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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Russia’s Paralympic ban extended as IPC eyes PyeongChang

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Russia faces a “strong chance” of being banned from the 2018 Paralympics if it does not meet criteria for competition reinstatement by September, the International Paralympic Committee said Monday.

Russia has been banned from IPC-sanctioned competition due to its poor anti-doping record since August. It was left out of the Rio Games in September. An IPC task force of five unanimously voted to extend the ban, it announced Monday.

The task force monitoring Russia’s progress to meeting reinstatement criteria said it “continues to have significant concerns regarding the lack of any material progress on a number of fundamental issues.”

The task force said there has not been meaningful change in Russia’s anti-doping culture. It has not addressed findings of rampant doping problems in the country detailed by World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned reports last year.

“Unless and until these problems are fully addressed … it would be almost impossible for Russian Para athletes to return to IPC-sanctioned competitions without jeopardizing the integrity of those competitions,” IPC task force chair Andy Parkinson said.

IPC president Philip Craven said Monday there is cause for optimism, specifically that Russia’s anti-doping agency could resume drug testing as early as June.

The IPC governing board “is generally pleased and encouraged by the co-operation and steps forward [Russia] is making in various areas toward its reinstatement,” Craven said. “Although we are pleased with the progress to date, a number of key criteria still need to be met. At the moment there are a lot of good plans with timelines on paper, but we now need to see plans in action and delivering concrete results.”

Russia dominated the 2014 Sochi Paralympic medal standings.

It tallied 80 medals, including 30 golds, more than three times as many total medals and golds as the second-place nation. In fact, Russia topped the medal table at each of the last three Winter Paralympics.

If Russia is banned from PyeongChang, the U.S. could be right in the mix. It finished third with 18 medals in Sochi, behind Russia and Ukraine (25), though Americans came home with just two gold medals.

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Rafael Nadal recreates famous 1992 Olympic cauldron lighting

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Rafael Nadal, owner of two Olympic gold medals, recently parroted arguably the most famous moment in Spanish Olympic history.

Nadal and Marc Lopez, the 2016 Olympic doubles champions, took up bows and arrows and joined archer Antonio Rebollo on Monday at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Stadium. It brought back memories of Rebollo’s unforgettable cauldron lighting from the only Olympics held in Spain.

Nadal is in Barcelona for an ATP Tour event as he prepares to vie for a 10th French Open title next month.

Rebollo, now 61 years old, was one of 200 hundred archers considered to light the cauldron in 1992. He learned that he was chosen for the role over four other finalists two hours ahead of time, according to an NBC Olympics profile in 1996.

The cauldron would be 195 feet away. Fearing Rebollo would miss the target, organizers instructed him to fire his arrow beyond the stadium walls. As the arrow soared, a technician lit the natural gas flame with a remote control.

The illusion worked. The true story wasn’t revealed for another 20 years.

“There were no fears,” Rebollo, a Barcelona native who contracted polio at age 8, told NBC two decades ago. “I was practically a robot. I focused on my positioning and reaching the target. That was all. … My feelings were taken from the people who described to me how they saw it. What they felt, their emotions, their cries. This is what made me realize what the moment actually meant.”

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