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

Pressure on Ashley Wagner at world championships

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Ashley Wagner‘s four-year plan has her peaking in 2018, not at the 2017 World Championships, but many call Wagner to carry the U.S. women at worlds in Helsinki next week.

“Next year is the year that I am, like, in it to kill,” she said. “This year is maintaining. This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year.”

Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, is the only skater of three American women on this year’s worlds team with prior worlds experience. She is the only one ranked higher than 20th in the world this season.

Normally, figure skating is an individual sport. But next week, the top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no greater than 13 (Wagner places third, and either U.S. champion Karen Chen or U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell places 10th or better, for example).

If not, the U.S. will have two rather than the maximum three women’s entries at the PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. had three spots at four of the last five Olympics.

Anything less than three in 2018 would mean the U.S. is not keeping up with world power Russia and maybe even Canada and Japan. And it becomes that much harder for Wagner and everyone else to make the Olympic team.

“I know that I have a huge role in these three spots at these world championships,” Wagner said. “I need to set this team up as good as I possibly can, so that way the pressure’s off the other girls.”

The others are the 17-year-old Chen, the surprise winner at the U.S. Championships in January, who then placed 12th at February’s Four Continents Championships, an event that doesn’t include Europeans. Chen said she suffered from nerves, a flu and foot pain caused by broken boots at Four Continents.

And Bell, who took silver at October’s Skate America behind training partner Wagner. Bell, 20, finished sixth at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea, where she competed with an amount of pressure she had never before felt.

Of skaters entered at worlds, Bell has the 10th-best total score this season. The skater with the 12th-best total in the worlds field is more than nine points shy of Bell. Chen comes in seeded 16th.

“The tough thing about this worlds is that we have two rookies going into a very stressful event,” Wagner said. “So these two girls are in a really tough position, and I really feel for them. It’s kind of like you have to buckle up and deal with this, and that’s like your only option.”

There is reason for optimism, should Wagner put up something close to the performance of her life from last year’s worlds, where she became the first U.S. women’s medalist in a decade.

“Success in Finland is getting onto that podium,” Wagner said.

But Wagner is nearing the end of her (so far) least impressive season in probably six years. She is seeded eighth at worlds by this season’s top international scores.

She failed to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2011. She was beaten at nationals despite longtime rival Gracie Gold underperforming.

However, Wagner’s goal at nationals wasn’t to win, but to finish in the top three to make the worlds team. She called the runner-up result “perfect.” She focused the last two months on firming up the areas where she lost points.

“Even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me,” Wagner said. “I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

The favorite in Helsinki is clearly Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost since November 2015 and can become the first repeat world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

Wagner said she hasn’t watched any of Medvedeva’s programs this season.

“The only thing that I know about is her long program music is not my favorite piece of music,” Wagner said, alluding to Medvedeva’s choice of sound from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a 2011 film relating to the 9/11 attacks. The music includes, at one point, the voice of George W. Bush declaring that two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.

But Wagner was effusive of Medvedeva, the latest in a string of Russian Olympic and world champions dating to the Sochi Olympics.

“She is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said. “Now it’s one set thing I know exactly the quality of skating I have to reach, I know exactly the technical program that I have to be able to accomplish.”

Wagner, a seasoned 25 years old, noted a key point this week. She is the only active women’s skater in her class, with her length of experience, who hasn’t taken a break.

Italian Carolina Kostner is 30, but she’s competing at worlds for the first time since 2014, following two seasons off. Japan’s three-time world champion Mao Asada is 26, but she took a season off after Sochi and this year failed to make the worlds team.

Wagner reflected on her world silver medal and her three national championships. She knows they mean nothing next week.

“I have to prove myself all over again,” she said.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

More Russians retroactively disqualified from 2012 Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Three Russian athletes have been disqualified from the 2012 Olympics after failing doping retests, the country’s track and field federation said.

Hammer throwers Maria Bespalova and Gulfiya Khanafeeva and triple jumper Viktoria Valyukevich were all disqualified. None were medalists.

The disqualifications of Bespalova and Khanafeeva mean all three Russian women who competed in the hammer throw in 2012 have tested positive for doping. Tatyana Lysenko was the original winner, but was stripped of her gold medal in October.

Valyukevich, a former European indoor champion, was eighth in the triple jump at the 2012 Olympics and finished two places ahead of Russian teammate Tatyana Lebedeva, who has been stripped of two medals from the 2008 Beijing Games for doping.

In Tuesday’s statement, Russian officials didn’t say which substances were involved. The International Olympic Committee had no immediate comment.

It is the third time Khanafeeva, who won European championship silver in 2005, has been found guilty of a doping offense. She previously served bans in 2002 for a positive test and in 2008 for providing someone else’s urine in a drug test sample.

Bespalova is currently serving a four-year ban after testing positive for a banned steroid in 2015.

Since the IOC started retesting samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games last year, more than 30 Russians in various sports have tested positive. That makes them the largest group out of more than 100 positive tests. Seven more Russians have been disqualified for other doping offenses.

Russia has lost 26 Olympic medals as a result, most of them in track and field. Many of the cases involve turinabol, a substance which former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov has admitted supplying to athletes in a steroid cocktail.

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