Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt still reigns, edges Justin Gatlin for 100m title

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Usain Bolt watched Justin Gatlin dominate the sprints for nearly two years going into the World Championships, the two Olympic 100m champions notably never racing against each other in that span.

In their first race together since Gatlin’s last defeat, the American led halfway through the Worlds 100m final in Beijing on Sunday.

Bolt gritted his teeth for his last few strides. Gatlin, two lanes to his right, stumbled slightly. His arms flailed. Bolt noticed. When they both leaned into the finish line, Bolt had regained (or perhaps retained) his champion status, with his slowest winning time in an Olympic or Worlds 100m final and by his smallest margin — .01.

“I could tell [Gatlin] kind of fell apart the last part of the race,” Bolt said with a chuckle on BBC Radio.

In what could be called an upset, Bolt stole the World title from Gatlin — 9.79 seconds to 9.80. It was Bolt’s fastest time since Aug. 11, 2013. Gatlin ran faster than 9.79 in the semifinals two hours earlier, against a field that did not include Bolt.

Gatlin, the fastest man in the world in 2014 and 2015, lost for the first time since Sept. 6, 2013.

“It’s been rough coming back from injury, watching Justin Gatlin dominate throughout the season,” Bolt, who had March 2014 foot surgery and saw a doctor in Munich for a joint problem earlier this summer, said after his Sunday win on Eurosport. “I’m just happy to be back, and I’m happy I got it done.”

NCAA sprinters Trayvon Bromell (U.S.) and Andre De Grasse (Canada) shared bronze at 9.92 (full results here).

Here’s the photo finish picture.

Watch the race on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra‘s World Championships coverage Sunday from 1-2:30 p.m. ET.

“Last five meters I kind of stumbled a little bit,” Gatlin said on Eurosport. “I got nipped at the line.”

Gatlin undressing in the final stretch was surprising given an unflappable form developed over his winning streak. Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion five years removed from a four-year doping ban, was nicknamed “Pork Chop” by training partners in his return to the sport in 2010, when he was overweight and known to throw up at practices.

He failed to make the 2011 Worlds final, finished third to Bolt at the 2012 Olympics and second to Bolt at the 2013 Worlds. He was the world’s fastest man each of the last two years, but Gatlin and Bolt never raced against each other in that span. Very notable.

Gatlin’s mistake Sunday was a “Bolt-forced error,” retired Olympic 200m and 400m champion Michael Johnson said on the BBC. Gatlin hadn’t been tested like that in a race, or even ran on such a big stage, since 2013, the last time he and Bolt went head to head.

“It wasn’t a stumble that was caused by anything other than Usain Bolt, because he saw Bolt coming,” Johnson said on the BBC. “[Gatlin] tried to get that finish line to come to him, because he knows that. You’re going to feel Bolt over there. He’s an imposing figure.”

Bolt hasn’t lost since June 6, 2013, which was his only defeat at the hands of Gatlin. Bolt is in the midst of his longest winning streak (by days) of his career.

Bolt won his third World 100m title to go along with his two Olympic titles in the event. Bolt and Gatlin could go head to head again in the 200m final Thursday in Beijing.

Before Sunday’s final, Gatlin had run 9.80 or faster seven times since the start of 2014, winning more than 20 straight races. No other man in the world had run 9.80 or faster once in that span, including Bolt, whose fastest time was 9.87.

Bolt stressed coming into this meet that he “transforms” for global championships and marked his 29th birthday Friday by being dusted with flour by friends at his hotel.

Bolt said Thursday of Gatlin’s undefeated streak, “I wasn’t there competing against him, but now I’m here.”

On Sunday, Bolt’s victory lap celebration included bicep flexing, enjoying his signature “To Di World” pose while wearing a Jamaican flag like a scarf and pointing to a large yellow fan banner that read “BOLT NO. 1.”

Gatlin, running his fastest times this year at age 33, could be seen smiling shortly after the race and then being embraced by an older female spectator, both speaking into each other’s ears.

In the earlier semifinals Sunday, Bolt put a scare into the Bird’s Nest when he stumbled shortly after his start due to dragging his left foot along the track out of the blocks. He came back to win that race in 9.96 seconds. Gatlin clocked 9.77 in his semifinal with a more relaxed slowdown across the finish.

Bolt said his coach told him after the semifinal that he was “thinking too much.”

“I told myself, that’s right,” Bolt said on Eurosport after running his slowest 100m final time at an Olympics or World Championships. “I’ve been here so many times. I know what it takes to be a winner.”

World Track and Field Championships: Men’s events to watch | Women’s events | Broadcast schedule | Competition schedule

Earlier Sunday night, Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill won the heptathlon, competing in her first global championship since winning the 2012 Olympics and giving birth to baby boy Reggie on July 17, 2014.

“It was a massive surprise to even be here to be honest,” Ennis-Hill, who didn’t decide if she felt healthy enough to compete at Worlds until late July, said on the BBC. “To be here and finish on top, I’m really, I’m at a loss for words. … If I come away with a bronze medal, I would have been so, so happy. So to have won the gold is even better.”

Ennis-Hill, who scored 6,955 points for gold in 2012, scored 6,669 in Beijing and beat Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton by 115 points.

Ennis-Hill’s countrywoman and medal favorite Katarina Johnson-Thompson fell out of the picture when she fouled on all three of her long jumps earlier Sunday.

Shot putter Joe Kovacs became the first U.S. gold medalist of the meet, throwing 21.93 meters to beat German two-time defending World champion David Storl (21.74 meters) and Jamaican O’Dayne Richards (21.69 meters).

Kovacs emerges from family tragedy, Olympic miss to glory

In the women’s 100m heats, Jamaican defending champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and American Tori Bowie, the fastest woman in the world in 2014, both ran 10.88, the fastest time ever in Worlds heats. They’ll go in the semifinals and, if they advance, the eight-woman final, both Monday.

Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha of Kenya advanced to Tuesday’s 800m final. His two biggest rivals, defending World champion Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia and Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the Olympic silver medalist and fastest man in 2014, surprisingly failed to make the eight-man final.

The men’s 400m hurdles final Tuesday will include none of Bershawn Jackson, Johnny Dutch and Jehue Gordon, who were eliminated in either the first round or the semifinals. Gordon, of Trinidad and Tobago, was the defending World champion. Jackson and Dutch, both Americans, had combined to run the six fastest times in the world this year going into Worlds.

In their absence, U.S. Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley could be in line for his first global championship gold medal in Tuesday’s final.

All medal contenders in the women’s 1500m advanced to Tuesday’s final, including Ethiopian world record holder Genzebe Dibaba, American record holder Shannon Rowbury and 2011 World champion Jenny Simpson.

In the men’s 400m heats, American defending champion LaShawn Merritt and Grenada Olympic champion Kirani James advanced to Monday’s semifinals.

In the women’s 400m hurdles heats, Czech defending World champion Zuzana Hejnova and the fastest woman this year, U.S. NCAA champion Shamier Little, advanced to Monday’s semifinals.

Flashback: Watch Usain Bolt lose at Athens 2004 Olympics

Rafael Nadal wins Australian Open first round; Maria Sharapova exits

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal says he’s thinking about his next opponent … and his next practice session … and trying to recreate the superb tennis he played in his straight-set victory in the Australian Open’s first round.

What he insists is not on his mind is the number 20 — as in Roger Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, which Nadal would equal by claiming the trophy at Melbourne Park.

“I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about (trying) to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career. It’s not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic,” Nadal said Tuesday, raising his hands in the air. “If I reach 21, better. If I (stay at) 19? Super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career, no?”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

He must have been pleased with the way his 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien went.

That was built with a 38-15 edge in winners and breaks in eight of Dellien’s 11 service games.

Nadal, at age 33 the oldest No. 1 in ATP history, owns 19 major championships, but only one came in Australia, 11 years ago.

Twelve, of course, were collected at the French Open, four at the U.S. Open and two at Wimbledon.

“I won the U.S. Open a few months ago, and I was super happy in that moment. But today I’m happier than if I didn’t win the U.S. Open? Probably not,” Nadal said with a hearty laugh. “The only thing I can do is put all my efforts on (trying) to keep going the best way possible. The rest of the things, the future will see.”

Wednesday’s second-round slate includes Serena WilliamsCoco GauffAsh BartyRoger Federer and Novak Djokovic in action.

In other Tuesday matches, former No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova’s run of first-round exits at the majors continued with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19th-seeded Donna Vekic.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam title winner, was given a wild card for the main draw at Melbourne Park after her year-end ranking slipped to 136 in 2019 after a season interrupted by injuries. Her ranking falls outside the top 300 now.

The 2008 Australian Open winner reached the fourth round here last year, missed the French Open and then lost in the first rounds at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

A few young Americans were also eliminated Tuesday.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, seeded fourth after his U.S. Open runner-up, took out 2019 Australian Open quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Fast-rising teenager Amanda Anisimova played her first Grand Slam match since her father, who also coached her, died last year. His sudden passing came just before the U.S. Open, so she withdrew from that tournament.

Anisimova reached the semifinals of the French Open in 2019 at age 17, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to get that far at a major. She was ranked 51st at the time and unseeded.

Now 18, she was seeded 21st at Melbourne Park, but was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 by Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

Credit Fabio Fognini with a career Grand Slam of comebacks: His 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) rain-interrupted victory across two days against Reilly Opelka of the U.S. gave the 12th-seeded Italian a total of eight wins in matches after dropping the opening two sets.

And now that he’s done it at the Australian Open, Fognini has a full collection, with at least one such reversal at each of the four major tournaments. According to the International Tennis Federation, only 11 other men have done it at each Slam, a group that includes Federer, Rod Laver and Boris Becker, but not Nadal or Novak Djokovic.

The most famous example of an 0-2 comeback by Fognini came against Nadal at the 2015 U.S. Open. Fognini said he doesn’t recall all of his turnaround victories, but he sure does remember that one.

So does Opelka, who rued the fact that play was halted against Fognini because of showers Monday after the initial game of the third set.

Opelka said that Nadal match wasn’t really on his mind, but “if anything, it was just more to have me prep to expect (Fognini) to want to win and believe in himself that he can win. Clearly, he did.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime is considered a future star of men’s tennis, a 19-year-old from Canada who was seeded 20th at the Australian Open — and is already out after a first-round loss against Ernests Gulbis, who once was a young up-and-comer himself.

Back when he was in his 20s, Gulbis reached the French Open semifinals and earned a spot in the top 10 of the ATP rankings. A series of injuries waylaid his career, including a back problem in 2019; he entered Tuesday ranked only 256th and needed to go through qualifying just to get into the main draw.

Made the most of it, though, beating Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

“We saw the good Gulbis today,” Auger-Aliassime said.

The 31-year-old Gulbis, who is from Latvia, described himself as “emotional when I was walking back to the locker room, because it’s not easy. Its not easy to come back. It’s not easy to play Challengers. But these moments are really worth it.”

MORE: Top U.S. male tennis player to skip Tokyo Olympics

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40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

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On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

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