Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin breeze into Worlds 100m semifinals; Farah golden again

Leave a comment

Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin took their first strides toward a 100m final showdown at the World Championships in Beijing, easily winning their heats Saturday to reach Sunday’s semifinals.

Great Britain’s Mo Farah won his second straight 10,000m World title. Michelle Carter captured bronze in the shot put for the first U.S. medal on the opening day of the meet.

Bolt won his opening round sprint in 9.96 seconds, easing up as he crossed the finish line. Earlier, Gatlin took his heat in 9.83 seconds, relaxing through the finish (full Saturday results here).

“Overall, it was good, I didn’t really use much stress,” Bolt said on the BBC, adding later that he’s definitely in the physical shape to run 9.6 seconds.

Bolt, whose world record from 2009 is 9.58, appears beatable after dealing with injuries since the start of 2013. His best time since September 2013 is 9.87 seconds. Bolt’s only defeat in five career Olympic/World Championships 100m was in 2011, when he was disqualified for a false start in the final.

Gatlin, five years removed from a four-year doping ban, has run 9.80 or faster six times since the start of 2013. No other man in the world has clocked 9.80 or faster once in that span.

“My coach said go out there, execute the first 40, 45 meters,” Gatlin told media in Beijing. “That’s what I did. After that, he literally says go out there and do what you want to do.”

Bolt and Gatlin will next race in the semifinals Sunday (7:10 a.m. ET) and, if they advance, the eight-man final later Sunday (9:15 a.m.). The other top medal contenders — Jamaican Asafa Powell, American record holder Tyson Gay and rising Baylor junior Trayvon Bromell — also advanced in 9.95, 10.11 and 9.91, respectively. Gay said he’s had hip issues since his last race in Monaco on July 17.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have World Championships coverage Saturday from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and on Sunday from 1-2:30 p.m. ET.

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

Also Saturday, Great Britain’s Mo Farah emerged from a five-man leading group in the final lap of 25 to prevail in the 10,000m in 27:01.13. Farah also won the 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships.

Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, who clipped Farah from behind with about 300 meters to go, took silver, .63 behind. Another Kenyan, Paul Tanui, earned bronze. U.S. Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp was fifth after finishing fourth at the 2013 Worlds.

“There was three or four times where I nearly went down,” Farah said on the BBC. “I don’t know if [other runners were] deliberately trying to take me out.”

Farah can try for his third straight World Championships or Olympic sweep of the 5000m and 10,000m in the 5000m final next Saturday.

“Hopefully it didn’t take too much out of me,” Farah said on the BBC. “It’s just a matter now of recovering.”

Earlier, Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill took the heptathlon lead through four of seven events in her first global championship since she won the 2012 Olympic title and gave birth to baby boy Reggie on July 17, 2014.

Ennis-Hill tallied 4,005 points, 80 more than countrywoman Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, the world leader this year coming into Worlds, is fourth with 3,865 points. Ennis-Hill had 4,158 points through four of seven events en route to her Olympic gold in London.

The final three heptathlon events are Sunday.

Michelle Carter, the daughter of 1984 Olympic shot put silver medalist and former San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Michael Carter, won the first U.S. medal of Worlds, bronze in the women’s shot put. German Christina Schwanitz took gold, followed by China’s Gong Lijiao getting silver.

On Saturday morning, all medal contenders in the women’s 1500m advanced to Sunday’s semifinals, including Ethiopian world record holder Genzebe Dibaba, American record holder Shannon Rowbury and 2011 World champion Jenny Simpson.

Evan Jager began his quest to become the first American to win a Worlds 3000m steeplechase medal, advancing to Monday’s final with the top Kenyans, including two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi.

Kenyan Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha reached Sunday’s 800m semifinals, along with fellow medal favorites Nijel Amos of Botswana and Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia.

Bershawn Jackson, the fastest man in the 400m hurdles this year, failed to advance to Sunday’s semifinals, finishing in seventh place in his first-round heat. Jackson said he had a hamstring injury.

Historic upset in men’s marathon

Collin Morikawa jumps into projected Olympic golf field

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Collin Morikawa would not have qualified outright for the Tokyo Olympics had they been held this summer. Now, after winning the PGA Championship, he is third overall in global qualifying for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Morikawa, a 23-year-old who took the same number of PGA Tour starts to win his maiden major as Tiger Woods (29), went from an alternate for the expected four-man U.S. Olympic team to No. 2 among Americans in the early qualifying standings, according to golf rankings guru @VC606 on Twitter.

Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are the other Americans in qualifying position, according to @VC606.

Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, turned professional in June 2019 and made his first 22 cuts, a feat bettered only by Woods.

The 23-year-old could become the youngest U.S. Olympic male golfer since 1904 (important note: golf was not part of the Olympic program from 1908 through 2012). Come next summer, he will still be younger than all but seven men from the Rio Olympic golf field of 60, according to Olympedia.org.

Olympic golf qualifying standings will fluctuate significantly. There are five major championships left in the qualifying window, starting with the U.S. Open in September and finishing with next summer’s U.S. Open, both airing on NBC Sports.

How tough will it be to make the U.S. Olympic team? Consider that the three Americans to win majors in 2019 — Woods, Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland — are currently not in Olympic qualifying position.

The U.S. has seven of the top nine in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is calculated differently than Olympic qualifying.

MORE: Nosferatu is golf’s Olympic rankings guru. Who is he?

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

He controversially beat Roy Jones Jr. for Olympic gold. He wishes he had silver.

Leave a comment

The last South Korean boxer to win an Olympic gold medal has spent the past 32 years wishing it was a silver.

Entering the men’s light-middleweight final against an American teenager named Roy Jones Jr. on the last day of the 1988 Games in Seoul, Park Si-Hun fantasized about etching his name in the pantheon of South Korean sports legends in front of a delirious home crowd.

He did get his gold three rounds later, but not the way he envisioned.

Park’s win by a 3-2 decision remains as one of the most controversial moments in boxing history, as Jones had seemed to dominate the fight from start to finish.

The outcome drew instant criticism and disdain, even from South Koreans, who heckled Park at the podium and bombarded local TV stations with phone calls protesting that the country’s home advantage had gone too far.

Jones went on to have a phenomenal professional career, retiring in 2018 with a 66-9 record that cemented him as one of the sport’s all-time greats. He is now a boxing commentator and is planning to fight Mike Tyson in an exhibition of retired greats later this year.

Deeply shaken and scarred, Park quietly retired at the end of the Seoul Games and spent the next 13 years as a middle- and high-school teacher in a rural seaside town before making a return to competitive boxing as a coach.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Park said his dream was to see one of his boxers pull off a convincing gold-winning performance in a future Olympics, which he said would possibly give him some sense of redemption and closure.

After three decades, it still stings that his gold is seen as a smudge on the image of the Games his country still glorifies as its coming-out party to the world.

“There’s hardened resentment built up in me that I will probably carry for the rest of my life,” said Park, 54, who now coaches the small municipal boxing team of Seogwipo City in the island province of Jeju.

“I didn’t want my hand to be raised (after the fight with Jones), but it did go up, and my life became gloomy because of that.”

Park still grimaces when talking about his match with Jones.

Desperate for Olympic glory, Park had gutted out the tournament with a broken right hand he suffered during training. He said it didn’t really matter until he met Jones, the one opponent in Seoul who was quicker than him.

With the injury taking away his right-hand, Park simply had no chance at slowing Jones, who was coming at him with “excellent speed, power and technique.”

“I was pretty quick for a middleweight, but Jones was at a different level,” Park recalled. “A boxer just knows whether he had won or lost a match. I thought I lost because I didn’t put up a fight deserving of a win.”

Park said he felt “confused” when the referee raised his hand. Wearing a stunned look on his face, Park awkwardly embraced and held up an expressionless Jones into the air.

He said he couldn’t wait to get off the podium, where he smiled weakly and slowly waved a bouquet of flowers toward the stands as fans let out hesitant cheers and scattered boos.

An even more humiliating moment came when a South Korean national broadcaster invited all of the country’s 12 gold medalists to a live TV celebration shortly after the Games. The host treated Park like he wasn’t there while interviewing each of the other 11.

There was an outpouring of media criticism and what Park described as “unspeakable” insults, which included derisive public calls for him to forfeit his medal.

The emotional distress “was like being hit with a hammer on the back of your head, again and again.”

“I keep thinking how my life would have been happier had I finished second,” Park said. “A gold medal is important, but isn’t any Olympic medal satisfying and glorious?”

Park said the sense of defeat and depression sometimes led to suicidal urges. He credits his wife for helping him navigate out of his darkest moods. The couple contemplated moving to a different country before deciding to stay after they had children.

Their youngest child, Rei, now a 20-year-old college student in Louisiana, has his own athletic ambitions, training as a javelin thrower with dreams of competing in the 2024 Olympics.

Park said he keeps his Olympic gold framed on a wall at his home in mainland South Korea, along with other awards he won in amateur competition. He doesn’t recall ever bringing it out of the house.

While Park doesn’t have many regrets about never going pro, saying he probably wouldn’t have gone far with an evasive style built for efficiency and avoiding hits but not for initiating pain, he still watched Jones’ post-Olympic triumphs with envy.

He wondered whether the public would ever forget the fiasco surrounding his gold medal, which the South Korean media brought up after almost every Jones fight or whenever there was controversy in any Olympic sport. He would try to laugh it off whenever students asked about his gold at school.

After overlooking him for years, South Korea’s boxing association reached back to Park in 2001, asking him to coach the national team following years of disappointing performances in international events, which reflected a dearth of talent in the sport.

During his on-and-off coaching stints with the national team since then, Park trained several boxers who performed decently in various events, but they never came close to an Olympic gold.

Park had the highest hopes for Lee Ok-Song, who won the men’s 51kg division in the 2005 World Championships. But Lee failed to reach the quarterfinals of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and retired after the Games.

Park said he had occasionally kept in touch with Jones, including a brief telephone conversation with him in 2004 while visiting Atlanta for an international event.

The International Olympic Committee in 1997 concluded it had found no evidence to support bribery allegations against the judges who voted in favor of Park in the Seoul Games.

The U.S. Olympic Committee had called for an investigation in 1996 after documents belonging to East Germany’s Stasi secret police revealed reports of judges being paid to vote for South Korean boxers.

While Park left South Korea’s national team after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, he hasn’t given up on his goal of winning an Olympic gold as a coach.

Among the four boxers he trains in Seogwipo, Park is most impressed with Kang Hyeon-Bin, who competes in the men’s 64kg division, and Cho Hye-Bin, a woman in the 51kg category.

“I am constantly looking for a raw stone I could polish into a jewel,” he said. “I want to sculpt a true Olympic gold medalist with my own hands and see that fighter take the highest spot on the podium. That would restore my honor and allow me to leave the boxing ring for good.”

MORE: Top U.S. Olympic boxing hopeful cleared of doping violations caused by sex

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!