Omar McLeod preserves Jamaican glory; U.S. shut out (video)

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Omar McLeod finally gave Jamaica a gold medal to celebrate at the world track and field championships.

After Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson lost 100m finals, it was McLeod who won the 110m hurdles title in London on Monday night.

“The camp was really daunting, and I really wanted to bring that spark back,” McLeod, the Olympic champion who led from hurdle one and clocked 13.04 seconds, told media in London. “I particularly wanted to come out here and dedicate this win to Usain Bolt‘s retirement.”

McLeod held off Russian Sergey Shubenkov by one tenth of a second. Shubenkov, the 2015 World champion, was excluded from the Olympics because of Russia’s ban for its poor anti-doping record. Russia is still banned. Shubenkov, who has never failed a drug test, was one of many Russians allowed to compete in London as a neutral athlete.

Hungary’s Balazs Baji grabbed bronze, while 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt was fifth. Merritt, who earned 2015 World bronze with kidney function at less than 20 percent, was in the mix for bronze up to the final hurdle.

“I failed to execute late in the race, which is my specialty,” Merritt said. “Finishing is what I do best.”

The U.S. failed to earn a world 110m hurdles medal for the first time, one year after failing to earn an Olympic 110m hurdles medal for the first time (excluding the 1980 Moscow Games). Merritt was the lone U.S. finalist.

“I’m not even supposed to be running,” said Merritt, who underwent a kidney transplant four days after 2015 Worlds and missed the Rio Olympic team by .01. “So just me being here in the final is definitely a blessing.

“Now that I’ve had a year of proper training, the next year that I run will definitely be better.”

Full worlds results are here.

In other events Monday, Kenyan Faith Kipyegon took gold in the women’s 1500m, .17 ahead of a hard-charging Jenny Simpson. Scrutinized South African Caster Semenya earned bronze with a late surge.

Kipyegon, the Rio gold medalist, became the first Kenyan woman to win a world 1500m title.

Simpson captured her fourth global medal following her 2011 World title, 2013 World silver medal and 2016 Olympic bronze medal.

Simpson, 29, transitioned to the 1500m fully in 2011, after making the Beijing Olympics in the steeplechase, and has turned into one of the greatest American distance runners in history. In her five global 1500m finals, she has earned four medals. In the outlier, she ran the last 600 meters with one shoe.

Semenya, scrutinized after a gender-testing controversy in 2009, made the podium in her first 1500m outside of Africa since 2011. Semenya is an overwhelming favorite in the 800m (final Sunday) after taking Olympic gold in that event.

Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo set up a rematch in Wednesday’s 400m final. Felix topped Miller-Uibo for the 2015 World title, but Miller-Uibo edged Felix in Rio with that famous finish-line dive.

Wayde van Niekerk, looking to join Michael Johnson as the only men to sweep the 200m and 400m at an Olympics or worlds, headlined the qualifiers from the 200m heats.

Van Niekerk races the 400m final Tuesday, the 200m semifinals Wednesday and, if he advances, the 200m final Thursday.

Both the 200m and 400m are lacking superstars. Neither 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt nor 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James is in the 400m final. Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin skipped the 200m this year, and Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse withdrew before worlds with a strained hamstring.

Olympic champion Kerron Clement led the qualifiers into Wednesday’s 400m hurdles final.

In the triple jump, Yulimar Rojas earned Venezuela’s first world medal. It was gold. Rojas reversed the Rio Olympic one-two with Colombian Caterine Ibarguen, edging her by two centimeters.

Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk repeated as world champion in the hammer throw, one year after repeating as Olympic champion. Wlodarczyk, who last lost in June 2014, threw 77.90 meters to win by six feet, but she was 17 feet shy of her world record from last August.

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Nate Holland still motivated by repeated Olympic heartbreak

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At 38 years old, Nate Holland knows PyeongChang would likely be his last chance to add an Olympic medal to a trophy case already blinding with seven X Games snowboard cross gold medals.

“I’m not there to get top 10 and go check out a hockey game,” Holland said last month. “I’ve had three Olympics that I’ve done that.”

Holland entered all three Olympics since snowboard cross debuted as the reigning X Games champion. A medal contender, if not the favorite.

He washed out each time. In the quarterfinals in Torino. In the four-man final in Vancouver. In the first elimination round in Sochi.

“There’s something about these five rings that give me a lot of drive, ambition and joy,” Holland said on NBC after his 2014 disappointment, “but they do cause a lot of heartbreak.”

Some snowboarders are ambivalent about the Olympics. Not Holland.

He remembers watching the 1988 Calgary Winter Games growing up in Idaho, a decade before snowboarders were let in. After snowboard cross was added in 2003, a motivated Holland made the subsequent World Cup team and reached the podium.

Holland chalked up a 14th-place finish in Torino in 2006 to being “young and reckless.” The miss that sticks with him to this day is Vancouver 2010, when he was the only finalist not to earn a medal.

“That’s probably the No. 1 memory of racing is that feeling of failure when I got to the bottom,” he said. “Out of a four-man heat, they’re ushering me off, pushing me out of the finish corral.

“Dude, you gotta leave. What are you doing here still? We’ve got to do a podium ceremony.”

“I’m still out of breath. My heart rate’s at 180 still.”

“What’s going on? No, dude, you need to leave. Thanks for coming, goodbye.”

“Those are motivating factors in the gym when all I want to do is go home and go change some diapers,” Holland said.

Holland and wife Christen (who commissioned that trophy case as a Christmas gift) welcomed daughter Lux on Nov. 1, 2015. Lux is already riding on her own three-foot Burton board. In Uggs.

“Thank God for FaceTime,” Holland said. “I’m able to call every day when I’m in Europe and have breakfast with my daughter.”

Her dad is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic snowboarder in the sport’s two-decade history and the oldest medalist from any country.

“Some say I’m too old,” Holland says. “I say BS.”

Holland is realistic, though. The man who used to ride by the motto “wreck or win” has become more calculated and listens to his body. The Advil doses are more frequent. He enjoys the spa.

“I come back every year and there’s definitely some question in my mind whether I’m fast,” said Holland, whose detailed injury history included coming back from a December 2013 broken clavicle to win X Games and make the Olympic team. “Every year, I give myself a little pat on the back. I’m like, all right, I’m still in that group. I’m not sitting three seconds out.”

Holland was the fastest at the PyeongChang venue on Feb. 27, 2016, winning the Olympic test event.

He may have picked up nuances on the new Olympic course that the riders half his age have not, but Holland also hasn’t made a World Cup podium since. Snowboard cross was cut from the X Games after 2016.

If Holland can’t crack the top three at any of the four Olympic selection events in December and January, he might be left off the U.S. team.

Holland said he won’t work any harder this winter than he did in 2006, 2010 or 2014. Each time, he felt satisfied with what he put in. What he left the Olympics with — Team USA clothes, maybe some hockey ticket stubs — is what’s unfulfilling.

“You want something that you can’t have,” he said. “I don’t have an Olympic medal, and I’m really passionate about it.”

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Tour de France route for 2018 unveiled

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PARIS (AP) — Defending champion Chris Froome can expect a stern challenge from Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin in next year’s Tour de France.

Froome is chasing a record-equaling fifth victory to move level with Belgian great Eddy Merckx, French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain.

Froome and Dumoulin won the three Grand Tours last year, with Froome adding the Spanish Vuelta and Dumoulin winning the Giro d’Italia.

The 105th edition of the Tour features a hilly 31-kilometer (19-mile) time trial through the Basque country on the penultimate day.

Froome is a specialist, but Dumoulin is the reigning world time trial champion.

The 32-year-old Froome is still in his prime, while the 26-year-old Dumoulin is approaching his.

“A contest between Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin, two riders with similar qualities, wouldn’t displease me. It would force one of the two to try something different to surprise the other,” Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said Tuesday. “We’re looking at a new generation that wants to entertain. I think that if Christopher Froome is up against Tom Dumoulin, they will want to do that. They will be more or less equal in the time trials. That’s something very exciting.”

The race starts on July 7 — a week later than usual because of the soccer World Cup in Russia — and opens with a flat 117-mile route for sprinters from Noirmoutier-en-l’ile to Fontenay-le-Comte in the Vendee region, on the Atlantic coast.

With the time trial returning after being omitted the last two years, Froome’s Team Sky will be confident of creating early time gaps on Stage 3 — 21.7-mile route starting and ending in Cholet in Western France.

But Sky faces tough competition, because Dumoulin’s Sunweb team is the reigning TTT world champion.

The Tour route, which goes clockwise, features 25 mountain climbs — ranging from the relatively difficult Category 2 to Category 1 and the daunting Hors Categorie (beyond classification).

Eleven are in the Alps, four in the Massif central region and 10 in the Pyrenees.

The difficult climbs start on Stage 10, the first of three straight days of grueling Alpine ascents.

But organizers have preceded that with a tricky ninth stage that could shake up the peloton.

It takes riders over 15 treacherous cobblestone sections: the highest number since the 1980 Tour, with nearly 13.6 miles altogether.

The Roubaix cobbles may perhaps trouble Froome, although Prudhomme thinks the British rider can handle anything.

“The leaders of the Tour have the ability to adapt. We’ve seen that Chris Froome has a range of abilities much wider than people said,” Prudhomme said. “He’s intelligent and hard-working. He keeps on winning in a different manner than in previous years.”

Even though Froome will be 33 on next year’s Tour, Prudhomme still thinks he can improve.

“I don’t think we’ve seen everything that Froome has to offer,” Prudhomme said. “He is strong in areas we didn’t think he was.”

The cobbles are followed by a rest day on July 16, and Froome had better make the most of it because the Alps start brutally the day after.

Stage 10 on July 17 has four difficult climbs on a 98.6-mile route from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand. They include a punchy ascent of Montee du plateau de Glieres, featuring for the first time.

“Six kilometers with an 11.2 percent gradient is monumental,” Prudhomme said.

The third day of Alpine climbing begins with Col de la Madeleine, then Croix de Fer (which translates as the ominous-sounding Iron Cross) and ends with an ascent of l’Alpe d’Huez: three of the Tour’s most well-known.

Dumoulin is not in Froome’s class as a climber, but is not so easy to drop. Whether he can hang in with Froome all the way to the Pyrenees, however, will prove crucial to his chances.

The three tough days of climbing in the Pyrenees starts with Stage 16 on July 24: a daunting 135-mile route from Carcassone to Bagneres-de-Luchon that follows the second rest day.

Stage 17 is short at 40 miles but cruel, with three consecutive nasty climbs, ending with an attack up Col de Portet.

Stage 18 is relatively flat but the next day’s third and final day of climbing on Stage 19 has four ascents and then ends with a potentially treacherous 12.4-mile descent that will test the concentration of tired riders.

Whoever is freshest after that will have a better chance of challenging Froome in the time trial.

The 21-stage race ends with its customary processional Sunday finish on the Champs-Elysees.

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