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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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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