns four Vuelta a España stage wins.

He was 34th in his Olympic debut at the London 2012 road race.

No cyclist has earned Olympic road and mountain bike medals.

Slovakia owns zero Olympic cycling medals since splitting from the Czech Republic starting with Atlanta 1996.

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