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

Usain Bolt
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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

Katie Ledecky out-touches new rival at swimming’s U.S. Open, extends streak

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It was a rare sight: Katie Ledecky being matched stroke for stroke in a distance race in an American pool. She was up for the challenge.

Ledecky out-touched emerging 16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh by eight hundredths of a second in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Ledecky and McIntosh were tied at the 300-meter mark. Ledecky ended up clocking 3:59.71 to McIntosh’s 3:59.79 to extend a decade-long win streak in freestyle races of 400 meters or longer in U.S. pools.

“I know we’ll have a lot more races ahead of us,” Ledecky said on Peacock. “We bring the best out of each other.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with live finals coverage on Peacock at 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

At the Tokyo Olympics, McIntosh placed fourth in the 400m free at age 14.

She accelerated this year, taking silver behind Ledecky at the world championships and silver behind Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free — also by eight hundredths — in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and the U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh also won world titles in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

A potential showdown among Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh at the 2024 Paris Games is already being compared to the “Race of the Century,” the 2004 Olympic men’s 200m free where Australian Ian Thorpe edged Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps.

In other events Thursday, Regan Smith, an Olympic and world medalist in the backstroke and butterfly, won a 200m individual medley in a personal best 2:10.40, a time that would have placed fifth at June’s world championships. She beat 16-year-old Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the event at worlds.

Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz won the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.52, his best time ever outside of major summer meets. Frenchman Léon Marchand won the world title in 1:55.22 in June, when Kalisz was fourth.

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Eliud Kipchoge, two races shy of his target, to make Boston Marathon debut

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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World record holder Eliud Kipchoge will race the Boston Marathon for the first time on April 17.

Kipchoge, who at September’s Berlin Marathon lowered his world record by 30 seconds to 2:01:09, has won four of the six annual major marathons — Berlin, Tokyo, London and Chicago.

The 38-year-old Kenyan has never raced Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon dating to 1897, nor New York City but has repeated in recent years a desire to enter both of them.

Typically, he has run the London Marathon in the spring and the Berlin Marathon in the fall.

Kipchoge’s last race in the U.S. was the 2014 Chicago Marathon, his second of 10 consecutive marathon victories from 2014 through 2019.

He can become the first reigning men’s marathon world record holder to finish the Boston Marathon since South Korean Suh Yun-Bok set a world record of 2:25:39 in Boston in 1947, according to the Boston Athletic Association.

In 2024 in Paris, Kipchoge is expected to race the Olympic marathon and bid to become the first person to win three gold medals in that event.

The Boston Marathon field also includes arguably the second- and third-best men in the world right now — Kipchoge’s Kenyan training partners Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto. Chebet won Boston and New York City this year. Kipruto won Boston last year and Chicago this year.

American Des Linden, who won Boston in 2018, headlines the women’s field.

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