Justin Gatlin

Getty Images

Five men’s events to watch at USATF Outdoor Championships

Leave a comment

The face of U.S. men’s track and field is changing.

Double Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton retired.

The sprint leaders in the last decade — Justin GatlinLaShawn MerrittTyson GayWalter Dix — are all entered in the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) in Sacramento this week. But they are all also into their 30s, twilight years for speedsters.

Nationals, which begin Thursday on NBC Sports (broadcast schedule here), will determine the team for the world championships in London in August. The top three finishers per event make the roster, should they reach the qualifying times or marks.

In addition to the top three, reigning world champions from 2015 and Diamond League champions from 2016 receive automatic byes into worlds, should they toe the start line in Sacramento.

In the year after the Olympics, many familiar stars could be on the way out. New faces could emerge.

Here are five men’s events to watch this week:

100m
Thursday (first round)
Friday (semifinals, final)
2016 Olympics: Justin Gatlin (silver), Trayvon Bromell (8th), Marvin Bracy (15th)
2017 World Rankings: Christian Coleman (first, 9.82), Cameron Burrell (4th, 9.93), Chris Belcher (4th, 9.93), Ronnie Baker (9th, 9.98)

Outlook: The three-man team for worlds may well have zero Olympic 100m experience. That’s because Gatlin hasn’t broken 10 seconds this year, though he has only raced three times and twice into a headwind. Bromell hasn’t raced period since the Rio Olympics (Achilles surgery). And Bracy won’t race this week following surgery.

Enter Coleman, who finished sixth in the Olympic Trials 100m but on June 7 at the NCAA Championships ran the fastest-ever 100m for his age. Enter Baker, who beat the Olympic silver and bronze medalists (Gatlin and Andre De Grasse) to win the Prefontaine Classic on May 27. Baker was bounced in the semifinals of the Olympic Trials. All of the six U.S. men who have run 10.0 or faster this year are age 23 and younger.

MORE: Five women’s events to watch

1500m
Thursday (first round)
Saturday (final)
2016 Olympics: Matthew Centrowitz (gold), Ben Blankenship (8th), Robby Andrews (semifinals)
2017 World Rankings: Centrowitz (10th, 3:33.41), Clayton Murphy (40th, 3:36.34), John Gregorek (47th, 3:36.61), Cristian Soratos (48th, 3:36.73)

Outlook: Excitement injected this event when Olympic 800m bronze medalist Murphy announced last week he would attempt the 800m-1500m double in Sacramento. No U.S. man has competed in both the 800m and 1500m at a single worlds. While Centrowitz, the first U.S. 1500m gold medalist in 108 years, is a clear favorite, the other two world team spots are there for the taking. Murphy is a proven 1500m runner, winning the 2016 NCAA title for Akron and then turning pro before his senior season.

110m Hurdles
Saturday (first round)
Sunday (semifinals, final)
2016 Olympics: Devon Allen (6th), Ronnie Ash (8th), Jeff Porter (semifinals)
2017 World Rankings: Allen (3rd, 13.11), Aries Merritt (5th, 13.13), Aleec Harris (7th, 13.18), David Oliver (28th, 13.40)

Outlook: The U.S. failed to put a man on the Olympic 110m hurdles podium in Rio for the first time at a non-boycotted Games. Jamaica is now home to the world’s best hurdlers, but the U.S. field is deep with two world champions (Jason RichardsonDavid Oliver), plus an Olympic champion and world-record holder in Merritt. But the favorite may be Allen. The former University of Oregon wide receiver came back from a second torn ACL suffered in September to top the U.S. rankings going into Sacramento.

200m
Saturday (first round)
Sunday (semifinals, final)
2016 Olympics: LaShawn Merritt (6th), Justin Gatlin (semifinals), Ameer Webb (semifinals)
2017 World Rankings: Christian Coleman (2nd, 19.85), Noah Lyles (3rd, 19.90), Chris Belcher (6th, 20.01), Brandon Carnes (20th, 20.25)

Outlook: Like with the 100m, this could be a changing-of-the-guard weekend. Coleman, Lyles and Belcher have never raced individually at an Olympics or worlds, but they are the only American men to rub sub-20.18 this year. And they’ve each done it multiple times.

The veterans Gatlin and Merritt will make the U.S. team if they repeat their 19.75 and 19.79 times from the Olympic Trials, but that appears unlikely. Gatlin is entered in the 200m but maybe only as a safety net if he doesn’t make top three in the 100m. He hasn’t raced a 200m since Rio. Merritt’s focus may also be on another event — the 400m. He already has a world team bye in the one-lap race but must enter one nationals event to be eligible for worlds.

Long Jump
Sunday
2016 Olympics: Jeff Henderson (gold), Jarrion Lawson (4th), Mike Hartfield (25th)
2017 World Rankings: Henderson (19th, 8.15m), Charles Brown (22nd, 8.14m), Jarvis Gotch (24th, 8.13m), Marquis Dendy (24th, 8.13m)

Outlook: Henderson may be the Olympic champion, but his leaps in five meets in 2017 might not be enough if repeated Sunday. Really, no American man has distinguished himself this year. The top six are within three centimeters of each other in the world rankings. Keep an eye on Gotch, who was 11th at Olympic Trials but leaped 8.37 meters (with an illegal tailwind of 2.8 meters/second) on May 27. And Lawson, who appeared to cost himself a medal in Rio by dragging his left hand in the sand behind his landing on his final jump.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Chemo, then U.S. Champs for distance runner

Justin Gatlin not convinced Usain Bolt will retire this summer

1 Comment

Justin Gatlin is not ready to take Usain Bolt at his word that the Jamaican will retire after the world championships in August.

“I would like to buy into [Bolt’s plans to retire], but I’m thinking at this point in time, I’m kind of on the fence about that,” Gatlin said, according to the Nashville Ledger. “I can understand when you have accomplished so much in your career, like him, that there’s nothing left for you to do but do it over and over again.

“You kind of lose that hunger and sensation to be great. He has other passions in his life. So it will be interesting to see what he’ll do next.”

Gatlin’s comments bring to mind those of Ryan Lochte, who said at London 2012 and at Rio 2016 that he believed Michael Phelps would come out of retirement. Lochte was proven right in 2013, but Phelps has repeated his current retirement is definite.

Gatlin, silver medalist to Bolt in the 100m at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, has repeated that he plans to try for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at age 38.

He would be older than any previous U.S. Olympic sprinter (Gail Devers, 37, in 2004).

But Gatlin’s declining times this season make him no sure thing to make this year’s world championships team in the 100m. The top three at the U.S. Championships in three weeks earn those spots.

Bolt, meanwhile, has no such worry. He hasn’t raced a 100m since the Rio Olympics, but he has a bye into worlds as the defending champion.

Bolt reportedly said last month he has four meets left before retirement — Kingston, Jamaica on June 10; Ostrava, Czech Republic on June 28; Monaco on July 21 and the world championships in London in August.

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Runner clocks No. 2 time ever … after stopping to fix shoe