Usain Bolt shocked by Justin Gatlin in farewell world championships

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Usain Bolt‘s retirement party was spoiled by a man booed before and after all of his races at the world championships — American Justin Gatlin.

It was Gatlin, the 35-year-old Olympic 100m champion from 2004 (the last before Bolt’s ascension), who won the 100m title at the world championships in London on Saturday night. He leaned at the line in 9.92 seconds, edging countryman Christian Coleman (9.94).

Bronze for Bolt in 9.95 seconds.

“You can’t win everything,” Bolt, who didn’t appear to shed tears, told NBC’s Lewis Johnson with a laugh. “My body is saying it’s time to go. Every morning I wake up, I’m in a little pain here, a little pain there.”

His slowest 100m final time in seven Olympic and world finishes. Bolt has been decelerating since 2012. Somebody finally caught him.

It was Gatlin who handed Bolt his first defeat in a global final in 10 years (2011 false start aside). It was Gatlin who, after moments of waiting for the scoreboard results to show, screamed and held an index finger to his mouth.

Silence.

That’s what Gatlin heard back in 2010, when meet organizers refused to let him race. He had tested positive in 2006 and was banned four years. He was labeled a cheater. Still is by some. Hence the jeers the last two days.

“I dreamed about this day,” Gatlin, choking up with emotion, said on NBC. “I worked hard for this day. And it took for me to not be selfish and think about myself and think about others to give me that fight.”

The NCAA champion Coleman stormed out to an early lead, and Bolt in the adjacent lane closed on him. But it was Gatlin, out in 8 and forgotten the first seven seconds, who surpassed both of them with a perfect lean at the line.

“I started tightening up at the end, which you should never do,” Bolt said on the BBC. “I knew if I didn’t get the start, I would be in trouble. … I just didn’t execute when it matters.”

“I couldn’t see anything from lane 8,” Gatlin said. “From the starting line, it was a Coleman and Bolt show. I just ran for my life.”

Bolt will head into retirement after one last race next Saturday, the 4x100m relay (3 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). He chose not to contest the 200m this season.

Gatlin, like Bolt, slowed from 2015 to 2016 to 2017.

He was the fastest man at the 2015 World Championships, but that 9.77 time came in the semifinals. He choked in the final, tensing up in the final few strides as Bolt beat him by one hundredth.

Bolt relegated Gatlin to silver at the 2013 Worlds, 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics. For Gatlin, the feeling Saturday most resembled his first major title at the 2004 Olympics, though in Athens he was one of the pre-meet favorites. Still, it was a new feeling.

Thirteen years later, after Gatlin’s ban and slow journey back, he didn’t know how to handle this unexpected victory.

“I thought about all the things I would do if I did win, I didn’t even do none of that,” Gatlin said on the BBC. “It was almost like 2004 all over again.”

Bolt and Gatlin embraced before ceremonial laps (Bolt’s was much more time-consuming) and exchanged words. Gatlin went down on one knee and bowed before Bolt.

“We’re rivals on the track … but in the warm-up area we’re joking,” Gatlin said on the BBC. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘Congratulations, you worked hard for this,’ and he said, ‘You don’t deserve all these boos.’ I thanked him for that. I thanked him for inspiring me throughout the year, throughout my career. He’s an amazing man.”

For years, Bolt’s stance is that Gatlin has served his punishment and should be allowed to race.

“He’s an excellent person as far as I can tell,” Bolt said.

Bolt and his team said as far back as 2012 that the 2017 season would be his last. After Rio, sweeping the sprints at three straight Olympics, what else was there to prove as he decelerated into his 30s?

The past several months looked like the typical farewell tour only on the surface.

They rolled out the red carpet for his last race in Jamaica in June, including putting the fastest men in the meet to a separate heat. Three weeks later, a Czech crowd serenaded Bolt with the Jamaican national anthem following another tune-up victory.

Even in London, Bolt was greeted with applause from media at a pre-meet press conference. A series of congratulatory videos was played for Bolt, including one from the CCTV cameraman who infamously hit Bolt with a Segway at the 2015 World Championships. Everyone acted as if it was a formality that Bolt would leave the sport on top.

For Bolt, it has been a difficult year.

Close friend Germaine Mason, a 2008 Olympic high jump silver medalist, died in an early morning April 20 motorcycle crash. Bolt, reportedly on the scene in Kingston shortly after the crash, has not spoken in detail about it but did say he didn’t train for three weeks.

On the track, Bolt was his slowest since taking up the 100m in 2007 after winning a bet with his grumbling coach. In June, he failed to break 10 seconds in back-to-back finals for the first time.

Then on Saturday, Bolt was beaten in a 100m race for the first time in four years. Twice.

In the semifinals, Coleman stormed out to an early lead, and though Bolt pulled nearly even, the Jamaican eased off while looking across at Coleman as they passed the finish line. The move was reminiscent of Bolt and Canadian Andre De Grasse‘s matching smiles in the Rio Olympic 200m semifinals. Coleman: 9.97. Bolt: 9.98.

NBC Sports coverage of worlds continues with Sunday with the men’s and women’s marathons and the women’s 100m final. A full broadcast schedule is here.

In other events Saturday, Mason Finley became the first U.S. man to earn an Olympic or world championships discus medal since 1999. Finley, a Rio Olympian, extended his personal best by four feet to take bronze with a 68.03-meter throw.

Ethiopian Almaz Ayana backed up her Olympic 10,000m title (where she broke a 22-year-old world record by 14 seconds) with her first world title.

Ayana lapped most of the other 32 runners and won by 46.37 seconds in 30:16.32. The top American was 2015 World bronze medalist Emily Infeld in sixth.

Ayana, a former steeplechaser, was racing her third career 10,000m race and her first race of any distance since Sept. 9.

South African Luvo Manyonga took long jump gold, edging American Jarrion Lawson by four centimeters. Manyonga, a former crystal meth addict, was a breakout Rio silver medalist behind another American, Jeff Henderson. Henderson failed to qualify for the London final.

All of the favorites advanced to Monday’s women’s 1500m final.

That included Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, who is racing her first 1500m outside of Africa in six years. Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson also advanced from Saturday’s semifinals.

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Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

Skylar Diggins
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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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MORE: Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics