Allyson Felix wins 400m, fastest women upset at U.S. Championships

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Allyson Felix won the national 400m title, while World champion LaShawn Merritt was upset at the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.

Felix, the Olympic 200m champion and 2011 World 400m silver medalist, surged in the last 100 meters to run down Natasha Hastings in the women’s 400m final, prevailing in 50.19 seconds (race video here).

“I just wanted to let them not get too far away from me, and I knew I could be strong coming home,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “I’m a sprinter. I finally got to sprint a little bit. I made it hard on myself.”

Athletes are competing at Hayward Field looking to finish in the top three of their events to make the team for the World Championships in Beijing from Aug. 22-30.

U.S. qualifiers for World Track and Field Championships | Full U.S. Championships results

Felix has said she will run either the 200m or the 400m at Worlds but not both, since the 200m semifinals and 400m final at Worlds are 70 minutes apart.

“I feel like I still haven’t reached my potential there [in the 400m],” Felix said, according to Reuters. “I feel like I could challenge myself there.

“But I still love the 200.”

Felix’s decision will be key for the fastest 400m woman in the world the last two years — Francena McCorory. McCorory finished fourth in the U.S. final and will only be able to race the individual 400m at Worlds if Felix opts out of it. Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross failed to qualify for the U.S. 400m final.

Merritt, the 2008 Olympic champion, was edged for the men’s 400m title by David Verburg, 44.63 to 44.66 (race video here). Vernon Norwood and 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer Bryshon Nellum also made the Worlds team, as Merritt had a bye into Worlds as defending champion.

In the 100m hurdles, 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson prevailed in 12.55, ahead of Kendra Harrison and Sharika Nelvis (race video here). That trio is joined on the U.S. team for Worlds by defending World champion Brianna Rollins.

Summer and Winter Olympian Lolo Jones and Jasmin Stowers, who this year became the second U.S. woman ever to run 12.40 or better three times in a career, failed to make the Worlds team.

Olympic and World champion Brittney Reese took second in the long jump to 2005 World champion Tianna Bartoletta. They’re joined on the Worlds team by Olympic bronze medalist Janay DeLoach and Jasmine Todd, who also qualified in the 100m Friday.

Two-time World medalist Matthew Centrowitz won the 1500m in 3:37.25 (race video here), ahead of Robby Andrews and Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano. Manzano edged Ben Blankenship by .02 for third, but Andrews and Manzano must run the qualifying standard 3:36.20 by Aug. 9 to make the Worlds team, or else Blankenship, who already has the standard, will go to Beijing.

“Winning wasn’t good enough,” Centrowitz told media in Eugene. “I wanted to really dominate. … Going into that home stretch, I wanted the race to be won already. … I think I did that.”

Bershawn Jackson, the 2005 World champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, won the 400m hurdles in 48.29 (race video here). He’s joined on the U.S. team for Worlds by Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley, 2014 U.S. champion Johnny Dutch and 2007 and 2009 World champion Kerron Clement.

U.S. men make up the five fastest 400m hurdlers in the world this year, led by Jackson.

American record holder Emma Coburn won her fourth 3000m steeplechase national title in 9:15.59, the second fastest time in the world this year (race video here). A U.S. woman has never won an Olympic or Worlds steeplechase medal.

“There’s only three, four, five really competitive women [in the world], so I hope to be one of them,” Coburn told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Sam Kendricks won the pole vault, with 2007 World champion Brad Walker second and also making the World Championships team. Kendricks is ranked tied for fifth in the world this year.

The U.S. Championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by the men’s and women’s 200m finals featuring Justin Gatlin (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra from 4-6 p.m. ET)

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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