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

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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