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

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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