Justin Gatlin

Rome Diamond League broadcast info, preview

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Justin Gatlin has been unbeatable this season, a statement that must be accompanied by the fact Usain Bolt has yet to step on a competitive track this year.

Gatlin and Bolt won’t be facing off any time soon — you wonder if at all this year — but the Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday is a reminder of their rivalry, even if the mighty Jamaican is missing.

Gatlin handed Bolt defeat at this meet last year — 9.94 to 9.95 seconds — which produced one of the memorable images of Bolt’s career outside of the Olympics or World Championships. The shrug.

It’s the only time Gatlin has beaten Bolt since the American returned from his four-year drug suspension. Bolt, after a slow start to last season, relegated Gatlin to silver at the World Championships.

But Gatlin has been the marquee men’s sprinter through three of 13 Diamond League meets this season. That’s somewhat by default, with Bolt’s partially injury-related absenceTyson Gay‘s suspension and Yohan Blake‘s light schedule coming off a hamstring injury.

That’s not to say Gatlin hasn’t been fast. He’s been clocked legally at 9.87 and 9.92 seconds and a wind-aided 9.76 at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday. He could be even faster if pushed by competition. That’s not likely to come in Rome.

Universal Sports will have TV and online coverage beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday. Full start lists are here.

Here are five events to watch Thursday:

Women’s 100m

The 200m at the Pre Classic on Saturday rattled the women’s sprinting picture. Unheralded American Tori Bowie beat Olympic champion Allyson Felix and World gold, silver and bronze medalists Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceMurielle Ahoure and Blessing Okagbare.

Bowie must consolidate that surprising victory five days after with a strong showing at half the distance. Fraser-Pryce, set back a bit by injury this season, a reason for that mystifying last-place finish in Oregon, is entered. As is Octavious Freeman, the reigning U.S. silver medalist, in her 2014 Diamond League debut.

“In Eugene, my body did not respond. I felt a left leg problem,” Fraser-Pryce said, according to The Associated Press. “I have not had a perfect start to the season, but it’s not a championship year.”

Men’s high jump

This marked the most exciting event of the early outdoor season, before the World Relays and the Pre Classic shifted focus to track events. All the major players are here, which could inch somebody near Javier Sotomayor‘s world record 2.45m from 1993.

There’s Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov (2.41m this year), World champion Bohdan Bondarenko (2.40m), Olympic and world bronze medalist Derek Drouin (2.40m) and Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard (2.37m).

Men’s 1500m

Among the many eye-catching results at the Pre Classic was the Bowerman Mile, where Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman clocked the fastest time since 2007. Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the fastest 1500m man each of the last four years and two-time reigning World champion, faded to seventh.

Kiprop appears to be set to run at Stadio Olimpico despite a recall by Athletics Kenya’s president.

Souleiman and another top Kenyan, Silas Kiplagat, are also on the start list.

Women’s 100m hurdles

Olympic champion Sally Pearson, World champion Brianna Rollins, World Indoor 60m hurdles champion Nia Ali and 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson are the headliners here. It’s the first 100m hurdles race of the Diamond League season and first of Rollins’ career.

Rollins and a less heralded American, Kristi Castlin, are the world leaders so far this year at 12.58 seconds, though Pearson is just behind at 12.59.

Men’s 100m

Gatlin shouldn’t sweat his unblemished 2014 record in Rome. Nobody in the field has run within a tenth of a second of Gatlin’s world-leading time for 2014 (9.87).

The men fighting for second include Jamaican World bronze medalist Nesta Carter, South African Simon Magakwe (the only man in Rome outside Gatlin to break 10 seconds this season) and the surprise World Indoor 60m champion Richard Kilty of Great Britain.

Watch Maya Angelou recite her Olympic poem

UCI looks for new host for 2020 World Road Cycling Championships

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The International Cycling Union (UCI) is looking for a new host for the 2020 World Road Cycling Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Switzerland can no longer host the week-long event in late September after a national decision to extend a ban on events with more than 1,000 people through next month.

Amid reports the competition has been canceled, the UCI clarified Wednesday that it still hopes to hold it in some form, perhaps without some of the junior or senior races.

It now seeks an “alternative project,” preferably still in Europe and on the same dates (Sept. 20-27).

Worlds were due to start in Switzerland on the same day that the rescheduled Tour de France ends, though the senior elite men’s races are typically not on the first three days.

The Tour de France is still scheduled to start Aug. 29.

Last year, American Chloe Dygert starred at road worlds, winning the time trial in dominant fashion. Other world champions in Olympic events: Annemiek van Vleuten (road race), Rohan Dennis (time trial) and Mads Pedersen (road race).

MORE: Chloe Dygert had the most dominant ride in history. It still drives her nuts.

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Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15 in 2000

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In the biggest race of his young life, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps turned for the last 50 meters in fourth place of the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final on Aug. 12, 2000.

His mom, Debbie, couldn’t watch. She turned away from the Indianapolis Natatorium pool and stared at the scoreboard. Both Debbie and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, mentally prepared their consolation speeches for the rising Towson High School sophomore outside Baltimore.

Then Phelps, fueled by nightly Adam’s Mark chicken sandwich-and-cheesecake room service and amped by pre-race DMX on his CD player, turned it on. He zoomed into second place, becoming the youngest U.S. male swimmer to qualify for an Olympics since 1932.

Phelps had “come out of nowhere in the last six months” to become an Olympic hopeful, NBC Sports swimming commentator Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. True, Phelps chopped five and a half seconds off his personal best that March.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” Tom Malchow, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist who held off Phelps in that trials final, said that night, according to The Associated Press. “He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps, who did his trademark arm flaps before the trials final, made Bowman look like a prophet. Four years earlier, the coach sat Debbie down for a conversation she would not soon forget.

“Told me what he projected for Michael,” Debbie said, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s front-page story on a local 15-year-old qualifying for the Sydney Games. “He said that in 2004, he would definitely be a factor in the Olympics. He also said that he could be there in 2000, to watch out for him. At the time, he was only 11.”

The trials were bittersweet for the Phelps family. Whitney, one of Phelps’ older sisters, withdrew before the meet with herniated discs in her back that kept her from making an Olympics after competing in the 1994 World Championships at age 14.

After Phelps qualified for the Olympics, one of the first people to embrace him was Whitney on the pool deck.

The next week, Phelps, still with bottom-teeth braces, did his first live TV sitdown on CNN, swiveling in his chair the whole time, according to his autobiography, “Beneath the Surface.”

The next month, Phelps finished fifth in his Olympic debut, clocking a then-personal-best time that would have earned gold or silver at every previous Olympics.

Following the Olympic race, gold medalist Malchow patted Phelps on the back, according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography. What did Malchow say?

“The best is ahead of you.”

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