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

Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
AP
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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