Video: Usain Bolt anchors relay win; Diamond League recap

Usain Bolt
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Usain Bolt wrapped up the London Anniversary Games with a no-doubt-about-it anchor leg on the 4×100-meter relay at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

Bolt and his Racers Track Club won the event in 37.75 seconds, easily beating France (38.45). The 4×100 world record set by Bolt and Jamaica at the 2012 Olympics is 36.84. This was Bolt’s first appearance at the Olympic Stadium since his triple gold performance at the 2012 Games.

An All-Star team of Americans Mike RodgersWallace SpearmonTony McQuay and St. Kitts and Nevis’ Kim Collins could have given Bolt’s Racers quartet problems, but they botched the last handoff from Collins to McQuay.

Bolt was the star attraction, even in a team event. His teammates — Mario ForsytheKemar Bailey-Cole and Warren Weir — all wore yellow jerseys. Bolt was in a blue and red Puma uniform.

He took the orange baton from Weir for the final straight and breezed to win, keeping his eye on the clock the whole time. Mo Farah could be seen in the background watching Bolt cross the finish.

“I wanted to run a fast time to see where we’re at,” Bolt told the BBC, adding this foursome will pretty much be the Jamaican relay team in Moscow (though Forsythe didn’t make the Jamaican team in an individual event).

Bolt now goes into worlds with the fastest time in the world in the 100 (if you take out Tyson Gay) and the 200. His Jamaican team in the 4×100, even without the injured Yohan Blake, will fight with the U.S., without Gay, for gold as well.

“It wasn’t perfect early in the season, but it’s coming together at the right time,” Bolt said.

Complete results

Women’s 100 meters: It was a strange afternoon in what was the deepest sprint field of the second day of the meet.

Reigning world champion Carmelita Jeter withdrew from the final with a quad injury, according to Flotrack, after running a season’s best 10.93 in her heat.

Jeter missed the U.S. championships in June due to a quad injury. With worlds just two weeks away, this is a situation to monitor.

Two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce put up a very smooth world-leading 10.77 in her heat. But Fraser-Pryce was never a factor in the final, running a 10.94 for fourth place.

The winner of the final was Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, who broke Glory Alozie‘s 14-year-old African record in her heat (10.86) and again in the final (10.79).

Okagbare is also ranked fourth in the world this year in both the 200 and the long jump.

The fastest American on Saturday was a woman who didn’t make the world championships team — Barbara Pierre. Pierre matched her personal-best 10.85 in the final, the same time English Gardner clocked to win nationals in June.

Gardner, meanwhile, finished seventh and last in the final in 11.08 after going 11.10 in her heat. She’s yet to run sub-11 outside the U.S. this year and, at this point, can’t be considered a medal favorite in Moscow.

Women’s 100-meter hurdles: Olympic champion Sally Pearson notched a season’s best 12.65, while Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis came in fourth in 13.08. Both are coming off injuries.

Pearson, returning from two hamstring tears, crossed the finish line, bent down to the track, grinned and gave a thumbs-up.

That shows how tough the last few months have been, given the season’s best was merely .02 under her time in Ostrava, Czech Republic, last month and well slower than her personal best of 12.28.

“It still wasn’t perfect,” Pearson told the BBC. “Not 100 percent, but i’m happy with it. … Jess, I was nervous of her in the warm-up. You don’t know what she’s going to do. She’s a freak.”

Pearson is still nearly four tenths behind world leader and U.S. and NCAA champion Brianna Rollins, who skipped a potential race against Pearson in Monaco earlier this month.

Ennis, still not a definite for worlds due to an Achilles injury, was well off her personal best of 12.54 set at the Olympics and disappointed with her time Saturday.

“This was very nerve-racking,” said Ennis, who received a rousing ovation in introductions from the packed Olympic Stadium. “Having this injury, not been able to prepare as best as I could have.”

Ennis, who later placed last in the long jump, said she would talk with coach Toni Minichiello about her next move before worlds. Minichiello said on the BBC that Ennis needs at least one more race before heading to Moscow to potentially enter the heptathlon.

“We’ll take another two, three days after this to take a look how the injury reacts,” Minichiello said.

Women’s 200 meters: Olympic champion Allyson Felix had to work to cross the finish first in 22.41, edging fellow American Shalonda Solomon (22.50) in a shallow field.

“Final preparations,” said Felix, who ran her last race before worlds, which begin Aug. 10. “Last year was a long year. I’m taking it slow this year. A little more work to do.”

Felix, who won world bronze in 2011, is ranked seventh in the world this year at 22.36. The world leaders are Fraser-Pryce (22.13) and Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast (22.24), both of whom chose to only run the 100 at the Anniversary Games.

Felix was beaten at the U.S. championships by Kimberlyn Duncan (22.35), who was also not in the field Saturday.

Men’s 3,000 meters: Mo Farah is now three for three on Saturdays at London’s Olympic Stadium.

Farah, who won Olympic gold at the same track on the second and third Saturdays of the 2012 Games, prevailed with ease in the non-Olympic distance in 7:36.85. Nobody was within five seconds.

“Coming here, I felt really emotional about it,” Farah told the BBC. “It was close in noise to the Olympics.”

The Somali-born, Oregon-trained Farah will attempt to repeat his Olympic 5,000-10,000 double in Moscow. He’s already set the British record in the 1,500 meters this season.

Farah heads back to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for more high-altitude training Sunday.

Men’s 110-meter hurdles: Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt hit the fifth hurdle with his trail leg and ran through the sixth hurdle but told the BBC he’s not injured.

“I was able to catch myself because of my cat-like reflexes,” he joked.

American David Oliver, who owns the world lead of 13.03 and was second at nationals, went on to win in 13.20.

Merritt, third at nationals behind Ryan Wilson and Oliver, went under 13 seconds eight times last year, including that world-record run of 12.80. He has yet to go under 13 this year, opening up the gold-medal picture a little bit going into worlds.

Notable: Brit favorite Christine Ohuruogu did one better than she did at the Olympics, winning the women’s 400 in 50 flat, a season’s best, over the top two from the U.S. championships, Francena McCorory (50.13) and Natasha Hastings (50.68). Reigning world champion Amantle Montsho, not in the field, remains the world leader at 49.33. Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross did not make the U.S. team for the world championships. … Olympic silver medalist and U.S. champion Michael Tinsley won the 400 hurdles in 47.98. Tinsley is the only man to go under 48 seconds this year, and he’s now done it twice. He’s the favorite in Moscow. …. Two-time reigning Olympic champion and three-time reigning world champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand won the women’s shot put with a world-leading throw of 20.90 meters. Adams, who originally won silver in London but was upgraded to gold after the Belarusian champion failed drug tests, is the only woman to throw farther than 20.24 this year.

Video: Inside Usain Bolt’s training

Ilia Malinin’s quadruple Axel sheds light on first figure skater to land triple Axel

Vern Taylor
Vern Taylor, the first figure skater to land a triple Axel in competition. (Getty Images)
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Vern Taylor arrived at the Riverside Skating Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Sept. 15 to do what he has done at that rink for the last three decades: coach figure skaters. But this day was different.

Taylor, who in 1978 became the first man to land a ratified triple Axel in competition, was told that 17-year-old American Ilia Malinin performed the first quadruple Axel the previous night.

“When we heard that he landed it, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s terrific,'” Taylor said by phone.

He was then shown video of Malinin’s feat.

“Anything’s possible,” Taylor said. “43 years [later], that’s something. It’s knowing that you can perform the jump that makes it challenging.”

Malinin, the world junior champion, landed the most difficult jump in skating and checked off the only remaining quad yet to be performed.

At the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa, a 20-year-old Taylor broke through a similar barrier in hitting the last remaining unchecked triple jump. But while Malinin’s senior career seems to be just getting started, and many medals appear in his future, Taylor is largely a forgotten man outside of ardent figure skating followers.

He finished 12th at those 1978 World Championships. Taylor’s 1980 Olympic prospects were dimmed by the fact that Canada had just one men’s singles spot, and he had taken runner-up at nationals in 1978 and 1979 to Brian Pockar, who also outscored Taylor at those years’ world championships. So Taylor stopped competing a year before the Lake Placid Games.

“I didn’t have a reason,” he said. “I just decided to take a break.”

Taylor will always have that day at the world championships in Ottawa. He can still remember the nervousness, knowing that two other skaters also planned to attempt a triple Axel. They were unsuccessful, though Taylor didn’t know it.

“I didn’t see their jumps,” he said. “I didn’t want to know what was ahead of me.”

American David Jenkins landed a triple Axel in Movietone newsreel footage reported to be from 1957, but that was not in competition.

Taylor, skating to music from “Rocky,” put the triple Axel as the third jump of his program, according to reports at the time. The one YouTube video of it, published two years ago, has 32,000 views. It shows Taylor landing the three-and-a-half revolution jump on one foot and spinning out of it while managing to stay on that single skate blade amid a crowd roar.

“During that program, it was like a rock concert,” Taylor said. “I got the energy from the audience.”

The Montreal Gazette reported at the time that the jump was ratified three hours later. Italian Sonia Bianchetti, the men’s referee at the 1978 Worlds, said she met with the assistant referee, the ISU president and a technical delegate.

“During this short meeting it was recognized that Vern had completed the first triple Axel Paulsen jump [Norwegian Axel Paulsen was the skater who landed the first Axel jump in 1882, getting it named after him] in an officially recognized figure skating competition,” she wrote in an email last month. “The triple Axel was fully rotated and landed on one foot.”

One of the people inside the Ottawa Civic Centre that day was 16-year-old Canadian Brian Orser. Orser, inspired by Taylor, later became synonymous with the jump — labeled “Mr. Triple Axel” and landing it en route to silver medals at the Olympics in 1984 and 1988 and the 1987 World title.

Orser remembered Taylor visiting his skating club for an exhibition. Orser saw Taylor doing an Axel takeoff exercise off the ice, incorporated it into his own routine and began teaching it to his skaters after becoming a coach.

Yet another Canadian, Kurt Browning, was the first man to land a ratified quadruple jump of any kind in competition — a toe loop at the 1988 World Championships.

“For me, personally, it was huge,” he said, “because I was promised a car if I could land it.”

Through an agreement with an Edmonton car dealership, Browning was handed the keys to a Quattro — quad/Quattro — after hitting the toe loop. The skater was unaware that the dealer was merely leasing it to him. About six months later, Browning received a call asking to bring the car back.

Browning was inspired by American Brian Boitano, whom he previously saw land a quad outside of competition. Taylor motivated him, too.

“[Taylor] gave me permission, even at a young age, to start thinking bigger,” he said.

Browning also pointed to Jozef Sabovčík, a 1980s skater for then-Czechoslovakia who many believe was the first man to land a quad in competition, Browning included. Sabovčík was initially given credit for a quad toe loop at the 1986 European Championships, but weeks later it was invalidated because he touched down with his free foot, according to reports.

“I never want to come off as arrogant, but despite what ISU [International Skating Union] decided in the end, I do know that I landed the jump on that day,” Sabovčík, who said he performed a quad jump on his birthdays through age 44, wrote in an email. “The fact that most of the people in the skating world believe the same thing, it means everything to me that Kurt is one of them. It would have been nice to have my name in the Guinness Book of Records, but I am also not trying to change history.”

Sabovčík, now 58 and coaching in Salt Lake City, attended March’s world championships in Montpellier, France, where Malinin finished ninth. There, he spoke with Malinin’s parents, Russian-born Uzbek Olympic skaters Tatyana Malinina and Roman Skornyakov, whom he calls friends.

“They told me that he was already doing a quad Axel on a fishing pole harness [in practice], and that it was coming,” Sabovčík said.

Less than two months after that talk, the first video surfaced of Malinin landing a clean quad Axel — at a U.S. Figure Skating jump camp.

“I did not think [a quad Axel] was possible,” Sabovčík said. “It really has to be an athlete that can combine the technical ability with jumping ability with the speed of rotation. When Kurt and I jumped, we had a relatively speaking slow rotation, but we jumped really big compared to these kids. But Ilia, he has the vertical lift, but he [also] has an unbelievably fast rotation.”

The recent proliferation of quads in men’s and women’s skating can be attributed to several factors, including better boots, better ice conditions and improvements in technology that can aid coaching. Still, there are concerns about if and how the pounding of training quads can wear down a skater physically.

“It’s a lot of pain you don’t feel at first, but you know it comes later,” said Frenchwoman Surya Bonaly, who started training a quad in 1989 and attempting it through the mid-1990s. Bonaly had two hip surgeries after her competitive career.

Even Taylor faced those questions.

“People said, ‘Aren’t you worried about injuring yourself?'” he said. “I would say, ‘No, I want you to know it can be done.'”

Sabovčík never tried a quad Axel in his skating days, but Browning did for less than a week in the early 1990s after winning four consecutive world titles.

“Just playing with it,” said Browning, who never tried it in competition. “Ilia has that special ability to not only get up in the air, but then he has that beautiful rotation that doesn’t look hurried. It’s fast, it’s quick as lightning, but it doesn’t look hurried. It’s so easy. Like a good golfer swings easy, and the ball goes 400 yards.”

Browning recalled a conversation he had with two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who in recent years made the quad Axel his quest. Hanyu attempted it in competition last season but did not land it cleanly before retiring in July. He said upon retirement that he still hoped to master the jump for his non-competitive show career.

“I asked Yuzu one day, ‘When you do quad Axel, does it just feel like you’re up there forever?'” Browning said. “And he kind of looked at me funny, and he goes, ‘Yeah, like it never ends.'”

The skating world awaits the reserved Hanyu’s thoughts on Malinin’s quad.

“Knowing Yuzu, I would think he’d be very supportive,” said Orser, who coached Hanyu for nearly a decade. “He appreciates that kind of athleticism.”

Orser also noted what comes with being the first — and so far only — skater to land a rarefied jump. Malinin, who headlines Skate America in two weeks, will be asked about the quad Axel in just about every interview for the foreseeable future. For some skaters, they may feel a responsibility to land it all the time.

“But I don’t think [Malinin] thinks too much about it,” Orser said. “His technique is perfect, so he’ll be fine.”

The inevitable topic after that is the next progression in skating: the first quintuple jump. Orser said that Hanyu did five-rotation Salchows in practice with the aid of a harness.

“It’s just a little bit more rotation than the quadruple Axel, so it’s not that far off,” said Sabovčík, whose unratified quad toe loop came eight years after Taylor’s triple Axel. “Now that I’ve seen the quad Axel, I don’t think it’s impossible.”

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Aleksandra Trusova splits from coach Eteri Tutberidze, months after Olympic tears

Alexandra Trusova, Eteri Tutberidze
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Olympic figure skating silver medalist Aleksandra Trusova reportedly split from coach Eteri Tutberidze‘s group, eight months after a tearful scene after the Olympic free skate.

Trusova, 18, will now be coached by Svetlana Sokolovskaya, according to Russian media reports dating to Saturday. All Russian skaters are ineligible to compete internationally indefinitely due to the national ban over the war in Ukraine, but Russia is still holding domestic events.

At the Beijing Winter Games, Trusova became the first woman to land five quadruple jumps in a free skate. She had the highest score that day, but it wasn’t enough to make up the gap to fellow Tutberidze pupil Anna Shcherbakova from the short program.

Moments after the competition ended, Trusova was seen crying and yelling at Sergey Dudakov, a member of Tutberidze’s coaching team.

“Everyone has a gold medal! Everyone has! Only I don’t! I hate figure skating! I hate! I will never step on the ice again! Never!” she said in Russian.

Shcherbakova had the individual gold, and the other Russian women’s singles skater at the Games, Kamila Valiyeva, skated both programs of the team event. The Russians placed first in the team event, but medals will not be awarded until Valiyeva’s doping case is adjudicated. It’s possible that Valiyeva gets retroactively disqualified, the Russian team gets disqualified and the other nations all move up with the U.S. going from silver to gold.

Trusova performed at the Russian test skates last month, withdrawing after her short program due to a back injury.

Trusova previously left Tutberidze in 2020 for two-time Olympic champion turned coach Yevgeny Plushenko‘s group, then moved back to Tutberidze’s group after the 2020-21 season.

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