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Usain Bolt: Nobody is running fast, except for the women

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Usain Bolt is off to his slowest-ever start to a season. Having seen his rivals’ times, Bolt is not worried about ending his career in defeat next month.

“No one is really running fast at the moment,” Bolt said Wednesday, ahead of his last 100m tune-up before the world championships in Monaco (Friday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold). “I really can’t say [why]. The only thing I’ve noticed is the guys over the years who have really competed like me, Tyson [Gay], Asafa [Powell], and all these guys, we’re just getting older. So just the young crop is coming up now. I guess they’ll take time to mature.

“The girls have really outperformed us over the past three years. They’ve really stepped up and been running some fast times. It’s been really competitive. I take my hat off to the girls for really competing a higher level. I think we’re just getting old.”

Bolt, who failed to break 10 seconds in two June 100m races, will race in Monaco for the first time in three weeks. He visited a doctor in Germany following his last meet in the Czech Republic to work on his usual cranky back.

“People have counted me out [in past years], but I said the team I have always come through for me,” Bolt said.

Like in 2015, when Bolt pulled out of two early July meets with a leg injury and serious doubts about his readiness for those world championships. But Bolt visited his German doctor and returned four weeks before worlds to show medal-worthy form for the first time in nearly two years. He then swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at worlds.

This year is different. Bolt said he missed weeks of training following the April 20 death of friend and 2008 Olympic high jump silver medalist Germaine Mason.

“[My back] is not perfect, but I can train, which is the key thing,” Bolt said. “I’m training much better now. Over the next two weeks, it should be fine.”

In Bolt’s favor is a lack of challengers. Only one man has broken 9.90 seconds this year (American Christian Coleman, who couldn’t replicate that speed at nationals), and nobody has broken 9.96 outside of their home country.

At this time in 2015, Justin Gatlin had broken 9.80 a total of four times. Six other men had broken 9.90.

Bolt said it “would be good to dip under 10 seconds” in Monaco on Friday. He will likely need to in order to extend a four-year winning streak in 100m and 200m races, though the field lacks Coleman, Gatlin and Olympic medalists Yohan Blake and Andre De Grasse.

Bolt’s goal isn’t to win on Friday, but “to get perfect for when the big race comes, and that’s in three weeks [at worlds].”

Bolt added that he will not enter any meets after worlds, meaning his career finale will be the 4x100m relay at the London Olympic Stadium on Aug. 12.

“[My agent] says if I’m going to run after London, it has to be like a [Floyd] Mayweather[Conor] McGregor fight,” Bolt joked. “My coach said that I have to be his assistant until he decides to retire also.”

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Nina Roth’s team wins Olympic Curling Trials despite violation (video)

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Nina Roth harbored hopes of curling in the Olympics ever since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998, when she was a Girl Scout.

It took nearly 20 years, but she’s now on her way.

Roth, a 29-year-old nurse from Wisconsin, led a four-woman team to win the U.S. Olympic Trials finals against Jamie Sinclair‘s rink in Omaha on Saturday.

Roth, the skip, plus vice skip Tabitha Peterson, second Aileen Geving and lead Becca Hamilton make up the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team. They’re all Olympic rookies. A fifth curler, an alternate, is expected to be added later.

Roth and Sinclair traded overtime wins Thursday and Friday, forcing a winner-goes-to-PyeongChang decider Saturday to end the three-game series.

In the ninth of 10 ends, Roth committed a hog-line violation that cost her the lead, failing to let go of her last stone before it passed a line that entered it into play.

“My heart dropped,” Roth told media later. “I haven’t done that in a couple years.”

But Roth scored two in the last end to win 7-6, thanks to Sinclair missing on her last throw.

One day when Roth was 10, and her mom was her Girl Scout troop leader, the troop tried curling at the local club in McFarland, Wis.

“I loved it and signed up for junior league immediately,” said Roth, whose dad was a recreational curler.

Roth showed early promise, winning two junior national titles. After watching the 2006 Olympic Trials in her hometown as a high schooler, she competed in the 2010 Olympic Trials when she was 20 (very young for a curler).

She has a tattoo of a curling stone and an American flag on her right foot.

Roth’s team is new and relatively young compared to the most recent U.S. Olympic women’s teams. They’re all between 27 and 30 years old.

USA Curling’s high performance program matched them together in June 2016.

“When I got the call that the HP team was putting us together, I was literally outside and put on my tennis shoes and went for a run,” Roth said. “I was so excited.”

Since, Roth and Hamilton regularly drove four hours northwest from Southern Wisconsin to Blaine, Minn., to meet Geving and Peterson for practices. They passed the time on Interstate 94 by singing along to early 2000s punk rock.

“Our favorite song, this is embarrassing, Weird Al [Yankovic‘s] ‘Albuquerque,'” Roth told NBC Olympic research in September of the 11-minute, 22-second epic. “Becca knows all the words already.”

Roth’s team lost to Sinclair at last season’s nationals but earned the worlds berth over Sinclair via better season-long results.

Roth’s team would finish fifth out of 12 teams at worlds in Beijing. Not bad considering the last three U.S. Olympic women’s teams combined to go 5-22 at the Games.

Roth curled Saturday with a reminder of worlds. A silver necklace in her pocket with a Superman emblem dangling from it. It was a gift from her 79- or 80-year-old grandmother.

“When I came home from Beijing, we took fifth, and just missed qualifying [for the four-team playoffs],” Roth said. “She said, ‘Nina, you played so well, I thought you deserved a medal.'”

Peterson, a 28-year-old pharmacist, is going to PyeongChang after being on the runner-up team at the 2014 Olympic Trials.

Geving, 30, made her first Olympic team at her fourth Trials.

Hamilton, 27, will be hoping older brother Matt will join her in PyeongChang. Matt is on John Shuster‘s team that plays a winner-goes-to-PyeongChang game Saturday night in Omaha (NBCSN, 7:30 ET).

The Hamiltons can also qualify for the Olympics in mixed doubles, a new event at the Winter Games. So can Roth with Kroy Nernberger. Those trials are in December in Blaine.

The U.S. has earned one Olympic curling medal, a 2006 men’s bronze. The best U.S. women’s finish was fourth in 2002. Curling was part of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and every Olympics since 1998.

Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Great Britain are the world powers in curling.

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Javier Fernandez falls twice, still wins Grand Prix France

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Javier Fernandez and Shoma Uno are Olympic medal contenders, but neither looked like it Saturday night.

Both skaters fell twice in their free skates at Grand Prix France and had more errors on jump landings.

Fernandez got the victory — thanks to a 13.94-point lead after Friday’s short program — bouncing back from a disastrous sixth-place finish at a Grand Prix two weeks ago.

The two-time world champion from Spain reportedly had a stomach bug at that opener.

Uno, the world silver medalist from Japan, had the highest-scoring free skate Saturday, but it was 35.57 points off the best score in the world this season that he owns.

Uno finished 10.39 behind Fernandez, with Uzbekistan’s Misha Ge in third.

GP FRANCE: Full Results

Americans Max Aaron and Vincent Zhou were seventh and ninth, respectively, after struggling with jumps.

Zhou, the U.S. silver medalist and world junior champion, fell four times between two programs, two weeks after falling three times at his senior Grand Prix debut.

Neither Aaron nor Zhou helped his case for the three-man Olympic team that will be named after nationals in January.

Nathan Chen is a runaway favorite to claim an Olympic spot. Past U.S. champions Jason Brown and Adam Rippon are also in the mix with Aaron and Zhou.

Uno joined Russian Mikhail Kolyada as the first two qualifiers for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, the biggest competition before the Olympics. Uno owns the two best total scores in the world this season, and the only scores above 300 points (though he managed much fewer, 273.32, in France).

Chen, who ranks No. 2 in the world behind Uno, will make his second Grand Prix Final if he finishes fourth or better at next week’s Skate America.

Incredibly, it looks like every active skater who owns a world title (and an individual Olympic medal) will not be at the Grand Prix Final.

Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu is out with an ankle injury. Canadian Patrick Chan skipped his second Grand Prix after he was fourth at Skate Canada. Fernandez needs some disasters from top skaters at Skate America to have a shot.

Brown and Rippon could both make the Grand Prix Final along with Chen depending on how Skate America shakes out.

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Internationaux de France
Men
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 283.71
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 273.32
3. Misha Ge (UZB) — 258.34
7. Max Aaron (USA) — 237.20
9. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 222.21