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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Too early to say whether virus threatens Olympics, WHO says

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GENEVA (AP) — Despite a virus outbreak spreading from China, a top World Health Organization official said Tuesday it’s much too soon to say whether the Tokyo Olympics are at risk of being cancelled or moved.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly said they have no contingency plans for the July 24-Aug. 9 Summer Games since the WHO declared a global health emergency last month.

The U.N. agency’s emergencies program director, Michael Ryan, said Tuesday the sporting event was “way too far” away to consider giving advice that would affect Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics.

“We are not there to make a decision for that,” Ryan told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a news conference at WHO headquarters.

Geneva-based WHO has been in regular contact with the IOC in nearby Lausanne since the virus known as COVID-19 emerged in December.

“We don’t give them judgments,” Ryan said. “We assist them with their risk assessment. We will be working closely with them in the coming weeks and months.”

The death toll in mainland China due to the virus rose to almost 1,900 on Tuesday, with more than 72,000 confirmed cases.

The outbreak has caused numerous sports events in China to be canceled, postponed, or moved, including qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese athletes and teams have also been unable to travel for some competitions. China sent a team of more than 400 athletes to the Rio Olympics. It won 70 medals, including 26 gold, to place second in total medal standings.

Around 11,000 athletes and many more team coaches and officials from more than 200 national teams are expected in Japan for the Olympics.

Japan has experienced the most significant outbreak of the virus outside of China, on the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in quarantine at Yokohama in Tokyo Bay.

During a 14-day isolation that ends Wednesday, 542 cases have been identified among more than 3,700 passengers and crew.

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For Mike Eruzione, Al Michaels, it’s no miracle that 1980 Olympics endure

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Mike Eruzione has been reminded on a daily basis about the Miracle on Ice for nearly four decades. While playing celebrity golf tournaments. At speaking engagements. Or that time he auctioned his jersey and stick from the Soviet game to a 9-year-old boy named Seven.

Eruzione, now 65, likes to open conversations with one anecdote about meeting strangers, which he repeated in a call with reporters last week.

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, it’s depending on their age — I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. And I remember where I was when we won,” Eruzione said. “And I always say, ‘We? I didn’t know you were on the team.’

“But people felt a part of it. … It’s nice to know that people remember and share some great stories about what we did so long ago.”

The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team owns a last name that means “eruption” in Italian. Eruzione scored the decisive goal in the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to a shock gold medal during the Cold War in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBCSN airs a 30-minute special marking the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET. It will feature a conversation between Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, the play-by-play voice of the game dubbed by Sports Illustrated the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

Eruzione has grandchildren now. Three of them skate at the Mike Eruzione Center in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass.

“They don’t even know who Mike Eruzione is,” Eruzione said of the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, “but they know about the Miracle.”

All credit to the U.S. Olympic team of 20 players between ages 19 and 25, back when the NHL did not participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were essentially a team of professionals. The nation won the previous four Olympics and throttled the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Michaels, calling hockey at the Lake Placid Winter Games alongside Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Michaels, then 35, said he was assigned the sport because he had the most hockey experience on the ABC Olympic talent roster — one game. He called the 1972 Olympic hockey final by himself.

Feb. 22, 1980: As the U.S. led the Soviet Union 4-3 and the final seconds ticked down, one word came to mind: miraculous.

“It got morphed into a question and quick answer, and away we went,” Michaels said.

Eruzione said he didn’t learn of Michaels’ call — “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” — until two weeks after the Olympics. He didn’t watch the game broadcast until years later.

“I never thought it was a miracle, but it was a catchy phrase and it sounded right,” Eruzione said, noting he preferred Michaels’ call in the final comeback win over Finland to clinch the gold: “This impossible dream comes true.”

Team members since gathered often — to light the 2002 Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City, for fantasy camps in Lake Placid and for coach Herb Brooks‘ 2003 funeral. Eighteen of the 20 players are scheduled to reunite this weekend in Las Vegas.

Absent will be Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. And Bob Suter, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at age 57.

It was Suter’s death that motivated Eruzione and others to commemorate the 35th anniversary together in Lake Placid. It was believed to be the first time all living players were together in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Games.

Eruzione said that the 2004 film “Miracle” introduced the team to a new generation. Now at many of his speeches, the majority of Eruzione’s audience was born after 1980.

“I’ll say, how many people watched the movie ‘Miracle,’ and almost everybody raises their hand,” he said. “So I think what the movie did for us as a team was kind of rejuvenated our team as far as people knowing who we were and what we are and what we were about.”

NFL coaches set up “Miracle” viewings for their teams before games. Michael Phelps watched it for motivation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Phelps told relay teammates, “This is our time,” before they beat rival Australia. An ode to Brooks’ pregame speech before the Soviet game.

Michaels, whose 13-year-old grandson won an October hockey tournament in Lake Placid, said he watched “Miracle” last week for the first time in about a decade. He helped do voiceovers in production more than 15 years ago, though the original Lake Placid audio was used for his signature call.

“The great thing is, in a way, when you watch it back or you watch highlights back, you almost become like in the third person, like somebody else is doing this and announcing this game,” Michaels said. “I exult the way I think most of the country did and do when they see highlights of it. So it’s kind of an out-of-body experience in a way, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

After Eruzione shared his tale of strangers’ memories, Michaels added one of his own.

“One of my favorite stories is Mike Eruzione calling me maybe eight to 10 years ago and saying, ‘The greatest thing about this is every time I come home and maybe I’m a little down, I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll put the tape in,'” Michaels said. “‘Every time I shoot, the puck goes in. It will forever.'”

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