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Justin Gatlin: I’m still the man to beat at U.S. Championships

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Justin Gatlin believes he remains the nation’s preeminent 100m sprinter, despite an injury-plagued early season followed by slow times in spring meets.

“I would consider myself the man to beat,” at the U.S. Championships in three weeks, Gatlin said Tuesday, according to Reuters. “When it comes to trials and nationals, I usually step up and am the dominant sprinter.”

Gatlin, 35, is tied for 13th in the U.S. 100m rankings this year with a top wind-legal time of 10.14 seconds. Each of the previous five years, he had run 9.91 or faster by June 1. Gatlin took silver behind Usain Bolt at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds and the 2016 Olympics.

But Gatlin has said injuries slowed him this spring — ankle, calf, quadriceps, groin — forcing him to miss chunks of training in March and April, according to Reuters. Gatlin’s agent and his coach have said the 200m is no longer part of his program.

“This season is going to test my fortitude mentally and physically probably more than any other season,” said Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion who came back from a four-year doping ban in 2010.

Gatlin finished fifth in the Pre Classic 100m in a wind-aided 9.97 seconds on Saturday, but only one of the top four was an American (winner Ronnie Baker). Gatlin was the top American in his previous Diamond League 100m, bettering Baker in a fourth-place finish in Doha on May 5.

Gatlin would become the second-oldest American to race the 100m at an Olympics or world championships should he finish in the top three at the U.S. Championships and then compete at worlds in London in August.

The oldest is Gail Devers, the 1992 and 1996 Olympic women’s 100m champion who raced at the 2004 Athens Games at age 37.

At nationals, Gatlin’s biggest threats appear to be Baker and University of Tennessee sprinter Christian Coleman, the only U.S. men to break 10 seconds (wind legal) this year.

His top domestic rivals in recent years — Tyson Gay and Trayvon Bromell — have been absent from international competition since the Rio Olympics.

Gay, the 2007 World 100m champion, hasn’t raced outside of Florida this year. Bromell, a 2015 World 100m co-bronze medalist, hasn’t raced at all since Rio and is coming back from Achilles surgery.

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Team USA Opening Ceremony uniforms have heaters

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The U.S. Olympic team uniforms for the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony contain heating components that will last up to 11 hours.

Ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and bobsledder Aja Evans wore the uniforms on TODAY on Monday.

The heat technology will come in handy.

The PyeongChang Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9 (live streaming on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app) will be in an outdoor stadium, likely in below-freezing temperatures.

From USA Today:

“The athletes can set the temperature (there are three settings) via their cellphones. The heat can last up to five hours on the high setting and 11 hours on the low setting, fully charged.”

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Jamaica misses Olympic men’s bobsled by one spot

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The only Jamaican bobsled team in PyeongChang will be its women’s bobsled team.

Jamaica missed qualifying a two-man bobsled team for the Olympics by one spot in rankings finalized last week.

Jamaica still had a chance to sneak into the 30-sled Olympic field if one of the qualified nations declined a spot, but that didn’t happen.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation made it official Monday, publishing the Olympic fields for each event.

At least one Jamaican men’s sled competed in every Olympics from 1988 through 2002, then again in 2014.

Sochi driver Winston Watts retired, but a new team was formed in this Olympic cycle that included former Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals running back Michael Blair.

New driver Seldwyn Morgan competed on the lower-level North American Cup the last three seasons with a top finish of seventh.

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MORE: Would Usain Bolt make a good bobsledder?