Usain Bolt returns with quick 100m wins in London

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Usain Bolt appears to be rounding into form. Just in time, too.

The Jamaican clocked 9.87 seconds in two 100m races in a little over an hour at a Diamond League meet in London on Friday night, on a rain-soaked track and into a headwind.

“Overall, it was a good run, but the start was really poor,” Bolt said on the BBC of his final win into a 0.8 m/s headwind (video here). “My coach keeps telling me, relax and it flow. But I really wanted to run faster.”

Bolt showed medal-worthy form for the first time since 2013.

His performances — an hour before the final, Bolt won his preliminary heat in 9.87 into a 1.2m/s headwind (video here) — upped anticipation for a showdown with American Justin Gatlin at the World Championships in Beijing (Aug. 22-30, broadcast info here).

“If I just continue to work on my start, I’ll be fine,” Bolt said on the BBC. “I feel better. I just need to work on a few more things, get consistent, and I should be OK.”

Bolt’s victory Friday came against a field that did not include Gatlin (who has run 9.74 this year) or Worlds medal contenders Tyson Gay (9.87) and Asafa Powell (9.81). American Mike Rodgers was second to Bolt in 9.90.

“I got near him,” Rodgers said, according to the Diamond League. “He just pulled away in the last few meters.”

Here are full results from London. The London meet concludes Saturday.

Before Friday, Bolt’s best time in the 100m since Sept. 6, 2013, was 9.98 seconds. He had only raced over 100m three times in that span, his 2014 season cut short by March foot surgery and pulling out of meets earlier this month citing a leg injury.

Gatlin, 33 and five years removed from a four-year doping ban, has clocked 9.80 or faster six times since Sept. 6, 2013.

Gatlin, who ran a personal-best 9.74 on May 15, was the unquestioned World Championships favorite in the 100m and 200m going into Friday.

That’s partly because Bolt hadn’t raced since June 13, when he ran his slowest 200m final time in nine years, and then flew to Munich to see a doctor in those six weeks off.

Bolt stayed his no-worries self in interviews before the London meet. He’s always said that he knows how to prepare for a global championship, citing 2012, when Yohan Blake beat him at the Jamaican Olympic trials but was no match for Bolt at the London Games.

Bolt and Gatlin haven’t raced against each other since 2013 and are unlikely to do so until the World Championships in August. Bolt hasn’t been beaten in a Worlds or Olympic final since 2007 (not counting false starts).

Can he beat Gatlin?

“Without a doubt,” Bolt told reporters after his races.

Usain Bolt: Justin Gatlin won’t break my world record

In other events Friday, British Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill clocked 12.79 seconds to finish fifth in the 100m hurdles, her best time in the event since the 2012 Olympics. American Jasmin Stowers won in 12.47, though Stowers last month failed to qualify for the World Championships.

Ennis-Hill, coming back this season after having a baby, has said she will decide after this meet if she will compete at the World Championships. She was quite pleased with Friday’s race on a wet track, ahead of a 200m and the long jump Saturday.

“I’m finally finding my form in the right part of the season,” Ennis-Hill said on the BBC.

British Olympic and World 5000m and 10,000m champion Mo Farah won a 3000m in 7:34.66 to cap the night. It’s the fastest time in the world this year in the non-Olympic event. Farah has said he will race the 10,000m at Worlds but hasn’t decided if he will race the 5000m.

The 2009 World champion Jason Richardson won the 110m hurdles in 13.19 over a field that included Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt (fourth, 13.32) and the world’s fastest man this year, Cuban Orlando Ortega (fifth, 13.32). Richardson, like Stowers, did not qualify for the U.S. team for the World Championships.

Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes, who has trained with Bolt, won the 200m in 20.05 into a -1.4m/s headwind. The field was lacking Worlds medal favorites Bolt and Gatlin. Hughes, 20, ranks tied for 13th in the world this year in the 200m.

Natasha Hastings upset world leader Francena McCorory in the 400m, 50.24 to 50.67. Hastings finished second at the U.S. Championships to Allyson Felix, who may decide not to run the 400m at Worlds.

If Felix drops the event, McCorory would presumably get her spot as McCorory finished fourth at the U.S. Championships. McCorory has the world’s three fastest times this year.

Czech Zuzana Hejnova took the 400m hurdles in 53.99. Hejnova, the 2013 World champion, ranks No. 2 in the world this year behind NCAA champion Shamier Little of the U.S.

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

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Who is Italy’s greatest Olympian?

Alberto Tomba
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Italy ranks sixth on the total Olympic medal list, thanks in large part to its fencers. Italian fencers have won a leading 125 medals, more than double the nation’s total in any other sport. The Italians are known for their personalities, from La Bomba to the Cannibal, with six of their best detailed here …

Deborah Compagnoni
Alpine Skiing
Three Olympic Gold Medals

The only Alpine skier to earn gold at three straight Olympics. Compagnoni overcame a broken knee as a junior racer and life-saving surgery to remove 27 inches of her intestine in 1990 to win the Albertville 1992 super-G by 1.8 seconds. It remains the largest margin of victory in the discipline for either gender since 1968. The following day, Compagnoni tore knee ligaments in the giant slalom. She returned to win the GS at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Compagnoni ended her Olympic career with the biggest rout in a GS at a Winter Games, prevailing by 1.41 seconds in Nagano.

Klaus Dibiasi
Diving
Three Olympic Gold Medals

The only diver to win the same individual event three times. The Austrian-born Dibiasi took platform silver in 1964 at age 17, then three straight golds through 1976. Dibiasi was coached by his father, who was 10th on platform at the 1936 Berlin Games. In his final Olympics, Dibiasi held off a 16-year-old Greg Louganis, who would go on to challenge, if not overtake, Dibiasi as the greatest male diver in history.

Eugenio Monti
Bobsled
Six Olympic Medals

Regarded by many as the greatest bobsled driver in history. Monti captured two silver medals in 1956, missed the 1960 Winter Games that didn’t include bobsled, then two bronzes in 1964 and a pair of golds at age 40 in 1968. On top of that, the nine-time world champion is remembered for an act of sportsmanship in 1964. In between runs, Monti lent a bolt off his own two-man sled to a British team whose sled was damaged. The Brits took gold, ahead of both Italian sleds.

Alberto Tomba
Alpine Skiing
Three Olympic Gold Medals

“La Bomba” dazzled by sweeping the giant slalom and slalom at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, after dubbing himself the “Messiah of Skiing“ beforehand. Known for his man-about-town ways, Tomba offered one of his gold medals to East German figure skater Katarina Witt should she fall short in her event. After Witt repeated as gold medalist, the story goes that Tomba showed up with a bouquet of roses and an autographed picture of himself, made out out to “Katerina.” “I used to have a wild time with three women until 5 a.m.,” Tomba once said. “Now I live it up with five women until 3 a.m,”

Valentina Vezzali
Fencing
Six Olympic Gold Medals

An 18-year-old Vezzali was an alternate for the 1992 Olympics, forced to watch on TV as the Italian women took team foil gold. Vezzali made the next five Olympics, winning medals in all nine of her events, including three straight individual titles, the last as a mom. Vezzali finished her career with nine total Olympic medals, 25 world championships medals, a flag bearer honor at the 2012 Opening Ceremony and as a member of Italy’s parliament.

Armin Zoeggeler
Luge
Six Olympic Medals

“The Cannibal” retired in 2014 as the first athlete to earn a medal in the same individual event at six straight Olympics. Zoeggeler earned silver and bronze medals in 1994 and 1998, then overtook German legend Georg Hackl for gold in 2002, followed by winning at home in Torino in 2006. He held on for bronze medals in 2010 and 2014, behind the new German luge star, Felix Loch, who would be coached by Hackl. Growing up on top of a steep hill, Zoeggeler began sledding at age 7 to catch the school bus at the bottom.

GREATEST OLYMPIANS: Germany | Liechtenstein | Japan

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Kurt Angle recalls devastation, exultation of Olympic wrestling gold medal

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Kurt Angle doesn’t remember much from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but he won’t forget that moment of deep emotional pain.

In the 100kg final, Angle and Iranian Abbas Jadidi were tied 1-1 after regulation and an overtime period.. Eight total minutes of wrestling. They also had the same number of passivity calls, forcing a judges’ decision to determine the gold medalist.

After deliberation, the referee stood between each wrestler in the middle of the mat. He held each’s wrist, ready to reveal the champion to the Georgia World Congress Center crowd — and to the athletes. Angle, now 51, has rarely watched video of the match. But he distinctly remembers, in his peripheral vision, Jadidi’s left arm rising.

“I thought I lost,” Angle said by phone this week. “So right away, I was like, s—, four more years.”

Turns out, the Iranian was raising his own arm. An instant later, the referee suppressed Jadidi. He lifted Angle’s right arm. The wrestler sobbed.

“I had so much emotion because I was devastated and then I was told that I won,” Angle said. “It was a very odd experience. I didn’t know how to handle it. It felt like my father died all over again. That’s how much grief I had. Then, all of a sudden, you won.”

Angle thought of two people immediately after he won, falling to his knees in prayer. First, his father, David, who died in a construction accident when Angle was 16. Second, the 1984 Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz, his coach who was murdered by John du Pont six months before the Games.

Angle went on to become one of the most famous U.S. gold medalists of the Atlanta Games, due largely to a two-decade career as a professional wrestler, including as a world heavyweight champion with the WWE.

It would have been different if the referee kept Jadidi’s arm in the air. Angle went into the Olympics knowing it would be his last competition, but only if he took gold. Anything less, and he would continue on, perhaps into his 30s and the 2000 Sydney Games. Despite everything Angle went through just to get to Atlanta.

In the year leading up to the Olympics, Angle lost Schultz, broke his neck at the U.S. Open and, five minutes before each match at the Olympic Trials, received 12 shots of novocaine to numb the pain long enough to advance to the next round. Angle later developed a painkiller addiction.

Angle, a Pennsylvania native, was part of the Foxcatcher club when du Pont shot and killed Schultz. Angle said he wasn’t consulted for the 2014 film “Foxcatcher,” but he thought it was well done save a few instances of dramatic license.

“Unfortunately, I hate to admit this, but if it weren’t for Team Foxcatcher, I probably wouldn’t have won my gold medal,” Angle said. “I probably wouldn’t have known Dave Schultz, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did. It sucks because, to have to thank John du Pont for the ability of allowing me to pay me to wrestle full time and win a world championship [in 1995] and Olympic gold medal, that was huge, but he killed Dave Schultz. The club would have thrived to this day. It just sucks it turned out the way it did, because it made me the best wrestler in the world. Dave Schultz had a lot to do with that, but a lot of wrestlers that followed could have not had to worry about money and could have trained and competed.”

Angle shared his gold medal with, he estimated, thousands of people before housing it in a safe.

“The gold was wearing off,” Angle said. “One kid, I remember, I was at an elementary school, and he grabbed my medal by the ribbon and started twirling it around real fast. He let go of it, and it hit the wall. There’s a big dent in my gold medal. That was the last time I brought it to an elementary school.”

Angle announced in 2011, at age 42, that he was training to come back for the 2012 Olympic Trials. He never made it, calling it off with a knee injury.

“But I trained hard for it,” Angle said, noting he still kept up appearances with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. “I will tell you this, I wouldn’t have made the team. My goal was to place in the top three. I just missed the [thrill of] competition.”

It meant that Angle’s last match remained that Olympic final. His last moment as a freestyle wrestler having his arm raised.

“All I wanted to do was win a world championship and an Olympic gold medal, and I did them both,” Angle said, sobbing, just off the mat that night in Atlanta. “If I died tonight, I’d be the happiest man in the world.”

MORE: Most decorated U.S. female Olympian on front line of coronavirus fight

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