Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin wins; David Rudisha fades at Pre Classic

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The Prefontaine Classic was headlined by Olympic champions Allyson FelixShelly-Ann Fraser-PryceAshton EatonDavid Rudisha and Sanya Richards-Ross. None of them won Saturday, but several world leads were set among eye-catching performances at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Justin Gatlin remained undefeated this season by taking the 100m in a wind-aided 9.76 seconds. Gatlin is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and world silver medalist behind Usain Bolt, who is set to make his 2014 debut in the Czech Republic on June 17. Gatlin’s world lead this year is 9.87.

“My start wasn’t the best, like it’s been this year, but my second half I came on strong,” Gatlin told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “If I piece both [halves] of my races together, I think I can go 9.6.”

Neither Olympic champion Allyson Felix nor world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won a loaded 200m. Rather, it was Tori Bowie, a long jumper at the World Indoor Championships in March. Bowie knocked nearly four tenths off her personal best, winning out of lane one in 22.18, the fastest time in the world this year.

“I’m almost speechless right now, to be honest,” Bowie said.

Felix, who was carried off the track with a torn hamstring at last year’s World Championships, was third in 22.44.

“The last time I was running a 200m, I was on the ground,” Felix said. “I’m working myself back.”

Fraser-Pryce, who won triple gold at worlds, was shockingly last in 23.06. The Jamaican has dealt with a foot injury this year.

David Rudisha faded from the lead to seventh in the final 200m of the 800m in the world record holder’s first race in more than one year due to a knee injury. Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos won in 1:43.63. Rudisha clocked 1:44.87.

“A couple of races, I’ll be ready,” Rudisha said afterward.

Olympic champions Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt continued their 400m rivalry with identical 43.97 times. James outleaned Merritt for the victory, taking a 6-5 edge in their career duels. They’re the only men to go sub-44 this year, or any of the last five years for that matter.

“We’ll go at it many more times,” Merritt said.

Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross was sixth in the 400m as she continues to come back from a toe injury. Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills, a breast cancer survivor, prevailed in 50.4, .13 ahead of World Indoor champion Francena McCorory.

Olympic and world decathlon champion Ashton Eaton equaled his 110m hurdles personal best of 13.35 to finish sixth. He beat 2011 world 110m hurdles champion Jason Richardson.

France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde crossed first in 13.13, upsetting Olympic bronze medalist Hansle Parchment (13.2) and world champion David Oliver (13.21). Olympic champion Aries Merritt withdrew with a hamstring injury.

In the closing Bowerman Mile, Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman ran the fastest mile since 2007 and the fastest ever on U.S. soil, winning in 3:47.32.

In field events, backwards hat-wearing Will Claye (17.66m) topped Christian Taylor (17.42) in a reversal of the Olympic triple jump final. Olympic champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault with a 5.8m clearance.

Olympic champion Anna Chicherova took the high jump, and world champion Vitezslav Vesely won the javelin.

Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi lost a Diamond League 1500m for the first time since Aug. 17, 2012, snapping an eight-race win streak. Kenyan Hellen Obiri forced Aregawi to second, 3:57.05 to 3:57.57. American Jenny Simpson, the 2011 world champion, ran a personal best 3:58.28 for fourth.

Kenyan Caleb Ndiku won the 5000m in 13:01.71. Decorated American Bernard Lagat was a non-factor in 14th, 30 seconds behind.

Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano won the non-Diamond League one mile race in 3:52.41. Kenyan Mercy Cherono, the world 5000m silver medalist, won the women’s two-mile in 9:13.27. Two-time Olympian Shannon Rowbury finished fourth and broke the American record in 9:20.25.

Jamaican Kaliese Spencer captured the 400m hurdles in 54.29, the fastest time in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Sofia Assefa took the 3000m steeplechase in 9:11.41, also a world-leading time (by eight seconds).

The Diamond League continues with a meet in Rome on Thursday.

Galen Rupp breaks American record at Pre Classic

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order