Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin set up duel; South African stretchered off after 400m gold

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Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin set up another showdown, medal standings leader Kenya earned two more gold medals and a South African won the 400m in the sixth fastest time ever and then was taken off the track on a stretcher at the World Championships on Wednesday.

The U.S. won three medals Wednesday, but no golds, giving it one gold and nine total medals through five of nine days.

Kenya leads the medal standings with six golds and 11 total, including a men’s javelin gold Wednesday, its first ever Olympic or Worlds field event medal.

The U.S. will hope to gain and surpass Kenya in the final four days, but the biggest storyline Thursday will be another Bolt-Gatlin showdown in the 200m final. It comes 10 years after their first race together in the 2005 Worlds 200m final (video here).

World Championships: Broadcast Schedule

Bolt, the reigning two-time Olympic and three-time World champion, won his 200m semifinal in 19.95 seconds, appearing to spend time during his race looking up at a stadium video screen and, briefly, across to the second-place finisher.

That’s the first time the Jamaican has gone sub-20 in an Olympic or Worlds 200m semifinal and his first sub-20 since he won the 2013 World Championships in 19.66.

“A bit tired,” Bolt said on the BBC, repeating what he said after the first round Tuesday.

How much is left in the tank?

“I don’t know until we see tomorrow,” he said. “My 200m is my best event. I live for this. … I know I’m going to do well. It’s not even a question. … I’m not going to lose my favorite event.”

A few minutes earlier, Gatlin clocked 19.87, the fastest time of all the semifinalists. Gatlin came into Worlds having clocked 19.57, 19.68, 19.68 and 19.71 since the start of 2014, the four fastest times in the world in that span.

On Sunday, Bolt beat Gatlin by .01 in the 100m final in a time slower than Gatlin’s semifinal clocking earlier that night. Gatlin struggled to keep his form in the last several meters of the final, costing him gold.

Is Gatlin, after tearing up following the 100m final, ready to face Bolt again?

“Of course, ready for a matchup with anybody,” Gatlin told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports.

Thursday’s final will not include Olympic bronze medalist and 2013 Worlds silver medalist Warren Weir, who failed to advance out of the semifinals.

Later Wednesday, South African Wayde van Niekerk won the 400m in 43.48 seconds, a time that would have beaten Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympics. Johnson set the world record of 43.18 on this date 16 years ago.

Van Niekerk was taken off the track on a stretcher later after minutes of celebrating around the Bird’s Nest. He went to a hospital as a precaution, according to the BBC.

The 2013 World champion LaShawn Merritt finished second in a personal best in 43.65, followed by Grenada Olympic champion Kirani James in 43.78. It marked the first time three men went sub-44 in a 400m race.

Merritt earned his 10th career Worlds medal, matching Carl Lewis and Allyson Felix for the most in U.S. history. Felix can win her 11th in the women’s 400m final Thursday.

Earlier, the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova became the first woman to repeat as World champion in the 400m hurdles, prevailing in 53.50, the fastest time in the world this year.

“It’s very hard to be favorite, and I was very nervous before the final,” Hejnova said on the BBC.

Americans Shamier Little (53.94) and Cassandra Tate (54.02) won silver and bronze in their global championship debuts. Little, who had the fastest time in the world coming into Beijing, was in tears Monday after squeaking into the final in the eighth and last spot.

“Yesterday I was saying I deserved to be here,” Little, 20, told Johnson on Universal Sports. “I showed that today.”

U.S. Olympic champion Jenn Suhr tied for fourth in the pole vault, failing to clear 4.80 meters. Suhr also failed to clear 4.80 at the 2012 Olympics in poorer weather conditions in London. Cuban Yarisley Silva cleared 4.90 meters on her third and final attempt to take gold after 2012 Olympic silver and 2013 Worlds bronze.

Julius Yego won the javelin, becoming the first Kenyan to earn an Olympic or Worlds medal in a field event. Yego threw 92.72 meters, the farthest in the world since 2001. Yego, who learned the javelin by watching YouTube videos, is now the third best javelin thrower of all time.

Kenya’s Hyvin Jepkemoi won the women’s 3000m steeplechase (video here), while American Emma Coburn dropped to fifth after being in second place on the final lap. Coburn hoped to become the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic or Worlds steeplechase medal.

Two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown advanced to the 200m semifinals despite shifting into the lane to her outside coming around the curve of the race, as she did at the 2005 World Championships. Campbell-Brown would have been disqualified if she impeded the runner in that lane.

Neither the Olympic champion Felix nor 2013 World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are competing in the 200m at Worlds. Fraser-Pryce won the 100m on Monday. Felix was the fastest qualifier into Thursday’s 400m final.

Hammer thrower briefly leaves World Championships gold medal in taxi

Nathan Chen, Simone Biles, U.S. women’s soccer team win Team USA Awards

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Simone Biles was named female athlete of the year and Nathan Chen took the corresponding award for men Tuesday at the Team USA Awards in Los Angeles.

Six-time Olympic swimming champion Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, who has taken up wheelchair CrossFit competition since an ATV accident in 2014 left her paralyzed from the waist down, took the Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award. She works to help other people with spinal cord injuries through the Amy Van Dyken Foundation and Amy’s Army, which has launched a Wheels for Kids program to help injured children find wheelchairs that may not be covered by insurance.

The show also included a medal ceremony in which the teammates and family of the late Steven Holcomb received silver medals that were reallocated after doping infractions changed the results of the 2014 Olympic bobsled competition.

MORE: Holcomb’s legacy lives on 

Award winners from the ceremony:

Female Olympic athlete of the year: Simone Biles, gymnastics 

Biles took a one-year break after winning four gold medals and a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics, then came back to do even better, unleashing new skills on the balance beam and in the floor exercise. This year, she won five gold medals at the world championships, breaking the record for career medals.

Female Paralympic athlete of the year: Oksana Masters, Para Nordic skiing and Para cycling 

Already an eight-time Paralympic medalist in Nordic skiing, biathlon and rowing, Masters had a breakout year in cycling, taking silver medals in the world championships. In Nordic skiing, Masters took five world championships (three cross-country, two biathlon) and the overall World Cup championship in sitting cross-country along with a second-place overall finish in biathlon.

Male Olympic athlete of the year: Nathan Chen, figure skating 

Chen had a double back-to-back year, winning his second straight world championship and his second straight Grand Prix final. He also started his 2019-20 season by winning both of his Grand Prix events. He and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu are far ahead of any other skaters in posted scores this season.

Male Paralympic athlete of the year: Ben Thompson, Para archery 

Thompson took the world championship and the No. 1 ranking in the men’s compound event and led the U.S. to a world record in the team compound event.

Olympic team of the year: U.S. women’s soccer team 

The team claimed the sport’s biggest prize for the second straight time, working its way through a difficult field that included a quarterfinal matchup with host France to win the World Cup once again, adding to its previous wins in 1991, 1999 and 2015.

Paralympic team of the year: U.S. sled hockey team 

Like the women’s soccer team, the sled hockey team went unbeaten in the world championships and claimed a fourth world title.

MORE: Golden goal clinches championship

Olympic coach of the year: KiSik Lee, archery 

This year, Brady Ellison won a world title and set a world record in the Pan Am Games, and Ellison teamed with Casey Kaufhold to win the world title in the mixed team event, which will be on the Olympic program in 2020.

Paralympic coach of the year: Wesley Johnson, paratriathlon 

The founder and head coach of Balanced Art Multisport in Salt Lake City, Johnson is the personal coach of three top-10 paratriathletes, and he served as an assistant coach in the world championships, where three of the athletes he coached won silver medals.

NBC will have highlights of the show at 2 p.m. ET Dec. 22.

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Hanyu, Zagitova control their Grand Prix Final destiny at NHK Trophy; TV, live stream schedule

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In order to qualify for the Grand Prix Final — after missing the event the past two seasons for varying reasons — two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu needs to finish inside the top four at NHK Trophy, the sixth and last remaining Grand Prix series event. Hanyu competes on home ice in Japan this weekend, and the event is streaming live for NBC Sports Gold subscribers.

A full breakdown of Grand Prix Final-clinching scenarios can be found here.

Hanyu won the Grand Prix Final four straight times (2013-16). The prestigious December event would be the first time this season Hanyu and two-time Grand Prix Final champion Nathan Chen would compete head-to-head, outside the world championships in March.

Hanyu trains in Toronto alongside American Jason Brown, who will also be competing in Japan. Brown clinches a spot in the Grand Prix Final if he earns a silver or better, but is also very likely in if he earns a bronze medal.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is in a similar situation this weekend at NHK Trophy, needing to finish on the podium to clinch a berth in the Final. She faces Moscow-based training partner Alena Kostornaia (who needs to finish fifth or better to make the Final) and Japan’s Rika Kihira (must earn a medal of any color), among others such as 2019 European champion Sofia Samodurova of Russia and 2017 U.S. national champion Karen Chen.

MORE: Alina Zagitova focused on artistry, while other Russians push technical boundaries

Three teams in the pairs’ field at NHK Trophy can earn spots in the Grand Prix Final. Two-time world pair champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China and Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov need a medal of any color to clinch, while Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro need silver to clinch, but could win with a bronze and a high score. See the breakdown here for details.

In ice dance, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France are favorites at NHK Trophy. They have appeared in three Grand Prix Finals and own a medal of each color, including a win at their most recent appearance in 2017. (The duo withdrew from a regular-series Grand Prix event last season and were unable to qualify for the Final.)

The most likely NHK Trophy scenario is that Papadakis and Cizeron win NHK Trophy, and Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin finish second – and if that happens, Papadakis and Cizeron, Stepanova and Bukin and Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates (currently on the cusp of an entry) all make the Final.

MORE: Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron on ‘Fame,’ chasing history

NHK Trophy Broadcast Schedule

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Thursday 10:30 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Friday 12 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
2:30 a.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
5 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
10 p.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Saturday 12:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
2:30 a.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
5 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Sunday 4 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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