Usain Bolt ‘not worried’ heading into showdown with Justin Gatlin

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Going by times the last two years, Justin Gatlin ought to be a heavy favorite over Usain Bolt in the World Championships 100m final in Beijing.

“He’s been doing his thing,” Bolt said of Gatlin to NBC on Thursday. “I can’t complain because if you train to be the best, then it is what it is. … It’s my duty to prove that I can be better.”

But even the confident Gatlin cautions those who are sure that Bolt is set to suffer his first global championship 100m defeat Sunday (not counting the 2011 Worlds false start).

This year, Gatlin has repeatedly noted the case of 2012, when Bolt was beaten in the Jamaican Olympic trials and entered the London Olympics vincible.

Bolt revved up in the 2012 Olympic semifinals, clocking a casual 9.87 while swerving his head to look at other lanes halfway through the race. Later that night, Bolt ran the second fastest 100m of all time, 9.63, to repeat as Olympic champion.

“Usain woke up in the semifinals in London in 2012,” Gatlin said, according to Agence France-Presse. “I predict [he’ll be planning to do] the same thing for Beijing.”

Bolt agreed.

“I haven’t gotten a lot of races in [this year], but I think running through the rounds [heat, semifinal, final in Beijing], I’ll get going,” Bolt told media in Beijing on Thursday. “I think I have to run probably the first 50 [meters] quick, to really get my body into running up to speed. So I’ll be all right. I’m not worried.”

World Championships: Men’s events to watch | Women’s events to watch | Broadcast schedule

Bolt, who turns 29 on Friday, has spent more time being checked out by a German doctor than racing on the track since the start of 2013. He ran 400 meters total in competition last year, a season cut short due to foot surgery that March.

He went more than a month between competitions early this summer, citing a left leg injury that required him to visit Munich again.

Bolt silenced some of the growing doubters in his return July 24, when he clocked 9.87 seconds twice in a little over an hour at the London Olympic Stadium. 

“It shows that I still have speed,” Bolt told NBC in Beijing. “The only problem that I have is the fact that I didn’t get to run more to get that race rustiness out.”

London marked his only meet since June 13, when he ran his slowest 200m final since 2006, two years before he burst onto the scene by breaking the 100m world record.

Bolt said what he does during the season pales in comparison to global championships like the Olympics or Worlds.

“When I get here, I always feel a different vibe, especially when I get into the stadium, the energy,” Bolt told NBC. “I just transform.”

So his goal at the World Championships next week remains the same.

“Win three gold medals [100m, 200m, 4x100m relay], that’s always my aim coming into a championship [Worlds or Olympics],” Bolt said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “To break the stadium record [Bolt’s then-world record 9.69 in the 100m at the Beijing Olympics] would even be better.”

Stats say Gatlin, who is 33 years old and five years removed from a four-year doping ban, has a better chance of beating that time.

Gatlin, running faster than ever, has clocked 9.80 or better six times since the start of 2013 and is undefeated in that span. Nobody else in the world has done 9.80 or better once since September 2013.

“I never really look at statistics because it’s track and field, you never know what’s going to happen, really,” Bolt told media in Beijing on Thursday.

The Bolt-Gatlin showdown will be their first head to head since 2013, which is partly why Bolt said he doesn’t feel like he’s chasing Gatlin.

“I wasn’t there competing against him, but now I’m here,” Bolt said.

The showdown is being billed by many as good versus evil.

Bolt, who has run .11 faster than anybody in history, has never failed a drug test. Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion and 2012 bronze medalist, is criticized by many who wish he received a lifetime doping ban for a failed drug test in 2006.

“People [say] that I need to win for the sport,” Bolt told media in Beijing. “There’s a lot of other athletes out there that are running clean. … It’s not only just on me, because I can’t do it by myself.”

Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt eyeing Olympic farewell in Rio

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup

The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup

The U.S. women’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game