Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin

Tyson Gay vs. Justin Gatlin; Lausanne Diamond League preview

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It is the most anticipated 100m race so far this season, and Usain Bolt is nowhere to be found.

Tyson Gay will compete for the first time since the end of his one-year doping suspension at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday. He will do so against Justin Gatlin, the World Championships silver medalist who is undefeated this season.

Gay is the fastest American of all time, and Gatlin is tied as the second fastest with a stated of goal of taking Gay’s American record.

Never were Gay and Gatlin closer on the track than at the London Olympics. In the 4x100m relay final, Gatlin passed the baton and the lead to Gay for the third leg. That edge evaporated on Gay’s turn, wiped by Yohan Blake, who handed off to anchor Usain Bolt for a victory in world-record fashion.

The U.S. earned an appreciated silver, equaling the previous world record. Gay, who would have been a 2008 Olympic podium favorite if not for injury, felt particularly fulfilled to hold his first medal.

“That’s the part of my heart that was missing,” Gay said two years ago. “I think I finally filled it.”

But Gay gave up that silver medal to the U.S. Olympic Committee because it was won after he began taking performance-enhancing drugs. The rest of the U.S. relay team may be stripped of theirs as well. That includes Gatlin, who has four other Olympic medals to soften the blow.

Gatlin himself likely ceded more Olympic glory due to doping. He was banned four years from 2006 to 2010.

“There’s still a lot of pressure on [Gay] coming back,” Gatlin told the BBC in June. “People have more questions than answers — why his time [suspended] has been so short.”

Gay and Gatlin may not be the biggest story to come out of the meet, whose coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on Universal Sports and UniversalSports.com. Here are the start lists. Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 400m — 2:03 p.m. ET

LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James renew their rivalry. They clocked identical 43.97s at the Prefontaine Classic on May 31 with James outleaning Merritt for the win to take 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.

Men’s high jump — 2:25

The world record is in jeopardy again. Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov, World champion Bohdan Bondarenko and Olympic and World medalist Mutaz Barshim have all cleared 2.41m or higher this year. The world record from 1993 is 2.45m.

Bondarenko and Barshim took a combined five attempts at breaking the world record at the last Diamond League meet in New York but failed on every one at 2.46m.

Women’s 100m — 2:28

American Tori Bowie, the new sensation of the sprint season, was still on the start list 27 hours before the scheduled race despite appearing to suffer a leg injury at the U.S. Championships. Bowie, almost exclusively a long jumper until March, hurt herself on a 10.91-second semifinal and pulled out of the final Friday. That was the fastest time of the meet and Bowie’s first time clocking sub-11.

Bowie, the world leader in the 200m, is set to face the only two women faster than her in the 100m this year — Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye (10.85) and Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.86).

UPDATE: Campbell-Brown pulled out of the meet Wednesday due to a sore hamstring, according to her Twitter.

Men’s 100m — 2:58

Gatlin must be considered the favorite over Gay since there’s no telling what kind of form Gay is in. Though Gatlin is undefeated in 2014, he is not the fastest man this year. That’s Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson, who has run 9.82 to Gatlin’s 9.86 but is not in the Lausanne field.

The best from the rest is Mike Rodgers, who won the U.S. Championship last week (Gatlin and Gay were not in that field).

Men’s 200m — 3:43

Jamaican Yohan Blake would have added sizzle to the 100m, but as is the norm the world’s best sprinters are split up. Blake is coming off an awful 10.21 in the 100m in New York on June 14, when he stumbled out of the blocks in his Diamond League season debut.

This will mark his first Diamond League 200m in nearly two years, given Blake missed almost all of last season with a hamstring injury. His top competition will be Jamaican 100m champion Nickel Ashmeade and 2009 World silver medalist Alonso Edward.

Usain Bolt will race at Commonwealth Games, report says

French ice dancers break world record again

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French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron broke their own world record scores in the last major competition before the Olympics.

Papadakis and Cizeron totaled 203.16 points with 121.87 in Saturday’s free dance at the European Championships, both new bests, in Moscow.

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

The French go into the Olympics as favorites over Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won all three of their head-to-heads last season.

But the French finally overcame the 2010 Olympic champions Virtue and Moir at December’s Grand Prix Final.

Virtue and Moir rank No. 2 under an eight-year-old ice dance system with a personal best of 199.86 points.

Papadakis and Cizeron became the youngest world champions in ice dance in 40 years in 2015, then repeated as world champs in 2016.

Virtue and Moir returned after two years off for the 2016-17 season and went undefeated, including dethroning the French at worlds.

Three U.S. couples are the top contenders for the Olympic bronze medal.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White have not competed since becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champions in Sochi.

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MORE: NBC Olympics PyeongChang preview series on Netflix

Tonga flag bearer from Rio says he qualified for Winter Olympics

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Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless, oiled-up Tongan flag bearer from the Rio Games, said he qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics in cross-country skiing on Saturday.

“This was my last race possible, and we did it,” Taufatofua said in an interview with Olympic Channel, which also reported that he qualified. “This is a miracle.”

Taufatofua said he qualified at the final weekend of the Olympic qualifying period in Iceland, which is more than 9,000 miles from his home archipelago.

The last two events before qualification ends were Saturday’s freestyle race and a classic race scheduled for Sunday. Saturday’s results have not been posted yet.

Taufatofua completed a journey this season that included races in Colombia, Turkey, Poland and Armenia.

Taufatofua said he had seven chances to qualify for PyeongChang before Saturday and failed in all of them, finishing last each time (The official results show Taufatofua beating skiers from Malaysia and Mexico in some of these races.).

Taufatofua scrambled to make it to Iceland from Croatia this week. He said his group drove three days through a blizzard, an avalanche closing off the road at one point.

“People don’t see the hard work that goes behind,” he said. “They just see the shiny guy that walks with the flag.”

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his viral appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

He announced in December 2016 that he was switching to cross-country skiing in a bid for PyeongChang.

Cross-country, while a physically taxing pursuit, is one of the easier Winter Olympic sports to gain qualification for athletes from nations without much Winter Games history.

“I decided to find the hardest sport possible because I needed a new challenge,” Taufatofua said. “The goal was to do it one year, and we did it.”

Taufatofua debuted at the 2017 World Championships and was 153rd of 156 finishers in the 1.6km sprint freestyle.

It took Taufatofua 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds to complete the course in Lahti, Finland, which was about 10,000 miles from Tonga. The top qualifier clocked 3:11.72.

How will he dress at the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony, where outdoor temperatures are likely to be below freezing?

“One step at a time,” Taufatofua said. “Right now, I just want to go and party. I destroyed myself just to get here.”

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary.

Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

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VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics

I raced through 5 countries in the last 24hrs to try and get to my race in Croatia. I sat in a taxi for 6 hrs driving through Armenia into Georgia in the middle of the night. I sat on the front seat of the @turkishairlines plane, sprinted through the airport and snuck through the business class fast transit lane and somehow managed to arrive at the gate 15 min before departure for my flight to Croatia. Once there I found that @turkishairlines had shut the gate early even after their delayed initial flight from Georgia, leaving me stranded. After remembering a scene from a James Bond movie, I pressed all the buttons on the aerobridge door to see if I could somehow open it and sprint down to the connecting flight, unfortunately that didn’t work, and luckily I didn’t get arrested. So here I am sitting at Istanbul airport missing the race that could have possibly gotten me to the Olympics. It was always going to be a long shot but I had to give it a shot and I did. Soo many times in life we will get disappointed. When this happens I have two options. I can sit on that chair crying about what could have been and how unfair life is…. or I can go and find some good quality chocolate, pull out my notepad and start planning “what’s next”— I always did like chocolate…

A post shared by Pita Taufatofua (Pita T) (@pita_tofua) on