Usain Bolt: ‘I pretty much gave up’ in slowest 200m final since 2006

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NEW YORK — Usain Bolt couldn’t explain what went wrong after winning a 200m race in a slow 20.29 seconds at the Adidas Grand Prix on Saturday, increasing doubt about his form a little more than two months before a possible showdown with Justin Gatlin at the World Championships. 

It marked Bolt’s slowest 200m time, not including prelim races, since 2006.

“I’m not overly happy with it,” Bolt told Lewis Johnson shortly after his first race in the U.S. in five years, at the site of his first world record seven years ago. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on.”

Bolt said how he ran the curve portion of the 200m was the worst of his career, which has included six Olympic gold medals and world records in the 100m and 200m.

Bolt’s time Saturday was far short of Justin Gatlin‘s world-leading 19.68 seconds from May. Bolt won by .03 over Zharnel Hughes among a field that did not include Gatlin and into a 2.8 meters/second headwind. Watch the race video here.

“I got out of the blocks, and I just didn’t go anywhere,” Bolt said. “After the turn, I pretty much gave up.”

Bolt’s race Saturday was his third 200m since 2013 after he missed much of 2014 following foot surgery that March. Bolt previously ran 20.13 and 20.20 this year. His world record is 19.19 from 2009.

“This season is not going so smoothly,” Bolt said. “I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. I need to get on top of things, try to work my way back. … At this pace, my legacy is going to be in trouble.”

Bolt will race the 100m and possibly the 200m at the Jamaican Championships in two weeks, his coach said after the race. Bolt’s spot on the Worlds team is not dependent on his results at the Jamaican Championships.

“He didn’t approach the turn with his usual aggression that he’s capable of,” longtime coach Glen Mills said several feet away from Bolt as the sprinter received a post-race massage. “His training is coming along gradually. … He’s going to be running a lot more races in order to get him into competitive peak shape. He hasn’t been doing much in terms of competitive running. Over the next two months, you’ll see him doing quite a lot more races with a more aggressive approach in order to get the kind of competitive level we would like.”

Mills said Bolt is in better condition now than he was at this point in 2013, when he was coming off a slight hamstring strain and went on to sweep the 100m and 200m at Worlds.

Americans are preparing for the U.S. Championships in Eugene, Ore., in two weeks, where they will be looking to finish in the top three of their events to make the World Championships team. Reigning World champions and Diamond League season champions have byes into Worlds.

Also Saturday, Tyson Gay won the 100m in 10.12 seconds into a 1.7 m/s headwind (video). Gay ran 9.88 on May 30 and is the second fastest American this year behind Gatlin, who has a bye into Worlds. (Full Adidas Grand Prix results here)

Tori Bowie prevailed in the 200m in 22.23 into a 2.8m/s headwind (video), the fastest time ever into that much of a wind, according to the IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen. Only Olympic champion Allyson Felix, who has a bye into Worlds, has been faster among Americans this year. Bowie, primarily a long jumper until spring 2014, was the fastest woman in the world in the 100m last year.

Olympic champion Jenn Suhr finished third in the pole vault, failing to clear 4.64m. Brazil’s Fabiana Murer cleared 4.80m for the win, just .01 off Suhr’s world-leading clearance for 2015.

Former New York Giants running back David Wilson triple jumped 14.66m in his first meet in four years. He fell well shy of the 16.30m needed to automatically qualify for the U.S. Championships.

Cuban Pablo Pedro Pichardo, the best jumper this year, won with 17.57m over Olympic silver medalist Will Claye.

Kenyan Olympic champion David Rudisha, beset by injury much of the last two years, won the 800m in 1:43.58 (video), just .02 off the fastest time in the world this year.

U.S. champion English Gardner won the 100m in 11.00 (video), two weeks after she clocked a personal-best 10.84 at the Prefontaine Classic. Gardner is ranked second among Americans this year, behind Tori Bowie, who ran 10.82 at the Prefontaine Classic.

Sharika Nelvis won the 100m hurdles in 12.65 seconds (video). Summer and Winter Olympian Lolo Jones was fourth in 12.95 as she continues to come back from a hamstring injury.

The fastest U.S. women this year are Jasmin Stowers (12.35), Kendra Harrison (12.50) and Nelvis (12.52). World champion Brianna Rollins has a bye into Worlds. The 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson is the fourth fastest American this year.

World champion David Oliver won the 110m hurdles in 13.19 into a headwind, topping 2011 World champion Jason Richardson by .07. The fastest American this year (and second fastest in the world) is Olympic champion Aries Merritt (13.12).

Mary Cain, who in 2013 became the youngest American to make a World Championships team at age 17, finished fourth in a 1000m (video). It was her first race since announcing she moved from her training base in Oregon back to her native New York.

“It was just a decision, honestly, because of my long school year,” said Cain, who finished her freshman year at the University of Portland while running professionally. Cain said Alberto Salazar is still her coach. Salazar is under scrutiny after a BBC and ProPublica report that quoted former team members saying Salazar violated medical and anti-doping rules with some of his athletes.

Ajee’ Wilson took the 800m in 1:58.83 (video). Wilson, 21, was the fastest in the world last year and is No. 2 this year.

The 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner finished seventh in the 400m in 45.89 (video), his fastest time since 2013. He’ll need to be about one second faster at the U.S. Championships to make the World Championships team individually.

Francena McCorory won the 400m in 49.86, the fastest time in the world this year. McCorory’s top rivals, countrywomen Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix, were not in the field Saturday.

Puerto Rican Javier Culson took the 400m hurdles in 48.48, his fastest time this year but .39 slower than the world’s fastest man in 2015, American Bershawn Jackson. Culson was the fastest man in 2014. Jackson pulled out of the Adidas Grand Prix to be with his ill mother.

Flashback Video: Usain Bolt at the Athens 2004 Olympics

Brian Orser reveals Hanyu’s, Medvedeva’s, and Brown’s Grand Prix plans

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Over the past decade, the Toronto club where Brian Orser coached South Korea’s Yuna Kim to the 2010 Olympic title has become such an attraction for top figure skaters from around the globe that it could add a word to a name that already is a mouthful.

You could call it the Toronto International Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

But its reach now is limited by the deadly virus pandemic that has effectively frozen out the elite athletes from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Poland who train at the Cricket Club.

That situation won’t change quickly, even with the International Skating Union having announced Monday its plans to proceed with a live format for the international Grand Prix Series. This fall, it will become a series of six essentially domestic competitions scheduled to begin with Skate America Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas.

If they take place.

“As soon as the skaters can come back, it will be full steam ahead… to where, we don’t know,” Orser said via telephone Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains in Japan. Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is in Russia, four-time national champion Cha Jun-Hwan in South Korea, and two-time national champion Yekaterina Kurakova in Poland.

“We would like for them all to come back, but with the Canadian travel restrictions in place until at least Aug. 21, we can’t guarantee approval to get them in, and they would have a 14-day quarantine here if they do get in,” Tracy Wilson, who coaches with Orser, said via telephone Wednesday. “Right now, they are all training at home, and that’s OK.

“The situation is different for each one. The Japanese federation may need Yuzu to do the Grand Prix in Japan, and at this point he would face quarantine entering Canada and returning to Japan.

“For Yevgenia, as soon as she does the Russian test skates (scheduled for early September), we will re-evaluate her situation.”

Orser said he has been doing three video coaching sessions a week with Medvedeva, with whom he is in his third season as coach. Medvedeva, who left Russia for Canada after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, also is currently getting help from coach Elena Buyanova at the CSKA rink in Moscow.

“She (Medvedeva) looks way ahead of where she was at this point last year,” Orser said.

MORE: Looking back at Yuna Kim’s 10-year gold medal anniversary

Orser also has been having live remote sessions with Cha and Kurakova, and they are also sending videos to him. The only skater he has not seen is Hanyu.

“That’s normal when he is back in Japan,” Orser said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

How long Hanyu stays in Japan may depend on travel restrictions being loosened in both his homeland and Canada.

“I would like to get them all back, and they need to come back,” Orser said. “But facing a double quarantine is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Only two of the Cricket Club’s international skaters, 2014 Olympian Jason Brown of suburban Chicago and Yi Zhu of Los Angeles (who represents China), have come back to Toronto after leaving in late winter.

It took Brown two tries to get back across the border because of issues with the paperwork necessary for Canada to consider it essential he be allowed to enter. Orser and Wilson want to be sure any skaters coming from Asia and Europe are admitted on the first try.

From April to July, until skaters could get back on the ice in their various homelands, Brown led Thursday off-ice fitness classes via Zoom, with Medvedeva, Cha and Kurakova taking part.

“It was such a fun way to stay connected and still ‘train’ together while we were oceans apart,” Brown said in a Wednesday text message.

Orser and Wilson will recommend that all the foreign skaters training at the Cricket Club try to compete at Skate Canada, scheduled the last weekend of October at a 9,500-seat arena in Ottawa. Wilson thought if the event cannot have spectators, it might be moved to a smaller facility, possibly in a different city.

“All plans are in the early stages,” Skate Canada spokesperson Emma Bowie said in an email.

Grand Prix assignments have not yet been made.

Whether Brown picks Skate Canada over Skate America – if he gets a choice – could depend on when (and if) the Canadian government shortens quarantine periods for travelers from the United States.

“I know that we are in such unprecedented and uncertain times, so I love seeing the ISU being creative and trying to find a way to hold skating events this year,” Brown wrote. “While a lot can happen before October, if it’s safe to do so, I’ll be ready and eager to take part in any events that I can.”

The ISU said it wants to have the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, whether it takes place on its original dates (Dec. 10-13) or early in 2021. The competition is to be used as a test event of the skating venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There are no details yet on qualification for the final, which usually is determined by points for placements at the six “regular season” events of the series, held in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan. The top six in each of the sport’s four disciplines make the Final.

In the past, the highest-ranked skaters could compete in up to two Grand Prix events, but ISU Vice-President Alexander Lakernik of Russia said in a Tuesday email that everyone would be limited to one event this year.

Because the Final presumably would have much more of an international field than the six other events, staging it is infinitely more problematic because of travel involved.

“We want what’s best for the sport,” Wilson said. “We have to get these kids out there doing programs, to get them on TV. [Note: An NBC spokesman said the network would, as planned, provide coverage of the Grand Prix, with details forthcoming.] In terms of competition, we’re up for anything.

“For me, though, with all the restrictions, there is no way they will be able to run a fair qualification for the Grand Prix Final. You’ve got to reinvent yourself and make it something else – if you are able to have it at all.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Nathan Chen is surprised, grateful and posing questions about figure skating’s restart

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Steven Nyman, top U.S. downhiller, faces another obstacle

Steven Nyman
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Steven Nyman, the active U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins, tore his right Achilles in a training crash and had surgery earlier this week in Mt. Hood, Ore.

“I am moving forward,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “I’ve been through this before and have full intention to comeback [sic] and compete through the next Olympics.”

Nyman raced in three Olympics and owns three World Cup downhill victories.

He turns 40 during the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, when he will be three and a half years older than any previous U.S. Olympic Alpine skier.

Nyman missed the PyeongChang Olympics after a pair of major injuries: blowing out his left knee in a January 2017 downhill race crash and tearing his right ACL in downhill training in January 2018. He also tore his left Achilles in 2011.

He raced the last two seasons with a best World Cup finish of fifth in Val Gardena, Italy, site of all of his World Cup wins in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

The U.S. men’s program is in the midst of its longest World Cup downhill victory and podium droughts this millennium — none since Travis Ganong‘s win in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2017.

MORE: Alpine skiing World Cup plans earlier season start with fewer fans

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