Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin dominates 100m in Rome; Sally Pearson injured

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Justin Gatlin continued his blazing start to the season, winning a 100m in Rome in 9.75 seconds on Thursday.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion five years removed from a four-year doping ban, beat the second-place finisher, France’s Jimmy Vicaut, by .23.

Usain Bolt, who hasn’t run faster than 9.98 since 2013 and missed much of last season due to injury, was not in the Rome field.

Gatlin, who ran a personal best 9.74 at age 33 in Doha on May 15, is the only man to break 9.80 since Bolt won the 2013 World title in 9.77. Gatlin has done so three times in that span.

“I feel confident running times around 9.70s,” Gatlin said, according to the IAAF. “I do not think of beating Usain Bolt now because the [World] Championships is not tomorrow. … 9.6 should be possible in the summer.”

In other events Thursday, an anticipated 100m hurdles race fell apart. Australian Olympic champion Sally Pearson crashed to the track coming off the fifth hurdle and suffered a dislocated wrist plus two fractures, according to Australia’s track and field federation.

U.S. World champion Brianna Rollins hit the seventh and eighth hurdles, falling after the latter.

American Jasmin Stowers, the fastest in the world this year, lost control and ran into the ninth hurdle.

American Sharika Nelvis emerged to win in a personal-best 12.52, defeating 2008 U.S. Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson by .07.

“I ran my own race and did not see any of those three falls,” Nelvis said, according to the IAAF.

In the 200m, U.S. champion Jeneba Tarmoh won in 22.77, against a field that did not include Olympic champion Allyson Felix or Jamaican World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Fraser-Pryce pulled out after warm-ups due to a reported hamstring injury. Felix owns the fastest time in the world this year — 21.98 from May 15.

U.S. champion Francena McCorory prevailed in the 400m in 50.36. The race did not include Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross or Felix, who are the two fastest women this year.

American Jenny Simpson, the 2014 Diamond League champion, edged the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan by .37 in the 1500m with a final straightaway pass in a battle between two favorites going into the World Championships in Beijing in August.

U.S. champion Johnny Dutch took the 400m hurdles in 48.13, which was .04 off the fastest time in the world this year by countryman Bershawn Jackson on May 15. Jackson was not in Rome. The 10 fastest times in the world this year are shared among four Americans, including Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley.

The Diamond League moves to Birmingham, Great Britain, for a meet Sunday.

Flashback: Usain Bolt at the Athens 2004 Olympics (video)

Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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