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Usain Bolt ready for tears as retirement nears

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NEW YORK — Three months.

Usain Bolt, the gangly Trelawny boy born with scoliosis who grew into the greatest sprinter of all time, has three months left in his track career.

He says he has three, maybe four meets to go before retirement — Kingston on June 10 (his final Jamaican meet), Ostrava, Czech Republic, on June 28 and possibly another tune-up before the world championships. He also isn’t ruling out a meet after worlds.

Still, Bolt envisions his career ending at worlds in London, a place he has called a second home. He has the 100m final on Aug. 5 and the 4x100m relay Aug. 12.

“I’ve thought about it many times,” Bolt says in a basement nook of a lower Manhattan studio space, after smiling and gabbing for a few dozen international media at an event promoting his apparel sponsor, Puma.

Bolt mentions his 2016 film, “I am Bolt,” and a scene where he began thinking about retirement.

“I started getting a little bit emotional,” Bolt remembers. “Knowing that it could be your last big race in front of so much crowd, that’s something I know I’m going to miss when I retire.”

Bolt is quick to say he has never cried at a race.

Not after any of his nine Olympic titles (since reduced to eight due to a relay teammate’s doping). Not after defeats, such as failing to advance out of his first Olympic race in 2004 or his infamous false start out of the 2011 World Championships 100m final.

That in mind, Bolt thinks about the scene three months from now in the London Olympic Stadium. Tears?

“To be actually in the stadium and know that this is it, you never know,” he said. “What will I do? What should I say? How should I go about it? But I haven’t come up with anything solid yet. I’m open. Hopefully it’s not too emotional.”

Bolt decided not to race the 200m, his trademark event, this season because he doesn’t want to risk losing and doesn’t want to train as hard.

“Can’t mess it up at the end,” Bolt said. “It’s not really that stressful this season. My coaches really adjusted my program a lot, so it’s not as intense as it used to be. But it still gets me where I need to go.”

Bolt says his longtime coach, Glen Mills, believes he could continue for one more Olympics in 2020, but only if the sprinter wants to. Bolt, who turns 31 in August, has made it clear that he doesn’t want to.

He dislikes the rigors of training and enjoys staying out late and straying from proper nutrition. Bolt has been known to show up at group step classes in Jamaica on mornings after fried-chicken dinners.

“I’m back on my diet now,” he says. “My coach tells me stay focused because it’s the home stretch.”

Bolt is confident in his 100m. Asked of his biggest rival, and he says he doesn’t know. This is a departure from past years, when it was clear that either training partner Yohan Blake or Americans Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin were pushing Bolt.

“The only person that I’ve seen really compete at his best [this season] is Andre De Grasse,” Bolt said of the 22-year-old Olympic 100m bronze medalist from Canada. “He’s really shown promise early in the season. I always wait until the trials [late June for the U.S. and Jamaica] to see who’s really stepping up because that’s when it really matters.”

The day after Bolt’s interview, De Grasse finished an unimpressive fifth in a 100m race in Qatar in 10.21 seconds. Bolt has never been that slow in a 100m final, according to Tilastopaja.org, but he rarely competes this early in the year and never races when he’s not confident of victory.

Bolt is less sure of what is shaping up to be his final race — the 4x100m relay at worlds.

“That’s what I’m worried about,” he said. “I’m not worried about individual. I have all the abilities to do the individual, because I’m going to show up ready.”

Bolt noted his countrymen dropped the baton in the 4x100m heats at the IAAF World Relays last month. Bolt was also part of the Jamaican team that was beaten by the U.S. in the 4x100m at the 2015 World Relays. It’s his only defeat in top-level competition in nearly four years.

But the U.S. has a penchant for failing on the biggest stages — one medal combined from the last four worlds and three Olympics, where Jamaica prevailed all seven times.

“The 4x100m is always tricky,” Bolt said. “I always worry a little bit, but my teammates always come through.”

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Tori Bowie upsets Elaine Thompson; Gatlin, Felix struggle at Pre

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Tori Bowie ran a statement 200m at the Pre Classic, clocking the fastest-ever time before the month of June and upsetting Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica.

And she called it a training race.

“My coach made it clear that we were just training for nationals,” Bowie, huffing and puffing after winning in 21.77 seconds, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “No pressure at all.”

Bowie, the Olympic 100m silver medalist and 200m bronze medalist, beat her personal best by .22 of a second.

While Bowie starred, U.S. stalwarts Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin dropped to fifth-place finishes Saturday.

Full Pre Classic results are here.

Athletes are preparing for the U.S. Championships from June 23-25, a qualifying meet for the world championships in London in August.

Felix finished fifth in the 200m behind Bowie, Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller, Thompson and Olympic 200m silver medalist Dafne Schippers.

“Not that great, not that great today,” Felix said, according to meet officials. “I feel like my training is going well, it was good to get out here and see where I was at.”

Felix has a bye into the worlds in the 400m as defending world champion but is no longer a medal favorite in the 200m, where she won Olympic silver in 2004 and 2008 and gold in 2012. She clocked 22.33 seconds for fifth Saturday, which was .35 behind third-place Thompson.

Felix missed the 2016 Olympic team in the 200m by .01 while slowed by an ankle injury. But in 2015, a healthy Felix ran faster than 22.33 in all four of her 200m races.

Gatlin finished fifth in the 100m in 9.97 seconds, continuing his slowest season in recent years. At 35 years old, he is no longer looking like the top rival to Usain Bolt, who debuts in his farewell season June 10.

In fact, Gatlin may be in danger of not making the U.S. team in the 100m, which will be the top three finishers at nationals in four weeks.

In contrast, American Ronnie Baker is looking like a medal contender. He won Saturday in 9.86 seconds, which would be the fastest time in the world this year if not for too much tailwind (2.4 meters/second).

Baker, 23, has been a surprise this season, breaking 10 seconds a total of three times including Saturday. He was eliminated in the 2016 Olympic Trials semifinals and had not broken 10 seconds with legal wind before this year.

“My thoughts were, I’ve got every chance to win this just as much as everyone else does,” Baker told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “9.86 is unbelievable.”

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, a 16-year-old, became one of the youngest-ever to break four minutes in the mile. He finished 11th against a field of older runners.

Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah held off Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha to extend his 5000m winning streak to 11 meets dating to 2013. Farah clocked 13:00.7 to Kejelcha’s 13:01.21.

It marked Farah’s last track race in the U.S. as the Oregon-based Brit plans to switch to marathon running after the world championships in August.

Rio gold medalist Caster Semenya barely extended her 800m undefeated streak to 16 finals. The scrutinized South Africa edged Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui by one tenth of a second, clocking 1:59.78.

Olympic champion Omar McLeod took the 110m hurdles in 13.01 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. McLeod beat a field that included Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder (12.80), and 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Christian Taylor, a two-time Olympic champion, recorded the third-best triple jump of all time, 18.11 meters.

Rio bronze medalist Sam Kendricks won the pole vault against a field that included Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and Swedish phenom Armand Duplantis, a Louisiana high school junior. Kendricks cleared 5.86 meters.

Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer won the 400m hurdles in 53.38 seconds, a personal best and the fastest time in the world this year. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad was fifth in her first 400m hurdles race of the year.

In the shot put, Olympic champion Ryan Crouser unleashed a 22.43-meter throw to beat a field including world champion Joe Kovacs.

Jasmin Stowers won the 100m hurdles in 12.59 seconds, .03 off the fastest time in the world this year. The field lacked suspended Olympic champion Brianna Rollins and world-record holder Keni Harrison, who recently suffered a broken hand.

Russian Maria Lasitskene won the high jump in her first competition outside of Russia since 2015, when she was world champion. Lasitskene competed as a neutral athlete Saturday as Russia is still banned from international competition due to its poor anti-doping record. Her 2.03-meter clearance matched the best in the world since June 2013.

The Diamond League continues in Rome on June 8, with coverage on NBC Sports Gold.

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Mo Farah on Oregon Project allegations: ‘I’m sick of it’

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — As he prepares for what could be his final track race on U.S. soil, Mo Farah remains dogged by doping allegations surrounding his team.

The British Olympian will race the 5000m Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic, the only U.S. stop in the elite Diamond League series (NBC, NBC Sports Gold from 4-6 p.m. ET).

Farah has said that 2017 will be his last year on the track, with an eye on the world championships in London this August. The 34-year-old plans to transition after that to marathons.

Farah defended his 5000m and 10,000m titles at the Rio Olympics last August, becoming the first British track and field athlete to win four Olympic gold medals. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth last December.

But at a news conference for the Prefontaine, Farah faced questions about allegations that paint his team, Nike’s Oregon Project, in a bad light.

Details have emerged from a 2016 report prepared by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on practices by the team, led by decorated U.S. marathoner Alberto Salazar. Allegations have also surfaced recently based on information obtained by the hacking group known as Fancy Bears.

“I just get sick of it, really, to be honest with you,” Farah said. “As an athlete you just want to do the best as you can, and that’s what I want to do. But it’s nothing new. It’s something the press likes to be able to twist it and add a little bit of spices and add stuff on it. Being an Olympic champion, four-time Olympic champion, you do get a lot of that stuff. But at the same time you just have to do the best that you can. I believe in clean sports.”

He said he has not read the USADA report that has shown up online.

“It’s nothing new. You tell me something new. Since 2011 it’s the same stuff,” Farah said, clearly exasperated. “It’s all right. That’s what you get being an Olympic champion, and what we do.”

Farah has been training for the past five months in Flagstaff, Ariz., for the outdoor season and his final bow at the worlds. He hopes to run both of his signature races, the 5000m and 10,000m, if his body lets him, he said.

Saturday’s Prefontaine will be bittersweet.

“I don’t like to think like that, but it will be, my last,” he said. “It will probably be very emotional knowing that will be my last track racing in the U.S. But you know, tomorrow (I) just can’t be worrying about anything. I just have to concentrate on the race and getting the job done.”

Farah will be part of a stellar field that includes Paul Chelimo, the 5000m silver medalist in Rio, and Kenyan Paul Tanui, the Rio silver medalist in the 10,000m.

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