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’

Takeaways from the abbreviated 2019-20 season in ski and snowboard sports

Chris Corning
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Most ski sports don’t hold world championships in even-numbered years, but the coronavirus pandemic brought World Cup campaigns to an early conclusion two years ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

With the seasons over, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team is collecting goggles to provide to health-care workers.

Here’s what we learned in various sports:

ALPINE: Mikaela Shiffrin has company 

The U.S. ski star was on pace to win her fourth straight World Cup season trophy before her father’s sudden passing in early February. She planned to return in March with an outside chance at keeping her title, but the remaining races of the season were canceled. Italy’s Federica Brignone took the trophy, with Shiffrin second.

While Shiffrin held a substantial lead in the World Cup before her hiatus, she wasn’t as unbeatable as she was in the 2018-19 season, when she won a staggering 17 times. That’s an impossible bar to clear, but Shiffrin’s rivals made up enough ground to make future World Cup season titles and the career win record seem less certain than they seemed a year ago.

In Shiffrin’s final slalom race, a discipline in which she has rarely lost in recent years, she placed third behind Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson. Ten days before that, she was second to Vlhova, whose progress impressed Shiffrin. That marked that first time since 2014 that she lost two straight slaloms in the same season. (She was second in the 2016-17 season finale and second again in the 2017-18 season opener, then won 12 of the next 13 slaloms.)

Shiffrin’s ability to get on the podium in any race, no matter the discipline, will make her the World Cup favorite for years to come. But the big prize won’t be as easy as she has made it seem in recent years, and at 66 career victories, she’ll need time to catch Lindsey Vonn‘s women’s record of 82 wins and Ingemar Stenmark‘s overall record of 86.

CROSS-COUNTRY: Diggins, Bjornsen stay in world’s elite 

Jessie Diggins will forever be remembered for winning the 2018 Olympic team sprint with Kikkan Randall as NBC’s Chad Salmela screamed “HERE COMES DIGGINS,” but she also has a strong World Cup resume that she continues to build.

Diggins finished sixth in the season standings for the second straight year, a drop from her second-place finish in 2018 but still comfortably in the top 10. She was joined there by Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, who eighth-place season put her in the top 10 for the second time.

Bjornsen led the three-stage season opener in Ruka, Finland, after taking third in the sprint and finished fourth overall, one place ahead of Diggins, who took third in the pursuit. Diggins added four more podium finishes before the end of the season.

NORDIC COMBINED: Norway takes control 

Jarl Magnus Riiber won his second straight World Cup title at age 22, with fellow Norwegian Joergen Graabak taking a career-high second. Two more Norwegians were in the top six Jens Luraas Oftebro (fourth) and Espen Bjoernstad (sixth). 

In women’s Nordic combined, which is on track to become an Olympic event, U.S. athlete Tara Geraghty-Moats was a close second to Russia’s Stefaniya Nadymova.

READ: Geraghty-Moats has eyes on 2026

SKI JUMPING: U.S. women shut out 

A decade after leading the charge to get women’s ski jumping in the Olympics and eight years after teenager Sarah Hendrickson won the World Cup, the U.S. women went a whole season without an athlete picking up World Cup points. Hendrickson postponed her retirement but competed only on the Continental Cup this season.

U.S. women also won two of the first three ski jumping world championships Lindsey Van in 2009 and Hendrickson in 2013.

In men’s jumping, Austria’s Stefan Kraft edged out Germany’s Karl Geiger to reclaim the World Cup title he last held in 2017. Geiger’s previous career best was 10th in 2019. Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi, last year’s champion, took third.

FREESTYLE SKIING: Blunck keeps flying

U.S. halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck followed up his second straight world championship in 2019 with his first World Cup season title. Blunck won both events in the U.S. — December’s competition at Copper Mountain and February’s event at Mammoth Mountain. 

Colby Stevenson (slopestyle) and Alexander Hall (big air) were second in their events. Hall won twice, landing a switch left double 1800 to win in the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park. Stevenson also won at the X Games in Aspen.

In women’s competition, 18-year-old Marin Hamill was second in slopestyle, and Jaelin Kauf finished in the top three for the third straight year.

French skier Perrine Laffont had a dominant season in women’s moguls, winning all six regular moguls events and two of four dual moguls, to take her second straight World Cup title.

SNOWBOARDING: Corning wins in Atlanta and in World Cup

Atlanta’s SunTrust Park hosted a World Cup big air competition, with Chris Corning and Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi winning. Corning also won in Cardrona, New Zealand, and took his second big air season title to go along with slopestyle titles in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Dusty Henricksen was third in World Cup slopestyle on the strength of a win at Mammoth Mountain, followed by fellow U.S. teen Justus Henkes.

U.S. women’s snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino won the only World Cup slopestyle events each one entered. Anderson also won the X Games slopestyle.

Olympic and world halfpipe champion Chloe Kim sat out the season after breaking an ankle in March 2019 and enrolling at Princeton.

BIATHLON: Never count out Dunklee 

Susan Dunklee hasn’t had great success on the World Cup circuit since taking a world championship silver medal in 2017, when she finished a career-best 10th in the World Cup, but she once again took world championship silver in the sprint at Antholz.

Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe won the men’s World Cup title despite missing two weeks after the birth of his first child, edging Frenchman Martin Fourcade by two points to spoil the seven-time World Cup champion’s final season.

Boe won his second straight World Cup title, as did Italy’s Dorothea Weirer in the women’s competition.

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Simon Ammann ramps up for one more run at Olympic ski jumping

Simon Ammann
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Simon Ammann, the Swiss ski jumper who gained fame for his resemblance to Harry Potter in 2002 and went to win all four Olympic ski jumps on North American soil this century, has walked back talk of retirement and now says he wants to continue through the 2022 Olympics.

Ammann won the normal hill and large hill in Salt Lake City in 2002. European ski jumpers don’t necessarily get attention from U.S. talk shows, but the 20-year-old Ammann had two things that set him apart. First, his wins were tremendous upsets. Second, he looked like Harry Potter.

He wound up appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which makes him a wild-card connection in the Kevin Bacon game the peripatetic actor was the other guest on the show that night, and Ammann happily posed with Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick after the show.

Eight years later, Ammann duplicated the feat in Vancouver. This time, he left behind the Harry Potter glasses behind, though he made an enthusiastic walk through the mixed zone wearing comically oversized sunglasses that made him look like the Buggles’ Trevor Horn in the “Video Killed the Radio Star” video, the first music video on MTV.

In 2010, his victories weren’t quite as unexpected. He won the World Cup season title that year, sandwiched between two second-place finishes.

In 2002, on the other hand, he took off from the Olympic hill at Park City having never won a World Cup event. His two wins in the Olympics were his first two in any international competition in the FIS database.

Ammann has also had success in major competition in Asia. He took gold and silver in the 2007 world championships in Sapporo, Japan, the first two of his four career world championship medals. He also won a World Cup event in Sapporo in 2010.

In recent years, though, Ammann hasn’t been competitive on the World Cup circuit. He has been on the podium only once since 2015. Since taking his last major-event medal in 2011, his best result in the world championships was seventh place in 2013.

But he’s already shown he can, like Harry Potter, conjure a surprising performance.

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