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Justin Gatlin drops 200m

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Justin Gatlin does not plan to race the 200m at any major meet next season, his agent confirmed Thursday.

“The reasoning is to preserve the wear and tear on his body,” agent Renaldo Nehemiah said in an email of Gatlin, who is 34 years old. “Everyone knows he can run a 200m. There’s nothing to prove by running it. And it lessens the chance for getting injured. Nothing is an absolute. But, that’s the plan as of now.”

Gatlin surprisingly failed to make the Rio Olympic 200m final, after taking silver in the 100m three days earlier. The three-time Olympian severely rolled his ankle the previous offseason and said after his 200m semifinal in Rio that it acted up.

“All that torque that you have to go around the track [running the curve on the 200m], it kind of weighed on me,” Gatlin said last Thursday at the USA Track and Field gala in Manhattan.

Gatlin took silver behind Usain Bolt in the 200m at the 2015 World Championships and ran five of the world’s six fastest times in the event over 2014 and 2015.

Gatlin won the Olympic Trials 200m in 19.75 seconds, which was .01 off LaShawn Merritt‘s fastest time in the world for 2016.

Bolt is also expected to race only the 100m at 2017 Worlds, though his coach reportedly still wants him to do the 100m-200m double.

“It’s not about beating Usain,” Gatlin said last Thursday. “It’s about getting on that podium and getting as many medals as I can. If that means taking down Usain, so be it. There’s so many other guys jockeying for position now just to get on that podium. So it’s become harder just to stay on the podium.”

In the absence of Bolt and Gatlin, the early 200m favorites for the 2017 World Championships would be Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Merritt and Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk, who reportedly said he is considering a 200m-400m double next year.

MORE: Usain Bolt says he may come back for 2018 meet

Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

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Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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MORE: U.S. pairs skater back from life-threatening condition

Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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