Blake Leeper

Justin Gatlin, Tori Bowie win 100m at USATF Outdoor Championships

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Justin Gatlin isn’t relinquishing his U.S. sprint crown just yet.

The 35-year-old overtook young phenom Christian Coleman to win the 100m at the USATF Outdoor Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, in Sacramento, Calif., on Friday night.

Gatlin, who took silver to Usain Bolt at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, came back to beat Coleman in 9.95 seconds. Coleman, 21, hung on for second in 9.98, well off his world-leading 9.82 from earlier this month.

Chris Belcher, 23, grabbed the last 100m spot on the London world championships team in 10.06.

“These two young guns trying to make a name for themselves, and I’m just trying to keep coming,” Gatlin told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN.

Gatlin was an underdog Friday, having not broken 10 seconds in four wind-legal races this year going into the final.

He missed weeks of training this season, slowed by a quadriceps/groin problem since February, according to The Associated Press.

If Bolt is anywhere near top form, Gatlin’s 9.95 won’t challenge for gold at worlds in August. It’s the slowest winning time at nationals in a championship year since Gatlin’s first title in 2005.

“It wasn’t spectacular times you see me run the last couple of years,” Gatlin told media in Sacramento. “It was a time where I needed to fight. … I’m balancing accomplishment and hunger, and I’ve got to be able to find that hunger again.”

USATF OUTDOORS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

Earlier Friday, Olympic silver medalist Tori Bowie won the women’s 100m easily in 10.94.

Bowie was followed by Rio Olympian Deajah Stevens (11.08) and Ariana Washington (11.10). Allyson Felix was eighth, but she wasn’t planning on racing the 100m at worlds anyway.

“The goal was to make the [world] team [by finishing top three],” Bowie told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I’m using each race as a training cycle before I get to London.”

Meanwhile in Jamaica, Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson won her national title in 10.71 seconds, one hundredth off her shared national record. Bowie is as of now an underdog going into worlds in August.

Yohan Blake won the Jamaican 100m title in 9.90, his fastest time since 2012, when he became the second-fastest man of all time. Bolt skipped the Jamaican Championships as he has a bye into worlds as defending champion.

Gatlin, Coleman, Blake and Canadian Andre De Grasse are looking like the biggest threats to Bolt at the final meet of his career.

In other USATF Outdoors events Friday, Blake Leeper took Oscar Pistorius off the IPC athletics record book by running 45.25 in the 400m semifinals.

Though Leeper didn’t make Saturday’s final, he is the first double amputee to compete at a USATF Outdoor Championships. Leeper raced for the first time since the end of a cocaine ban earlier this week.

“I can remember back in 2008, when I was in my college dorm room [pre-med at the University of Tennessee], never run a track meet in my life, seeing [Pistorius] run for the first time,” Leeper said. “That inspired me.”

Trey Hardee completed his first decathlon in nearly two years and won the U.S. title with 8,225 points. That ranks him 10th in the world this year.

Hardee, 33, captured the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, beating the now-retired Ashton Eaton, plus a 2012 Olympic silver medal. He withdrew on the second day of the 2016 Olympic Trials decathlon after suffering a left hamstring injury on the first day and suffered a heel tear earlier this year.

“I’m worried about my foot every single event,” said Hardee, who was listed as retired on Wikipedia as of Friday evening. “I’m a snake in the grass right now. No one really knows what to expect.”

Vashti Cunningham, daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, won her first U.S. outdoor title in the high jump.

Cunningham, who finished 13th in Rio at age 18, cleared an outdoor personal best of 1.99 meters on Friday. She ranks No. 2 in the world this year.

“I want to win world championships, and I want to break 2.0 [meters],” Cunningham said.

London Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett was fourth, just missing the world team.

Rio silver medalist Paul Chelimo and Olympian Shelby Houlihan won the 5000m titles.

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VIDEO: Steeplechaser faceplants on water jump, still advances

Paralympian Blake Leeper advances in 400m at USATF Outdoors (video)

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Paralympic medalist Blake Leeper, believed to be the first double amputee to race at a USATF Outdoor Championships, advanced out of the 400m heats in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Leeper ran 45.52, third in his heat, to grab the 16th and last spot in the 400m semifinals Friday (10:34 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

It marked a personal best by .58 of a second for Leeper, who was racing one day after his ban for testing positive for cocaine in 2015 ended.

“I wanted to advance, but if I don’t I have won already,” Leeper said before he learned he made the semis, according to USA Track and Field. “Just being here and showing everybody what you can truly do with a disability.”

Leeper ran faster than Olympians David VerburgKyle ClemonsArman Hall and Manteo Mitchell, who were all eliminated.

It’s likely that the top five or six in Saturday’s final will make the 4x400m team for the world championships in London in August.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

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Double amputee Blake Leeper entered in USATF Outdoor Championships

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Paralympic medalist and double amputee Blake Leeper is set to race at the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) on Thursday, his first meet since the end of a two-year suspension.

Leeper, born without lower legs and using prosthetics since he was a toddler, is in the 400m field in Sacramento, Calif. He is set to race in the preliminary heats beginning at 10:46 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold.

USA Track and Field could not recall a double amputee previously competing at a USATF Outdoor Championships. Legally blind Paralympic champion runner Marla Runyan made U.S. Olympic teams in 2000 and 2004.

Leeper earned 200m bronze and 400m silver (behind Oscar Pistorius) in his class at the 2012 London Paralympics and has long harbored a goal of racing at a U.S. Track and Field Championships and the Olympics.

Leeper also tested positive for cocaine in 2015.

A two-year ban was reduced to one year by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, allowing him to qualify for the Rio Paralympics.

But the International Paralympic Committee appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. CAS ruled in favor of the IPC, and Leeper’s ban lasted until June 20, 2017.

Leeper’s time from the Rio Paralympic Trials of 46.1, an American record in his class, was four tenths shy of the automatic qualifying time for the USATF Outdoor Championships.

But he was accepted into the field, along with four others who were close to the qualifying time, and 2012 Olympian Manteo Mitchell, whose seed time was 46.85.

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