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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Michael Johnson took Olympic mindset in stroke recovery

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Michael Johnson‘s first walk, reportedly three days after suffering a stroke in the summer, was 200 meters down a hospital corridor.

“It took about 15 minutes,” Johnson said in a BBC video, detailing his full recovery in recent interviews.

Johnson, who at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics swept the 200m (in a world-record 19.32 seconds) and the 400m, suffered what he called “a mini stroke” after a home workout in late August.

Johnson felt not pain but tingling leaving his home gym and underwent a 20-minute MRI. The 50-year-old, who worked out regularly and was in otherwise great physical shape, almost fell rising out of the machine.

“Couldn’t put any weight on left side, no longer could really move my left leg,” Johnson said in the BBC interview. “The numbness of my left arm, which was sort of mild at the beginning and up to that point, was really intense at that point. I couldn’t feel a lot of my arm. You immediately start to think about, what’s my life going to be like going forward?”

There was no immediate answer.

“You start to think about loved ones — is my wife going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life?” Johnson said, according to the Telegraph. “Am I going to be able to walk again? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to be able to stand in the shower or go to the restroom alone? You’re forced to think about what your life might be like if that worse-case scenario is reality.”

He began physical therapy early the next week. After that first walk, the distance equivalent of a half-lap of the track that he owned in the 1990s, he told his wife, “I will make a full recovery, and I will make a full recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before,” according to the Telegraph.

Within two weeks, Johnson was backing that up. He tweeted a photo of himself on Sept. 13, his 51st birthday, grimacing while lifting a square-shaped weight with each hand. “Almost back to normal. No days off! Even today. My birthday!” the caption read.

On Sept. 27, Johnson tweeted that it had been grueling, but he relearned to walk and made a full recovery.

“Once I knew that I will make a full recovery, and once I started to believe that, it’s very similar to the type of situation that I experienced as an athlete training for the Olympic Games, then all of a sudden suffering a pulled hamstring,” said Johnson, who fell to the track in the 2000 Olympic Trials 200m final with an upper left leg injury, then won the 400m at his last Games in Sydney. “The reward, in this particular situation, was going to be even greater, was going to be able to walk again, regaining my mobility, regaining my independence.”

MORE: Michael Johnson: My advice to Usain Bolt on retirement

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Tatjana Hüfner, 2010 Olympic luge champion, to retire after this season

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Tatjana Hüfner, a 2010 Olympic luge champion and five-time world champion in singles, said she will retire after this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

Hüfner, 35, cited recent health problems, including back and leg injuries leading into her last Olympics in PyeongChang, where she finished fourth, missing a fourth straight medal by .69 of a second (Hüfner dropped from second place going into the last run). Plus breaking a rib in a training crash this preseason, plus suffering food poisoning, according to the report.

Hüfner, who reportedly said before February’s Olympics that they would be her final Games, has been arguably the most integral luger in Germany’s recent dominance in female sliding.

Her Olympic career began as a spectator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, watching Sylke Otto lead a German medal sweep. Later, Hüfner would break Otto’s record with five world singles titles, plus join Otto on the podium at Torino 2006, earning bronze. Hüfner took gold in Vancouver, then silver behind the new leading woman, Natalie Geisenberger, in Sochi.

Huefner spent offseasons scaling European peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the Matterhorn, and the Sella in northern Italy.

This season’s world championships are in Winterberg, Germany, in January.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic luge medalist adds event