Justin Gatlin, Allyson Felix sizzle at Prefontaine Classic

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U.S. Olympic champions Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix put down statement times in winning sprints at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday, perhaps the top international meet before the World Championships in August.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champ five years removed from a four-year doping ban, clocked 19.68 seconds to win the 200m (video here). It matched his personal best set in 2014 and the fastest time in the world since the 2013 World Championships.

Full Prefontaine Classic meet results are available here.

“When I saw the time, I know I’m on course to go onto the World Championships [in Beijing in August],” Gatlin, 33, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “It’s going to be a real rumble in the jungle,” he added when asked about 2015, 2016 and possible matchups with Usain Bolt.

Bolt, the world-record holder at 19.19 who was not in the Prefontaine Classic field, hasn’t run 19.68 or better since he won the 2013 World Championship in 19.66. At the 2013 Worlds, Gatlin took silver behind Bolt in the 100m but did not race the 200m.

“[Bolt] is the kind of guy who’s going to rise to the occasion when it’s time to go,” Gatlin said of Bolt on USATF.TV after the meet. “I’m looking for a time, every time he runs this year, the time’s going to steadily drop and drop and drop. By the time, maybe the [Worlds] semis like he did in 2012 [at the Olympics], he just woke up [9.87] jogging and he came out and ran [9.63] in the finals. That’s what I’m looking to see out of Usain Bolt coming in this year at the World Championships.”

Gatlin is questioned for running his fastest times at an advanced age of 33, after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2006.

“I think it’s more a gift than a curse,” Gatlin said of not competing from 2006 to 2010 to NBC Olympics analyst Ato Boldon on USATF.TV. “I think it gave my legs a little shelf life. I never had any major injuries, maybe a hamstring strain here or a quad strain there. I just really wanted to show everybody that I could come back. But it wasn’t [just] me. I want to say that guys like yourself, Ato Boldon, Frankie Fredericks, Carl LewisLeroy Burrell, Linford Christie, those guys ran well into their 30s [editor’s note: Boldon and Burrell did not break 10 seconds in the 100m in their 30s]. I’m just taking that page out of their book. You know what, your career’s not over when you hit 30. I think a lot of guys this day and age think that.”

Earlier, Felix, the Olympic 200m champion, won the 400m over Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross (video here). Felix clocked 50.05, her fastest 400m time since she took silver at the 2011 World Championships in 49.59, which marked the last time she ran the 400m at a global championship.

“I just want to explore it more,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN of the 400m.

Felix has said she will run either the 200m or the 400m at the World Championships in Beijing in August, but not both. Notably, the 200m semifinals and 400m final at Worlds are 70 minutes apart.

Felix, who owns six Olympic medals and 10 Worlds medals, has an automatic berth on the World Championships team in the 200m but must finish in the top three in the 400m at the U.S. Championships in June to qualify in both races.

Tyson Gay won the 100m in 9.88 seconds, his fastest time since 2011 if excluding the times wiped out from his doping ban (race video here). Gatlin is the only other American to break 9.90 since the London 2012 Olympics.

Olympic and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took the women’s 100m in 10.81, her fastest time since Sept. 6, 2013. Fraser-Pryce had not broken 11 seconds since 2013 before Saturday. Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure was second in an identical time, followed by American Tori Bowie, the fastest woman of 2014, in 10.82 (race video here).

Earlier, 2013 U.S. champion English Gardner outleaned Jamaican Elaine Thompson in a 100m B final. Both clocked a personal-best 10.84. Gardner, like Fraser-Pryce, had not broken 11 seconds since 2013.

“I’ve been struggling the past couple of two years, I switched coaches, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to bounce back,” Gardner tearfully told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I’m overwhelmed because I started losing a little bit of faith in myself.”

Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada defeated U.S. rival and World champion LaShawn Merritt in the 400m, 43.95 to 44.51. James clocked the fastest time in the world this year.

American Jenny Simpson took the 1500m in 4:00.98. Simpson, the 2014 Diamond League champion, won gold at the 2011 World Championships and silver at the 2013 World Championships.

“This is where legends win, and where they’re born,” Simpson told Lewis Johnson on NBC on the 40-year anniversary of 1972 Olympic 5000m runner Steve Prefontaine‘s death. “I’m trying to write my name in the history books.”

Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman captured the Bowerman Mile finale in 3:51.10, edging American Matthew Centrowitz by one tenth.

French Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault but missed three attempts at matching his world record of 6.16m.

In the 110m hurdles, France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde clocked 13.06, the fastest time in the world this year, beating Americans Olympic champion Aries Merritt (13.12) and World champion David Oliver (13.14).

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim cleared 2.41m to win the high jump but took no attempts closer to the 22-year-old world record of 2.45m due to leg cramps.

U.S. champion Johnny Dutch edged 2005 World champion Bershawn Jackson in the 400m hurdles, 48.20 to 48.22. Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley was third in 48.79, completing a U.S. sweep. Jackson remains the fastest in the world this year at 48.09.

Two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi won the 3000m steeplechase, crossing the finish line in lane 3 and dancing in celebration, not unusual for the Kenyan. Kemboi won in 8:01.71, the fastest time ever in the U.S.

The Diamond League continues with a meet in Rome on Thursday. The U.S. Championships, also in Eugene, are June 26-28. The World Championships are Aug. 22-28 in Beijing.

Ashton Eaton withdraws before first decathlon since 2013

*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.

Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

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