Justin Gatlin wins 200m at U.S. Championships in another personal best

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Justin Gatlin won the 200 meters in a personal-best 19.57 seconds at the U.S. Track and Field Championships on Sunday, cementing his favorite status over Usain Bolt in the 100m and 200m for August’s World Championships.

“When I was in the warm-up area, I was like, you know, let’s go out here and make a statement,” Gatlin said on USATF.TV, adding in a separate interview, “A lot of people were asking what could I run if I ran through the finish line.”

Gatlin, 33 and five years removed from a four-year doping ban, became the fifth fastest all time in the event with his victory. Those faster are Bolt (19.19), Yohan Blake (19.26), Michael Johnson (19.32) and Walter Dix (19.53).

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion, was the world’s fastest man in the 100m and the 200m in 2014 and is again this year. Bolt’s fastest 200m time in his three races since the 2013 World Championships is 20.13 from May 26.

Gatlin’s win Sunday came over training partner Isiah Young, who clocked 19.93, and two-time Olympian Wallace Spearmon, who ran 20.10 (race video here). They’re all going to the World Championships in Beijing from Aug. 22-30.

Full U.S. Championships results | U.S. qualifiers for World Championships

The University of Oregon’s Jenna Prandini captured the women’s 200m in 22.20, followed by Candyce McGrone and Jeneba Tarmoh (race video here). They’ll join Olympic champion Allyson Felix on the Worlds team in that event.

The most story-filled final of the day in Eugene, Ore., was the women’s 800m. Alysia Montano won her sixth U.S. outdoor title in 1:59.15 (race video here), one year after she finished last in her first-round heat at the U.S. Championships in 2:32.13 — while seven months pregnant.

“We didn’t even have Nationals on the radar,” an astonished Montano told Lewis Johnson on NBC, while holding 10-month-old daughter Linnea, adding later on USATF.TV, “We really wanted to take the postpartum journey slow.”

Montano said she ran/walked five miles (in 80 minutes) on her due date last year and is 30 pounds lighter at this year’s U.S. Championships than at the 2014 meet.

“I really wanted for my daughter to see her mom put her best foot forward,” Montano told media in Eugene. “Yeah, she’s not going to remember [Sunday’s race], but there will be plenty of video for her to be like, oh, I was there.”

World bronze medalist Brenda Martinez finished second to Montano. Ajee’ Wilson, the world’s fastest 800m runner in 2014 and second fastest this year, grabbed the third and final Worlds spot by .04 over Molly Ludlow while running with one shoe on. Wilson lost her right shoe near the start of the final curve with 200 meters to go, saying she got clipped.

“I didn’t really have time to think,” Wilson told media in Eugene. “It kind of was halfway on, so I wiggled it off.”

Nick Symmonds, who has rarely raced since he won 2013 Worlds silver, took the men’s 800m in 1:44.53, coming back from being way off the pace on the final lap (race video here).

“This time last year I was on my couch, watching this meet and seriously considering retirement,” Symmonds, 31 and a two-time Olympian, said on USATF.TV. “I know that I have at least one more year left in me.”

Duane Solomon, the 2012 Olympic fourth-place finisher who predicted before the race he’d go out so fast — “the Twilight Zone” — that he’d probably be on world-record pace through 600 meters, led coming around the final curve but faded to a walk and finished eighth in 3:08.74.

“The last 100, I just could not control my body at all,” Solomon told media in Eugene. “I was almost blacking out. … I had nothing left. I could barely even walk to the [finish] line.”

World champion David Oliver, who already had a bye into Worlds, won the 110m hurdles in 13.04 seconds (race video here), his fastest time since he won the 2013 World title in 13.00. He’ll be joined on the Worlds team by Ronnie Ash, Olympic champion Aries Merritt and Aleec Harris.

The 2011 World champion Jenny Simpson, who also already had a bye into Worlds, ran the 1500m final anyway and easily prevailed in 4:14.86 (race video here). Shannon Rowbury, also a Worlds medal contender, finished second. Mary Cain, who in 2013 became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to make a World Championships team at age 17, was eighth, missing the Worlds team.

Olympic champion Jenn Suhr won the pole vault by clearing 4.82 meters, the best mark in the world this year.

Two-time reigning NCAA champion Shamier Little of Texas A&M, a 20-year-old who runs in glasses, won the women’s 400m hurdles in 53.83. Little ran the fastest time in the world this year — 53.74 — at the NCAA Championships on June 13.

Little will be joined on the U.S. 400m hurdles team at Worlds by second- and third-place finishers Cassandra Tate and Kori Carter but not reigning World silver and bronze medalists Dalilah Muhammad and Lashinda Demus. Demus was fourth, .03 behind Carter, and Muhammad was seventh.

Joe Kovacs, the world’s best shot putter in 2014 and 2015, reached 21.84m on Sunday for his second straight U.S. title. He’ll be joined on the Worlds team by 2014 Diamond League champion Reese Hoffa, 2009 World champion Christian Cantwell and Jordan Clarke.

Evan Jager won the 3000m steeplechase in 8:12.29. Jager is the only non-Kenyan to run a top-10 time in the world this year and is the world’s fastest in the 1500m for 2015. The U.S. has never won a Worlds steeplechase medal.

Omar Craddock, Olympic silver medalist Will Claye and Marquis Dendy, all of whom competed for the University of Florida, went one-two-three in the triple jump. They’ll join Olympic champion Christian Taylor, who also competed for Florida, at Worlds in that event.

Three-time Olympian Chaunte Lowe won the women’s high jump, and five-time Olympian Amy Acuff finished third, but nobody in the field has reached the Worlds qualifying standard. They have until Aug. 9 to chase it.

Barbara Nwaba topped two-time Olympian Sharon Day-Monroe in the heptathlon with 6,500 points to 6,458. Erica Bougard was third to round out the Worlds team.

Kara Goucher: ‘People have been threatened’ at U.S. Championships

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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