Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin wins; David Rudisha fades at Pre Classic

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The Prefontaine Classic was headlined by Olympic champions Allyson FelixShelly-Ann Fraser-PryceAshton EatonDavid Rudisha and Sanya Richards-Ross. None of them won Saturday, but several world leads were set among eye-catching performances at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Justin Gatlin remained undefeated this season by taking the 100m in a wind-aided 9.76 seconds. Gatlin is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and world silver medalist behind Usain Bolt, who is set to make his 2014 debut in the Czech Republic on June 17. Gatlin’s world lead this year is 9.87.

“My start wasn’t the best, like it’s been this year, but my second half I came on strong,” Gatlin told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “If I piece both [halves] of my races together, I think I can go 9.6.”

Neither Olympic champion Allyson Felix nor world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won a loaded 200m. Rather, it was Tori Bowie, a long jumper at the World Indoor Championships in March. Bowie knocked nearly four tenths off her personal best, winning out of lane one in 22.18, the fastest time in the world this year.

“I’m almost speechless right now, to be honest,” Bowie said.

Felix, who was carried off the track with a torn hamstring at last year’s World Championships, was third in 22.44.

“The last time I was running a 200m, I was on the ground,” Felix said. “I’m working myself back.”

Fraser-Pryce, who won triple gold at worlds, was shockingly last in 23.06. The Jamaican has dealt with a foot injury this year.

David Rudisha faded from the lead to seventh in the final 200m of the 800m in the world record holder’s first race in more than one year due to a knee injury. Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos won in 1:43.63. Rudisha clocked 1:44.87.

“A couple of races, I’ll be ready,” Rudisha said afterward.

Olympic champions Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt continued their 400m rivalry with identical 43.97 times. James outleaned Merritt for the victory, taking a 6-5 edge in their career duels. They’re the only men to go sub-44 this year, or any of the last five years for that matter.

“We’ll go at it many more times,” Merritt said.

Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross was sixth in the 400m as she continues to come back from a toe injury. Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills, a breast cancer survivor, prevailed in 50.4, .13 ahead of World Indoor champion Francena McCorory.

Olympic and world decathlon champion Ashton Eaton equaled his 110m hurdles personal best of 13.35 to finish sixth. He beat 2011 world 110m hurdles champion Jason Richardson.

France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde crossed first in 13.13, upsetting Olympic bronze medalist Hansle Parchment (13.2) and world champion David Oliver (13.21). Olympic champion Aries Merritt withdrew with a hamstring injury.

In the closing Bowerman Mile, Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman ran the fastest mile since 2007 and the fastest ever on U.S. soil, winning in 3:47.32.

In field events, backwards hat-wearing Will Claye (17.66m) topped Christian Taylor (17.42) in a reversal of the Olympic triple jump final. Olympic champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault with a 5.8m clearance.

Olympic champion Anna Chicherova took the high jump, and world champion Vitezslav Vesely won the javelin.

Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi lost a Diamond League 1500m for the first time since Aug. 17, 2012, snapping an eight-race win streak. Kenyan Hellen Obiri forced Aregawi to second, 3:57.05 to 3:57.57. American Jenny Simpson, the 2011 world champion, ran a personal best 3:58.28 for fourth.

Kenyan Caleb Ndiku won the 5000m in 13:01.71. Decorated American Bernard Lagat was a non-factor in 14th, 30 seconds behind.

Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano won the non-Diamond League one mile race in 3:52.41. Kenyan Mercy Cherono, the world 5000m silver medalist, won the women’s two-mile in 9:13.27. Two-time Olympian Shannon Rowbury finished fourth and broke the American record in 9:20.25.

Jamaican Kaliese Spencer captured the 400m hurdles in 54.29, the fastest time in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Sofia Assefa took the 3000m steeplechase in 9:11.41, also a world-leading time (by eight seconds).

The Diamond League continues with a meet in Rome on Thursday.

Galen Rupp breaks American record at Pre Classic

Caeleb Dressel, after 7 golds in 2017, is on record watch at swim worlds

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For Caeleb Dressel, the comparisons began in earnest two years ago when he matched Michael Phelps‘ record seven gold medals at a single world championships (albeit two were in mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program when Phelps swam).

They will likely spread at this summer’s worlds, which begin Sunday in Gwangju, South Korea (TV schedule here). And they likely won’t dissipate through the next year and the Tokyo Olympics.

For as Dressel endured new obstacles in and out of the pool last summer, winning two of seven individual races at the two major 2018 meets, he came back this May and June with his fastest times since 2017 Worlds.

“I personally think he’s going to break three world records,” next week, NBC Sports analyst Rowdy Gaines said. “I think he’s going to break two for sure, 50m and 100m freestyle. The only one that’s doubtful, to me, would be the 100m fly.”

Dressel, the former prep prodigy who left the sport for five months before joining the University of Florida team in 2014, is expected to swim no less than the same program next week that he did in 2017.

That would mean eight races — the 50m and 100m freestyles and butterflies, the 4x100m free, 4x100m medley and two mixed-gender relays. Two years ago, Dressel won seven of eight, surprisingly taking fourth in the 50m fly (which is not on the Olympic program).

His coach in Gainesville, Gregg Troy, did not rule out adding a ninth event as part of the 4x200m free. However, that would likely give Dressel three swims in one session next Friday and next Saturday, something Phelps never did in his prime when contesting eight events at the Olympics and worlds.

The 2020 question is whether Dressel will try to swim a Phelpsian eight events in Toyko. With no 50m fly and only one mixed-gender relay on the Olympic program, he must add two events to get to eight, perhaps the 200m free and 4x200m free relay.

“I’m not too sure,” Dressel said. “I just want to stay focused on this year. I’ve got the biggest meet of my year coming up in less than a week. I’ll get through this meet, and then me and Troy, we’ll start looking forward next year and maybe add some new events. But I’m not too sure at the moment.”

Dressel turned pro last spring after an unprecedented NCAA career, where his routine included carrying a blue bandana in his mouth on the pool deck. The demands on his time were new, from choosing an agent to signing with a swimwear company.

Troy, who coached Ryan Lochte in his prime to overtake Phelps as the world’s best swimmer in 2011, said he may have overtrained Dressel before last summer’s nationals and Pan Pacific Championships.

After Pan Pacs, Dressel revealed that an earlier motorcycle incident where he was forced off the road by another motorist, but didn’t suffer serious injury, maybe interfered with training.

Now, Dressel chalks that summer to uncharacteristically poor swimming at the wrong time. “I can put as many excuses as I want on that, but that’s really just what it was,” he said. “I mean, it happens to athletes all over the world.

“I’m glad it happened when it did. It can mess with you. It can turn into a downward spiral of self-doubt if you don’t just pick and choose what you want to learn from bad experiences like that. I don’t take it as all too negative. I certainly wouldn’t want it to happen again. Just a bad meet. Move on from it.”

Troy went further, noting the scrutiny on Dressel. Phelps is retired, Lochte suspended (and, at age 34, staving off Father Time), creating an opening for a male U.S. swim star to pair with Katie Ledecky. In 2017, Dressel became that alpha.

“It’s one thing being the guy coming up. It’s another thing being the guy that’s hunted,” Troy said this week. “He’s a little more mature to handle all the outside factors that we had to deal with last summer.”

In 2017, Dressel’s winning times in the 50m and 100m freestyles and the 100m butterfly were a combined .56 shy of three world records. This year, he’s ranked Nos. 1, 3 and 5 in the world in those events.

His 2019 times are a combined .64 faster than his best pre-worlds times in 2017, which is why some believe he’s in for a special week in South Korea. But not everyone buys that logic.

“The meets leading up to it don’t really mean too much,” Dressel demurred.

Dressel didn’t have to peak this year for an NCAA Championships or a nationals (the world team was decided last summer) like in 2017. He had the luxury of putting all his focus the last several months on Gwangju.

“My gut feeling,” Gaines said, “I think he’s going to destroy ’em.”

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MORE: Katie Ledecky faces toughest tests yet at swim worlds

World’s fastest mom leads London Diamond League fields; stream schedule

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Jamaican sprinters headline this weekend’s Diamond League meet in London, while most American stars rest up for next week’s USATF Outdoor Championships.

Olympic champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceElaine Thompson and Yohan Blake dot the two-day meet at the 2012 Olympic Stadium. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage each morning at 8:15 and 8:50 ET.

Fraser-Pryce and Thompson, who combined to win the last three Olympic 100m and share the fastest time in the world this year of 10.73 seconds, are in separate events in London.

Fraser-Pryce goes in the 100m against the fastest women from Europe and Africa. Thompson faces a less daunting field in the 200m; she’s the only entrant who has run sub-22.3. They could both double up in the 100m and 200m at the world championships in Doha in two months.

As for Blake, he races after being called out by former training partner Usain Bolt for leaving their shared coach of several years, Glen Mills. Blake is the second-fastest man in history but hasn’t been within two tenths of his personal-best 9.69 in nearly seven years.

Here are the London entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Saturday
8:15 a.m. — Men’s Long Jump
9:04 — Women’s 400m
9:09 — Women’s Pole Vault
9:13 — Men’s 5000m
9:20 — Women’s Javelin
9:40 — Men’s Triple Jump
9:55 — Men’s 800m
10:06 — Women’s 200m
10:17 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
10:29 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
10:39 — Women’s 1500m
10:50 — Men’s 100m

Sunday
8:50 a.m. — Men’s Discus
9:04 — Men’s 400m
9:20 — Men’s High Jump
9:35 — Women’s 800m
9:40 — Women’s Long Jump
9:45 — Men’s Mile
9:56 — Women’s 5000m
10:19 — Men’s 200m
10:29 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
10:39 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
10:50 — Women’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 800m — Saturday, 9:55 a.m. ET
Perhaps the greatest race in history came on this track at the 2012 London Games — the men’s 800m final won by David Rudisha in a world record. Botswana’s Nijel Amos took silver that day at age 18 to become the fourth-fastest man ever. Amos has not earned a global championship medal since, but last Friday he clocked his fastest 800m since that evening in London. Here, he faces the next-fastest man in the world this year, Kenyan Ferguson Rotich, and the fastest man of 2017 and 2018, Kenyan Emmanuel Korir.

Men’s 100m — Saturday, 10:50 a.m. ET
Blake hasn’t raced a Diamond League this season and last won on this stage in 2017. Here, he gets an opportunity with the world’s fastest men — all Americans — sitting out. Andre De Grasse, who like Blake has been slowed by leg injuries, is the other marquee name, but he hasn’t broken 10 seconds in 13 tries since taking bronze in Rio, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Men’s Discus — Sunday, 8:50 a.m. ET
Perhaps the deepest field of the meet with the Olympic and world gold and silver medalists and the top three in the world this year. The favorite has to be Swede Daniel Ståhl, who takes up nine of the first 11 spots on the 2019 top list. Ståhl broke the Swedish record three weeks ago with the world’s top throw in 11 years.

Women’s 5000m — Sunday, 9:56 a.m. ET
Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan follows up her world record in the mile (4:12.33) from the last Diamond League stop in Monaco. Hassan was primarily a 1500m runner through the Rio Olympics (where she was fifth) but since added 5000m work. She faces the ultimate test here in world champion Hellen Obiri, the only woman who has been faster over the last two years.

Women’s 100m — Sunday, 10:50 a.m. ET
Fraser-Pryce owns fond memories at this track, though she missed the 2017 World Championships in London due to childbirth. She won her second Olympic 100m in London in 2012 and scored her first post-baby Diamond League win here last summer. Fraser-Pryce has a chance to become the third woman to break 10.75 three times in one year, joining Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988) and Marion Jones (1998). She could get the necessary push from Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Brit Dina Asher-Smith, the fastest in the world in 2018.

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