Tori Bowie

Tori Bowie, Justin Gatlin star at Monaco Diamond League meet

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Tori Bowie and Justin Gatlin ran eye-popping sprints at the Monaco Diamond League meet Friday, when hoped-for world records in two men’s events did not come to fruition.

Bowie, back from a leg injury at the U.S. Championships on June 27, ran a personal-best 10.80 seconds to beat a field that included Olympic and World 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the last two Olympic 200m champions, Allyson Felix and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Bowie has only been primarily a sprinter since March, when she switched her focus off the long jump. Her personal best before this season was 11.14. She is now the fastest woman in the world this year and 17th-fastest of all time after winning Friday’s race with a .8m/s tailwaind.

Campbell-Brown was second to Bowie in 10.96. Felix and Fraser-Pryce were fifth and sixth, respectively, in 11.01.

Gatlin, the fastest 100m man in the world this year, made a rare appearance in a 200m and made the most of it. He beat a field that included Tyson Gay in 19.68 seconds, smashing his personal best of 19.86 from 2002.

It’s the fastest time in the world this year and would have finished second to Usain Bolt at last year’s World Championships, .02 behind. Bolt’s win came with zero wind. Gatlin ran into a .5 m/s headwind.

Gay was fourth in 20.22 on Friday.

The men’s 1500m was the most anticipated event of the meet, with World champion Asbel Kiprop expected to take a run at the world record of 3:26.

It was not to be, as countryman Silas Kiplagat passed Kiprop on the final straightaway to win in 3:27.64. Kiprop was eyeing Hicham El Guerrouj‘s world record from 1998. Instead, he fell from fourth to fifth fastest all time with Kiplagat taking his place behind El Guerrouj, Bernard Lagat and Noureddine Morceli.

There were no world-record attempts in the men’s high jump, won by Ukraine World champion Bohdan Bondarenko, who cleared 2.40m. Bondarenko and Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim have made attempts to better the 21-year-old world record of 2.45m this year.

Olympic champion and world record holder David Rudisha finished fifth in a scintillating 800m. Botswana Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos won in 1:42.45, shaving .89 off the fastest time of the year. It was the second-fastest time in the world since the epic London Olympic final.

France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde became the first man to break 13 seconds in the 110m hurdles since Aries Merritt set the world record on Sept. 7, 2012. The Frenchman won in a national record 12.95. Merritt, in his injury-delayed Diamond League season debut, was seventh in 13.47.

World champion LaShawn Merritt pulled away to win the 400m in 44.3 against a field that did not include rival and Olympic champion Kirani James.

Jamaican world leader Kaliese Spencer won the 400m hurdles in 54.09. Czech World champion Zuzana Hejnova was seventh in 55.86 in her first major appearance of 2014 after breaking a toe in January.

Molly Huddle broke her American record in the 5000m, finishing in 14:42.64. Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba won with the fastest time in the world this year, 14:28.88.

American Ajee’ Wilson won the women’s 800m in 1:57.67, the fastest time in the world this year.

Brazil’s Fabiana Murer won her third straight Diamond League pole vault with a 4.76m clearance, topping Olympic champion Jenn Suhr.

The Diamond League resumes in Stockholm on Aug. 21, after the Commonwealth Games.

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Katie Ledecky’s win not the most impressive swim to open nationals

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Katie Ledecky won the 800m freestyle in a rout, but a swimmer with no Olympic experience had the most impressive victory on the opening night of USA Swimming Nationals on Tuesday.

Ledecky, the four-time Rio gold medalist, clocked 8:11.50 to win her trademark race by nearly nine seconds. That clinched her spot on the team for the world championships in Budapest in July.

“It’s important to get the job done here and get on to Budapest and do what I love, which is race at those big meets,” Ledecky said on NBCSN, adding later, “I didn’t rest too much for this [meet]. It’s hard to compare, but maybe compared to the other trials/selection meets, this might be the least tapered that I’ve been.”

Mallory Comerford was undoubtedly the star of the day at nationals, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.

The rising Louisville junior won the 100m freestyle in 52.81 seconds, the second-fastest time by an American in history and No. 3 time in the world this year.

Comerford, who was 12th at the Olympic Trials, relegated Olympic champion Simone Manuel to second place by .24 on Tuesday night. Lia NealKelsi WorrellOlivia Smoliga and Katie Ledecky rounded out the top six and should be part of the 4x100m free relay pool in Budapest.

Comerford continued to improve after a breakout NCAA season, when she tied Ledecky for the NCAA 200-yard freestyle title in the same Indy pool. Comerford and Ledecky will go head-to-head in the 200m free at nationals on Wednesday.

“I’ve been really trying to figure out long course [Olympic-size pools], and it’s finally nice for it to be clicking,” Comerford told media in Indianapolis.

SWIM NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | Event Schedule/Results

The 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian won the men’s 100m freestyle by one hundredth over Caeleb Dressel, repeating their one-two finish from the Olympic Trials.

“I didn’t know where they were, and if I would have looked around, I probably would have lost it,” Adrian said. “Touch the wall, and then figure out what place you got.”

Adrian clocked 47.96 seconds, ranking fourth in the world this year. Adrian and Dressel are set to be joined on the 4x100m free relay squad by Townley HaasZach AppleMichael Chadwick and Blake Pieroni.

Ryan Held, who famously broke down in tears on the Rio Olympic 4x100m free medal stand, finished seventh, missing the world team.

In the 200m butterfly, Jack Conger upset top seed Chase Kalisz, winning in 1:54.47.

Conger, who was suspended four months in 2016 as part of the Rio gas-station incident, now ranks fourth in the world this year in an event formerly dominated by Michael Phelps.

Kalisz, the Olympic 400m individual medley silver medalist, didn’t even make the world team in the 200m butterfly. He was out-touched for second place by Pace Clark by .21.

The women’s 200m fly final went to form, with Olympian Hali Flickinger taking the win by 1.11 seconds in 2:07.60. Flickinger ranks 10th in the world.

The 200m fly final was missing Olympic butterfliers Cammile Adams (not racing at nationals) and Kelsi Worrell (racing at nationals, but not the 200m fly) and Trials third-place finisher Cassidy Bayer (eliminated in morning prelims).

Joining Flickinger on the world team is Dakota Luther, a 17-year-old rising high school senior. No high schoolers made the Rio Olympic swim team.

True Sweetser and Robert Finke made their first world team by going one-two in the 1500m free.

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Sage Kotsenburg will not defend Olympic slopestyle title

Sage Kotsenburg
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Sage Kotsenburg, the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, will not defend his title in PyeongChang and is finished with contest riding.

Kotsenburg, 23, said he chose to devote the rest of his career to filming snowboarding movies rather than competing. It’s a common transition in the sport, but an unusual one for a reigning Olympic gold medalist.

“It had been on my mind since literally the day I won in Sochi,” said Kotsenburg, who last competed in early 2016. “I had my heart set on stopping competing after the Olympics, and then winning puts you in such a different mindset. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do anymore. I was on a high, so pumped on competing. I would get to the contests [after Sochi], and I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t have the edge to try this new trick anymore. All the time, I’m looking at [social media] posts from other people riding in Switzerland and Whistler [Canada] filming backcountry. I thought, I want to be there right now.

“I finally said to myself, I’ve got to do what makes me happy. Competing doesn’t make me happy right now.”

Kotsenburg said relief flooded over him after telling sponsors — including Oakley, Monster, GoPro and Stance socks — he would not ride in competition anymore. He wanted to know if they would stick with him during his filming career, but he understood if they felt otherwise.

“Each one of them said we’re happy to have you on board and keep it going,” he said. “After I told them, it was so much pressure off my chest. I knew I could just go snowboarding again.”

Growing up in Park City, Kotsenburg was fixated more on snowboarding movies than following contests. Though he’ll never forget watching the U.S. sweep the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic men’s halfpipe and then meeting Ross PowersDanny Kass and J.J. Thomas as an 8-year-old.

Kotsenburg was truly a surprise Olympic champion in 2014, taking gold after going into his first Winter Games with a goal to “make snowboarding look cool.” The Park City native later said President Obama told him, “Sage, this guy was like the favorite moment of the Games.”

“Looking back on it in 30 or 40 years, I’ll remember all the hard work and stress and craziness that went into it,” Kotsenburg said. “It was so worth it in the end. It’s something that’s made me who I am today. I think about it every day.”

Kotsenburg was at best inconsistent at the Winter X Games before and after his Sochi breakout — fifth in 2010, 10th in 2011, second in 2012, 13th in 2013, 15th in 2014, fifth in 2015 and 10th in 2016. Kotsenburg’s win at the last U.S. Olympic qualifier in January 2014 marked his first trip to the top of a slopestyle podium in about nine years.

In Sochi, Kotsenburg took gold by landing a cab double cork 1260 with a Kotsenburg-invented Holy Crail grab and a back 1620 Japan Air, trying the latter trick for the first time in his life (he hasn’t tried it since). The rider known as “Second-Run Sage” did it on his first run, scoring 93.5 points.

After the Olympics, Kotsenburg capitalized on his gold. He ate a bacon gold medal given to him by Conan O’Brien, listened to Obama call him “sick and chill” and took his gold medal out of a white sock on “Mad Money” with Jim Cramer.

“Being backstage on Letterman, I was tripping,” he said. “Craziest one was definitely going to the White House and meeting Obama was insane. He said he watched the Olympics, and I had the chillest and most relaxed interview he had ever seen.”

Kotsenburg said he still needs to get a proper box to store his medal. He joked he might rather buy a manikin and hang it around its neck along with some cool outerwear.

Before what would have been the last contest of his career, Kotsenburg essentially suffered a concussion at Fenway Park in training at a big air event in February 2016. Kotsenburg said the head injury was very minor and that it did not factor into his retirement decision.

Kotsenburg spent all last winter riding in Alaska, Wyoming, Lake Tahoe, Utah and Whistler for a Snowboarder Magazine film called “Pepper.”

He plans to ride more this winter for his own film project and possibly attend the Olympics in a non-competitive capacity. 

The top slopestyle snowboarders going into PyeongChang are Canadians Mark McMorrisMax Parrot and Tyler Nicholson, Norwegians Marcus Kleveland and Stale Sandbech and American Red Gerard.

Gerard, 16, has known Kotsenburg for several years and once wore the Sochi gold medal.

“I hope [Gerard] comes home with a medal, even gold,” Kotsenburg said. “He’s got such awesome style and really respects the background of snowboarding. He’s been filming, too, and really respects that type of snowboarding. Which I respect a lot.”

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