Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin not among IAAF Athlete of the Year award finalists

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Justin Gatlin was not voted a finalist for the World Athlete of the Year, following criticism over his original nomination two weeks ago due to his doping past.

Gatlin was scrutinized for his inclusion on a 10-man candidate list announced Oct. 3 since he was banned four years for taking performance-enhancing drugs in 2006.

The men’s award finalists announced Friday were Qatar high jumper Mutaz Barshim, Kenyan marathon runner Dennis Kimetto and French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.

The finalists were determined by an email poll of track and field officials that closed Thursday. The winners will be announced Nov. 21 after an IAAF council decision.

This season, Gatlin went undefeated over 100m and 200m and was the world’s fastest man in both distances. He never raced against Usain Bolt in 2014.

Barshim this season moved up from being tied as the fifth highest high jumper in history to alone at No. 2 behind world-record holder Javier Sotomayor. He took several attempts at breaking Sotomayor’s world record.

Kimetto broke the world record in the marathon in Berlin on Sept. 28.

In February, Lavillenie broke Sergey Bubka‘s nearly 21-year-old world record in the pole vault.

Two weeks ago, German Olympic discus champion Robert Harting asked for his name to be taken off the 10-man candidate list due to the inclusion of an athlete previously banned for doping (it wasn’t, but he wasn’t a favorite to be a finalist anyway).

IAAF vice president Seb Coe said he had “big problems” with Gatlin’s name being on the 10-man list.

The women’s finalists are New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams, Ethiopian middle distance runner Genzebe Dibaba and Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers.

None of the six men’s and women’s finalists has won an IAAF Athlete of the Year award before.

The 2013 finalists were Bolt (winner), British distance runner Mo Farah and Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (winner), Czech Republic 400m hurdler Zuzana Hejnova and Adams.

Bolt, who won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, was not on the 10-man candidates list after he ran a total of 400m in an injury-shortened season.

This is Adams’ fourth straight year as a finalist.

Simone Biles still buzzing after World Championships whirlwind

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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