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

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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

At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

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While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

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A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

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