Struggling Usain Bolt set for toughest race in two years

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Usain Bolt said most of his races this year “have been really poor” but insisted confidence for the World Championships next month, saying “I’m not planning to lose” and “it just takes one run to get to 9.7 [seconds shape],” according to reports from his London press conference Thursday.

Bolt spoke one day before he’s scheduled for arguably his toughest race since Sept. 6, 2013, a 100m at a Diamond League meet at the 2012 Olympic Stadium, where three years ago he swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m Olympic titles for a second straight Games. The full schedule and start lists are here.

“When the championship comes, if anybody knows anything about me, I show up,” Bolt said. “I’m not worried about times. … Sometimes I struggle through the season. … But I’m sure when I get to the championships, I’ll always be ready.”

The last two seasons have been a struggle for Bolt, though he hasn’t tasted defeat since June 6, 2013, the longest winning streak (by days, not races) in his career.

He ran 400 meters total in competition in 2014, a season shortened by March foot surgery. He hasn’t raced this season since June 13, citing a leg injury.

And in either year, he hasn’t faced the world’s best sprinters — longtime rivals Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin, the man favored to dethrone Bolt as World 100m and 200m champion in Beijing next month.

On Friday, the 100m field includes two of the seven fastest men in the world this year, France’s Jimmy Vicaut (tied for fourth at 9.86) and American Mike Rodgers (No. 7 at 9.88). That alone makes it tougher than any field Bolt has faced since 2013.

Bolt will also have to race twice, in a preliminary heat and then the final at 4:29 p.m. ET.

The American Gatlin is the only man to run 9.80 or better since the start of 2014, and he’s done so six times. The 33-year-old, five years removed from a four-year doping ban, hasn’t lost an individual race since Sept. 6, 2013.

Bolt’s best time since Sept. 6, 2013, when he beat Gatlin, is 9.98, though he has only raced 100m three times in that span.

Video: Bolt talks Rio 2016, retirement, celebrities with Ato Boldon

Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement