Justin Gatlin runs world’s fastest 100m since August 2012

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Justin Gatlin ran the fastest 100m in the world since August 2012 in the season-opening Diamond League meet in Doha on Friday.

And he thinks he can go faster.

Gatlin clocked 9.74 seconds with a .9 m/s tailwind (anything under 2.0 is legal), continuing his hot form from an undefeated 2014 (full meet results here). The 2004 Olympic champion knocked .03 off his personal best, at 33 years old and five years removed from a four-year doping ban.

“My coach said come out and make a statement this season,” Gatlin said on beIN Sport. “I don’t know what everybody’s thinking, but I definitely can go faster. Towards the end of the race, my legs felt a little twingey. … My hamstring has been a little twingey for, like, the last half a week. I’ve had them worked on by my therapist.”

The time dwarfs Usain Bolt‘s only 100m of 2015, a 10.12 into a headwind last month. Gatlin and Bolt haven’t gone head to head since 2013 and might not do so again until the World Championships in Beijing in August.

“That was for him [Bolt],” Gatlin said of his 9.74, according to The Associated Press.

In other events Friday, Allyson Felix won a 200m in 21.98, the fastest time in the world since Felix’s 21.88 to capture Olympic gold in 2012, and the fastest she’s ever run this early in a year. Felix tore a hamstring in the 2013 World Championships final and came back to run 22.02 on Sept. 5, previously the fastest time since the London Olympics. Felix, 29, has said she’s focusing on the 200m and the 400m this season leading up to the World Championships in Beijing in August.

“The schedule doesn’t really allow to do two [both the 200m and 400m at Worlds],” Felix said in an IAAF interview after her race. “I’ll make a decision. I have to see what happens at Nationals first [in June].”

At Worlds, the women’s 200m semifinals and 400m final are separated by 70 minutes.

Felix’s top recent challengers in the 200m, including Jamaican Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, were not in the Doha field.

Olympic and World 5000m and 10,000m champion Mo Farah was beaten in a 3000m race by Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet by .14.

American Jasmin Stowers won the 100m hurdles in 12.35, making her the third-fastest American of all time behind 2013 World champion Brianna Rollins (12.26) and retired three-time World champion Gail Devers (12.33).

Stowers has run 12.40 or faster three times since April 25 after coming into the year with a personal best of 12.71. She defeated the last two Olympic champions in Doha — Sally Pearson (fourth, 12.69) and Dawn Harper-Nelson (eighth, 13.24).

In the 400m, Francena McCorory defeated countrywoman and Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross, 50.21 to 50.79. The two fastest women in the world last year, Richards-Ross had handed McCorory a similar sounding defeat in Kingston, Jamaica, on Saturday, with a faster 49.95.

Richards-Ross said she had the flu and didn’t sleep the night before, according to the meet website.

Bershawn Jackson won the 400m hurdles in 48.09 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. Jackson, 32, took bronze at the 2008 Olympics, then missed the 2012 Olympic team and fell in the 2013 World Championships semifinals. He was the third-fastest American in the event in 2014.

Jackson defeated the fastest man in the world from last year, Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, by .87. The fastest American each of the last three years, Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley, was not in the Doha field.

In the triple jump, Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo and U.S. Olympic champion Christian Taylor became the fourth and fifth men to break the 18-meter barrier all time. Pichardo prevailed with an 18.06m jump to Taylor’s 18.04m.

France’s World triple jump champion Teddy Tamgho tweeted that he ruptured an Achilles’ tendon, which likely ends his chances of defending his title in Beijing.

Olympic and World champion Brittney Reese finished fifth in the long jump, won by countrywoman Tianna Bartoletta.

German two-time reigning World champion David Storl took the shot put over, in order, Americans Reese Hoffa, Ryan Whiting and Joe Kovacs.

The Diamond League continues with the second of 14 meets this season in Shanghai on Sunday.

Video: Ashton Eaton’s signature now on his high school track

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there were two days between the women’s 400m and women’s 200m at the World Championships.

Lin Dan, badminton legend, retires: ‘It is very difficult to say goodbye’

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Lin Dan, arguably the greatest badminton player in history, announced retirement Saturday, citing “pain and injuries” in bowing out a year before the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

“I have been with the national team from 2000 to 2020, and it is very difficult to say goodbye,” 36-year-old Lin wrote to his four million Weibo fans, according to Badminton World Federation (BWF) translation. “Pain and injuries no longer allow me to fight with my teammates. I have gratitude, a heavy heart and unwillingness.”

Lin, nicknamed “Super Dan,” won Olympic singles titles in 2008 and 2012, plus five individual world titles. It’s the greatest resume for any badminton player from China, which owns twice as many medals as any other nation in the sport that debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

He competed at the last four Olympics, won the sport’s Super Grand Slam (nine major titles) and had his own wax figure at Madame Tussauds in Shanghai.

Lin’s outbursts on and off the court led to some calling him the John McEnroe of badminton, but he is revered. In 2015, he was the second athlete on Forbes China‘s most popular celebrities list behind tennis player Li Na.

Lin’s pursuit of a fifth Olympics in Tokyo was looking out of reach. He dropped to No. 26 in the Olympic qualifying rankings, trailing four countrymen, including No. 5 Chen Long (Rio Olympic champion) and No. 11 Shi Yuqi (2018 World silver medalist). A nation can qualify a maximum of two individual players per gender for the Games.

“From where came his mastery? In short, his prowess was essentially due to the completeness of his game – in skill, physical ability and mental strength,” the BWF wrote in a press release. “Such was his craft that even well into his 30s, normally considered an advanced age for men’s singles, he could outplay younger and fitter opponents.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

MORE: Who is China’s greatest Olympian?

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MyKayla Skinner’s motivation for Tokyo: her Rio Olympic experience

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MyKayla Skinner remembers the little room at the SAP Center in San Jose. She remembers the wait, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.

After the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials, the competitors (14 total performed) assembled while a selection committee convened in another space.

The committee finalized the five-woman Olympic team (plus three alternates), marched into the athletes’ room and delivered the verdict.

“They say the first four names, and then there’s that one spot left,” Skinner recalled. “I’m like, is it going to be me? You’re so tense just waiting there. All of us holding each other’s hands in the room. We’re all sitting there. It’s just, like, frozen dead silent. Then they say that fifth spot.”

Skinner doesn’t remember who was the fifth name. Just that it wasn’t her.

“I just broke down crying,” she said in a recent interview. “All that hard work I put in still wasn’t good enough. Even though it was. It’s just who they needed for the team.”

Skinner placed fourth in the all-around at those Olympic Trials, the highest finisher who was not named to the Olympic team. She was one of three alternates. If the Olympic team was chosen by all-around standings, a selection committee would not be necessary. Instead, gymnasts are puzzle pieces, chosen as who best fits the Olympic format: three gymnasts per apparatus in the team final and up to two per nation per individual final.

Skinner’s mind raced while she waited for the committee’s decision. She eventually settled on a gut feeling, that she would not make the team.

“I thought that it should be enough, but at the same I didn’t think that it would be,” said Lisa Spini, Skinner’s coach at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, Arizona. “I thought the team was already decided before the Olympic Trials.”

Spini said it was her toughest night as a gymnastics coach.

“Being an alternate is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in gymnastics,” said Skinner, who traveled to Brazil and, with fellow alternates Ashton Locklear and Ragan Smith, trained separately from the Olympic team. “The whole time I was in Rio, I probably cried every single night

“The Olympics should be something so special, but I feel like it was definitely miserable at times. It was really hard to enjoy being an alternate. With this comeback, that has pushed me so hard just because I was so close.”

You may have read about Skinner back in the spring, after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.

It’s a devastating delay for a female gymnast, whose peak often lasts for one Olympic cycle (sometimes even shorter). Skinner is an exception, excelling for the better part of a decade on different levels.

She made her first world championships team in 2014. After Rio, she matriculated at the University of Utah, where she was twice an NCAA all-around runner-up and hit an NCAA record 161 straight routines without a fall. In 2019, she decided to come back to international competition — for an Olympic run — with one year left of NCAA gymnastics.

She is 23, the oldest of the 16-woman U.S. national team. She is trying to become the oldest woman to make a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team since 2004. And the first with NCAA experience to do so since Alicia Sacramone in 2008.

“The reason why a lot of college gymnasts couldn’t come back and do it is they’ve been so injured over the years,” Spini said. “Their body wouldn’t hold up. She’s been really lucky that way.”

Skinner could have easily followed the path of so many other stars who signaled the end of an elite career by going to college, where training and routines are less demanding.

She questioned herself often after the Tokyo postponement whether it was worth it to return to elite training. The Olympic team event roster size has been cut from five to four. Simone Biles is an overwhelming favorite to earn one spot. In the face of those odds, Skinner can’t shake a memory from Rio.

“I just go back to the moment of when I was sitting in the stands,” watching the Final Five earn gold, Skinner said. “I was so close to making the team. This has been my dream ever since I went to Desert Lights when I was 12.”

Skinner’s comeback is already a success. Last year, on three months of elite training, she placed eighth at the U.S. Championships. She was convinced to accept an invitation to the world championships selection camp, where six women would make the traveling team (one later named an alternate).

Like in 2016, Skinner placed fourth in the all-around competition before the roster was chosen.

Again, the gymnasts gathered for the announcement. This time, Skinner made the cut as the sixth woman named. Biles, the other 20-something at the camp and a friend, jumped in excitement.

The team traveled to Germany in late September. After training, one woman had to be designated the alternate. High performance team coordinator Tom Forster took Skinner aside one day on the way to lunch. She knew what was coming and broke down in tears, flashing back to 2016.

“Simone was like, hey, let’s go to the bathroom. She helped talk me through it and helped me calm down and definitely made me a feel a lot better,” said Skinner, who supported Biles and the U.S. team that competed in Stuttgart. She then wed Jonas Harmer in November and decided what must be done to make the Olympic team.

“We’re going to try to add in some big skills, which will put her difficulty level, probably, second only to Simone,” Spini said.

Skinner is documenting her last year-plus in elite gymnastics on a YouTube channel with 29,000 subscribers. She has been fortunate during the coronavirus pandemic to train at her gym if no more than 10 people were present. Many other gymnasts — and athletes across Olympic sports — spent weeks or months out of their facilities.

“I definitely don’t think I would have been able to have that much time off,” she said. “That’s really hard with gymnastics because you feel like, you take two days off, and it’s like you had a year off.”

One day this spring, Skinner’s mom called, in tears, fearing for her life with an illness that turned out to be the coronavirus. Both of her parents, in their 60s, had it and briefly lost their senses of taste. Her mom had breathing problems, but they recovered.

One night last month, Skinner had a dream about next year’s Olympic Trials. The Final Five all came back to compete, and Skinner was again named an alternate. She woke up. Skinner doesn’t know how she would handle that kind of disappointment in real life, again.

“So it’s kind of scary,” she said. Then Skinner thinks back to Rio, and that burning she felt while watching the Final Five win gold medals.

“This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I’m meant to do is elite gymnastics,” said Skinner, who was born via life-threatening, early-labor C-section, needing to be revived by doctors. “I think it’s cool that I can have this opportunity to go and push myself one last time so I can reach that end goal.”

MORE: Gymnast Grace McCallum won a coin flip to become world champion

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