Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin primed for his ‘Super Bowl’ in Diamond League finale

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Justin Gatlin will put his undefeated 2014 record on the line one more time in the last Diamond League meet of the season.

“Traveling to Brussels I was thinking about my favorite football team that remained undefeated for a long while, but in the end they lost a game,” said Gatlin, who gave football a try during his doping suspension from 2006 to 2010. “I said to myself : Brussels is going to be my Super Bowl, and I definitely don’t want to lose my game Friday.”

Gatlin was slated to race the 100m and the 200m in a one-hour span in the Belgium capital, but he was no longer on the 200m start list when this story was published (update: Gatlin was re-added to the 200m start list Thursday afternoon). He is the fastest man over both distances this year, clocking 9.80 and 19.68 seconds, respectively.

Usain Bolt missed the early portion of the season after foot surgery, recorded two pedestrian 100m races (by his standards) and ended his year a couple weeks ago.

Bolt has said he wants to retire after the 2017 World Championships. Gatlin, who at 32 is four years older than Bolt, wants to compete beyond that.

“In London I wanted to win the Olympic title, but I made a technical error in the final that allowed Bolt to move two strides ahead,” Gatlin said. “In Rio [de Janeiro in 2016], I don’t want to make mistakes anymore. My idea is that I want to continue until 2020. As long as there are no young guys on the track who can beat me, I want to go on.”

In Brussels, Gatlin will face Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in a meeting of the world’s fastest sprinters before Bolt began breaking records in 2008.

Allyson FelixGalen Rupp and Jenny Simpson are also scheduled to be in action at the second of two Diamond League finals.

The finals are labeled that way because they mark the last competitions in individual event Diamond Races, accumulation points standings that determine season-long champions.

The Diamond League finals provide double the points than the previous Diamond League meets. That means first place per event in Brussels awards eight points, second place gets four points and third place two points.

Each of the 32 individual event Diamond Race winners receive $40,000 and a Diamond Trophy. Half of the Diamond Races concluded in Zurich last week. The other 16 conclude in Brussels (Universal Sports and UniversalSports.com, 2 p.m. ET).

Here are the start lists. Here are five events to watch:

Men’s high jump — 1:35 p.m. ET

This has been the most exciting event this season, thanks to world record attempts by Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Ukraine’s World champion Bohdan Bondarenko. Somehow, the 1994 world record set by Cuban Javier Sotomayor still stands.

Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov is also a threat to win in Brussels, though he cannot mathematically overtake Bondarenko or Barshim for the season title. Bondarenko leads Barshim by four points.

Men’s 100m — 2:15

Gatlin may be undefeated this season, but he actually trails countryman Mike Rodgers by one point in the Diamond Race. If Gatlin finishes in the top three and ahead of Rodgers, he will take the title.

Gay and Powell are also in the field, one week after they looked unimpressive in a 100m in Zurich. There, Powell was fourth in 10.07 and Gay last in 10.35. Powell and Gay, who vied for the world’s fastest man title seven years ago before Bolt emerged, both failed drug tests last year and sat out about 12 months.

Men’s 1500m — 2:53

The loaded field includes the two fastest men this year — Kenyans Silas Kiplagat and Asbel Kiprop — who are separated by one point in the 1500m season standings. Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman steps up from finishing second in the 800m in Zurich last week. American Galen Rupp steps down from taking third in the Zurich 5000m, joining countryman and Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Remember, Kiprop took a crack at the world record in Monaco on July 18, where he was beaten by Kiplagat. Kiplagat ran the fastest time in nearly 10 years that day. This is Kiplagat and Kiprop’s first meeting over 1500m since.

Women’s 200m — 3:04

Olympic champion Allyson Felix owns the Diamond Race lead by two points, but there are three women in this field who have run faster than her best time this year. Felix, coming back this year after a torn hamstring at the 2013 World Championships, has a season’s best of 22.34, a time she has bettered each of the previous 11 seasons.

The competition in Brussels will put pressure on Felix. It includes the fastest woman in the event this year, the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare.

Women’s 3000m — 3:46

This non-Olympic event includes a rematch of the most thrilling finish from Zurich last week. Jenny Simpson held off Shannon Rowbury in the 1500m by .01 on Aug. 28. They’re back at double the distance.

So are the Diamond League women’s distance standings leader Mercy Cherono (Kenya), the 3000m indoor world record holder Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) and the fastest woman over 1500m this year, the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan.

Lolo Jones is second track Olympian to go on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
AP
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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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