Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin

Usain Bolt crushes Justin Gatlin in World Championships 200m

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A few minutes after Usain Bolt confirmed he’s still the world’s fastest man by winning the 200m at the World Championships on Thursday night, top challenger Justin Gatlin saw the Jamaican sitting on a dark folding chair on the crest of the Beijing Bird’s Nest track.

Gatlin, the best sprinter the last two years (before Bolt beat him in the 100m and 200m in Beijing) who served a four-year doping ban and has been billed as evil to Bolt’s good going into these World Championships, saw a tan bench, grabbed the seat and pulled it some feet to within arm’s length of Bolt.

Bolt, with a Jamaican flag draped over his left knee and holding green shoes in his left hand, noticed Gatlin approaching him. Bolt smiled.

Bolt extended his right arm across his body as Gatlin entered the picture, with an American flag in his left hand, and held out his right arm. They fived and shook hands. Bolt and Gatlin sat and spoke in spurts for 30 seconds while photographers captured the meeting from in front of and behind them.

Once both were sitting, Bolt appeared to speak first.

“He said, ‘I’m tired, my legs on fire,'” Gatlin later told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “I said, ‘I’m tired, my legs on fire, too.'”

As Gatlin untied and removed his Nikes, Bolt rose from his chair to continue his victory lap, striding away from Gatlin.

“He talks a lot, I’ve noticed over the years, but that’s just who he is,” Bolt said of Gatlin in a press conference later, drawing a smile and laugh from Gatlin sitting to his right. “I’ve noticed that leading up to the championships he’s going to say a lot of stuff, but after the championships, he confuses you. You feel like he’s your best friend.”

From his bench, Gatlin then chased Bolt, which he will be doing for the next year until the Rio Olympics, for one final interaction. They pounded fists and went on their ways.

AP

“When [Gatlin] is not talking or saying what he’s going to do, he’s actually a cool person,” Bolt told Johnson on Universal Sports. “We were just talking how tired we were.”

Gatlin, 33 and the Olympic sprint king before Bolt took the throne in Beijing 2008, had been undefeated in the 100m and 200m in 2014 and 2015 going into the World Championships.

He lost both the 100m and 200m to Bolt, who had been doubted by many due to injuries the last two years, a lack of races and times far from his world-record peak in 2009.

Experts said Bolt’s victory over Gatlin in the 100m by .01 on Sunday was due to Gatlin’s mentally induced physical breakdown at the end of the race rather than Bolt’s 9.79-second form. After all, Gatlin was faster in the semifinals (9.77) earlier that night, in a race that did not include Bolt.

On Thursday, Bolt left no doubt that he is the world’s best sprinter. He trounced Gatlin with the fastest time in the world since Bolt’s 2012 Olympic victory. Thursday’s win was assured with at least 20 meters left, and Bolt knew it, pointing to his chest as he decelerated before the finish line.

Bolt clocked 19.55 seconds; Gatlin 19.74 (full results here), after going into the final with the four fastest times in the world since the start of 2014 — 19.57, 19.68, 19.68 and 19.71. Bolt’s fastest time before Worlds in that same span was 20.13.

Bolt: I may retire after Rio Olympics

Bolt doesn’t often acknowledge he’s motivated by others, but he said after the race that his celebration was due to the man two lanes to his left.

“Justin Gatlin was saying he was ready to go, he’s going to do something special,” Bolt told Johnson on Universal Sports. “For the 100m, I don’t mind. … When it comes to my 200m, I take it really personal. That’s the only reason I celebrated across the line.”

In a post-race press conference, Gatlin joked while sitting next to Bolt that the 29-year-old Jamaican “calls me an old man when we’re in the background.”

“Y’all don’t see that,” Gatlin told the media. “When we’re in the warm-up area, he’ll be like, ‘Old man!'”

Gatlin added another silver to his collection, 10 years after he won the World 200m title in his first race against Bolt. (Bolt finished last in that race (video here), pulling up with a reported leg injury). One year later, Gatlin began serving his doping ban, and the two would go six years between races together.

“It’s a cluster of electricity,” Gatlin said of Thursday’s final to Johnson on Universal Sports. “I want to say that I help, I guess, spawned the rivalry this year, bring excitement. I’m just happy to go out there and make the big man run this year. Be able to come back next year and do the same thing.”

Bolt and Gatlin could go head to head one more time at Worlds, in the 4x100m relay on Saturday (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra coverage, 2:30 p.m. ET). Jamaica won that relay at the last two Olympics and last three World Championships.

“I’m re-energized for that already,” Gatlin told Johnson on Universal Sports.

On his victory lap, Bolt was taken down by a cameraman on a Segway.

“They tried to kill me. I don’t know what’s going on,” Bolt said on the BBC, adding later on Universal Sports, “accidents happen.”

After his BBC interview, Bolt looked into the camera and, presumably, into the eyes of former 200m world-record holder Michael Johnson, who is now a studio analyst for the BBC.

“A lot of people been doubting me and saying I’m going to lose, like one of the guys in the studio,” Bolt said. “Michael Johnson, stop doubting me, bro.”

Also Thursday, Allyson Felix won her first World 400m title, breaking the record for most Worlds gold medals and overall medals for an American. More on Felix’s victory and what it means for Rio here.

World Championships: Broadcast schedule | Video: South African stretchered off after 400m gold

Earlier Thursday, U.S. Olympic champion Christian Taylor outdueled Cuban rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo (18.21 meters to 17.73) for triple jump gold. Taylor’s final jump of 18.21 marked the second best of all time behind Jonathan Edwards‘ 18.29m world record from 1995. Taylor bowed next to the pit after his jump. Edwards could be seen with an open-mouth smile, shaking his head in disbelief from a commentary box in the Bird’s Nest.

“My coaches told me to clear my head and just let it rip,” Taylor told Johnson on Universal Sports, adding on Eurosport, “When you’re that close to a record, it just makes you even hungrier for the next time.”

Polish world-record holder Anita Wlodarczyk captured her second hammer throw World title.

Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt was the fastest qualifier into Friday’s 110m hurdles final. Merritt’s kidney function is less than 20 percent, and he’s scheduled for a transplant Tuesday with his sister as the donor. Defending World champion David Oliver also made the eight-man final.

“I’m about 75 percent physical health right now,” Merritt said on Eurosport. “That should be enough to get me a medal, I hope.”

“It’s taken a lot of soul-searching,” Merritt said on the BBC. “It’s a really good distraction from the surgery.”

Two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell Brown reached Friday’s 200m final, along with Worlds 100m silver medalist Dafne Schippers. Neither Olympic champion Felix nor 2013 World 200m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce entered the 200m in Beijing.

Neither 2009 World champion Caster Semenya (she of the gender-testing controversy) nor any Americans qualified for Saturday’s 800m final. The favorite is Kenyan Eunice Sum, the defending World champion and world’s fastest woman this year. In 2013, three U.S. women finished third, fourth and sixth in the event.

Reigning Olympic and World champion Brittney Reese failed to qualify for Friday’s long jump final. Another American, 2005 World champion Tianna Bartoletta, did make the 12-woman final as the top jumper in the world this year.

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba qualified for Sunday’s 5000m final, where she’ll try to become the first woman to sweep the 1500m and 5000m at a single Worlds or Olympics.

All four Americans, including 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson and 2013 World champion Brianna Rollins, advanced to the 100m hurdles semifinals Friday. The final is also Friday.

Video: Usain Bolt’s only loss at the Olympics

Bradie Tennell’s personality shines through at Skate America

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LAS VEGAS — At Skate America on Friday night, fans got a glimpse of the “real” Bradie Tennell — strong, smart, funny; a little salty, but a little sweet.

Performing a short program set to a fast-paced medley of Kirrill Richter’s staccato piano compositions, Tennell practically gave off sparks while unleashing a solid triple Lutz, triple toe loop combination, liquid spins and her best steps ever.

The Las Vegas crowd gave her a standing ovation and so did the judges, who awarded the 2019 U.S. national silver medalist a personal best 75.10 points.

For the first time ever, Tennell leads a Grand Prix event, taking a 1.85-point advantage into Saturday’s free skate.

“I went out with the mindset to do it like I do every day in practice, no better but certainly no worse,” she said.

The 21-year-old skater, who grabbed attention with a surprising bronze medal at 2017 Skate America and went on to win the 2018 U.S. title, hasn’t always revealed as much of herself in interviews as some of her peers. She’s mostly been content with doing her job on the ice, and last season placed a solid seventh at the world championships.

“I think (this program) just allows me to show the side of myself that I am off the ice with my family, a little bit more sarcastic, a little bit funny,” Tennell said. “It’s almost like an onion when you peel back the layers. To show this program is a challenge for me but it’s a challenge I welcome.”

Longtime coach Denise Myers, who trains Tennell in the Chicago area, likes the new lens the program creates.

“Brady is a fun-loving personality that maybe now the world is getting to see a little better,” Myers said. “No surprise to me.”

The electricity Tennell ignited on Friday proves that when a skater loves her material, magic can happen. This isn’t the program Tennell and choreographer Benoit Richaud intended to use. An earlier routine, choreographed in May, failed to inspire the skater. When she saw Richaud at a training camp in Courchevel, France in June, she asked him to try again.

“So then he puts up this music and I’m like, ‘What is this, this is so cool, this is my music, let’s start now,’” Tennell recalled. “I was so excited to find this piece of music and use it…. Yeah, I love this program.”

Skate America is Tennell’s first competition of the season; a fractured bone in her right foot forced her to withdraw from a Challenger Series’ event in Canada last month. The injury kept her off of the ice for much of the summer, and when she attended U.S. Figure Skating’s Champ Camp in late August, she was wearing a protective boot.

“Before my injury, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have pain on the ice with my feet,” Tennell said. “It felt really bad at the beginning of July, and then it started to get progressively worse really quickly. So I went to the doctor and got some scans done, and they said, ‘Yeah, you’ve got a break in the bone there.’”

About a month ago, Tennell returned to full training, resolving to make up for lost time.

“That’s just her determination,” Myers said. “You have to listen to what your body is saying. She’s just very determined to have a successful season.”

MORE: How to watch Skate America

Tennell’s free skate, also choreographed by Richaud, is set to music from the romantic 1988 film Cinema Paradiso.

“It’s a totally different feel, that’s what’s so exciting about this year,” Myers said. “The short is a little sassier, a little more mature, and the other program is so soft and feminine.”

It will take every ounce of Tennell’s mettle to stay on the Skate America podium. Japanese skaters Kaori Sakamoto and Wakaba Higuchi, both powerhouse jumpers, are close behind in second and third place. Russian teen Anna Shcherbakova sits fourth with 67.60 points and can make up the deficit if she lands the quadruple Lutz she showed at a Challenger event in Italy last month. In practices in Las Vegas, Shcherbakova has included two quad lutzes in her run-throughs. More on the results of the ladies’ short program from Friday evening in Las Vegas here.

MORE: Nathan Chen hopes to hip hop his way to Skate America crown

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. Check out a free trial of the Figure Skating Pass during Skate America from Oct. 18-20. 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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Bradie Tennell leads Skate America field after Russians falter

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Bradie Tennell‘s bronze medal at 2017 Skate America propelled her to a national title and a place on the PyeongChang Olympic team in 2018.

At Skate America on Friday evening in Las Vegas, Tennell outpaced the ladies’ field by 1.85 points, scoring 75.10 points — her best-ever short program score. Tennell opened her program with a triple Lutz, triple toe combination, followed by a double Axel and a triple flip. What could a win at her first Grand Prix event of the season set up for the 2019-20 year? Time will tell.

“I went out there with the mindset of doing what I do everyday in practice and not trying to make anything any better or certainly any worse,” Tennell said through U.S. Figure Skating. “I wanted to enjoy myself, be relaxed and perform. The ice is my safe space. It’s where I feel most at home… It’s almost like an onion. You have to peel back the layers, and that’s almost what I’m doing with my skating now. To show this program is a challenge for me but one that I welcome.”

MORE: Tennell’s personality shines through at Skate America

Her closest competitor, Kaori Sakamoto from Japan, tallied 73.25 points after skating to Alice Merton’s “No Roots.” Sakamoto has won the silver medal at Skate America for the past two seasons.

Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi skated to another pop song, Sia’s “Bird Set Free,” and scored 71.76 points. She’s in third place heading into Saturday’s free skate.

Skate America results are here.

The standings are a surprising twist, as many pinned Russian skaters Anna Shcherbakova and Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva to be inside the top three after the short program.

In her senior Grand Prix debut, Shcherbakova slipped and fell in her step sequence and accrued a mandatory one-point deduction. She still tallied 67.60 points, good enough for fourth place on Friday evening.

Expect to see quadruple jumps from Shcherbakova in Saturday’s free skate. She trains under Moscow-based coach Eteri Tutberidze alongside a host of burgeoning Russian skaters, including reigning world and Olympic champion Alina Zagitova.

Meanwhile, Tuktamysheva, the 2015 world champion, sits in fifth place behind Shcherbakova by a slim 0.32 points. While her triple Axel was awarded positive Grades of Execution, her triple Lutz was called under-rotated.

2017 national champion Karen Chen returned to major international competition after being away for more than a year due to injury. The Cornell freshman finished her short program in sixth place with 66.03 points.

“There were definitely nerves,” Chen said of her return to competition. “This year is my comeback year, and so I wanted to make it count, but at the same time I know that I’m throwing a lot of things out there, like I’m skating and I’m also going to school. It’s been tough balancing, but I do really enjoy it and I think it’s the right decision.”

The third American in the field, Amber Glenn, is seventh with 64.71 points.

MORE: How to watch Skate America

In ice dance Friday night, Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue have high hopes of keeping the U.S.’ winning streak alive at Skate America. After Saturday’s free dance, the Montreal-trained team could extend U.S. ice dancers’ win streak to 11. They won this event last year, too.

Hubbell and Donohue skated to a Marilyn Monroe medley — including “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” which Hubbell admitted to wanting to skate to since the 2014 season — to score 84.97 points.*

“I feel like we have so much progress to make on the program, but it was a really great performance for today,” Hubbell said through U.S. Figure Skating. “It was really exciting for me to debut the Marilyn Monroe character. It’s something I have dreamed about skating to for many years, so it was great to actualize that here in Las Vegas.”

Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia sit close behind with 81.91 points, after a rhythm dance set to “Sparkling Diamonds” and “Your Song” from Moulin Rouge. The Russian duo were fourth behind Hubbell and Donohue at the 2019 World Championships, and Stepanova recently returned from a back injury. Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen performed their rhythm dance to selections from “Bonnie & Clyde” and placed third with 79.17 points.

Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko landed in sixth place after the rhythm dance with 70.41 points. The third American dance team in the field, Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, were eighth with 67.97 points after the rhythm dance in their Grand Prix debut. They’re a brand new team this season; Green formerly danced with her brother and Parsons was previously partnered with his sister.

“I feel that so far we have adapted really well to the new partnership,” Green said. “I think that we have a good trust with each other. Maybe it is not quite as natural as it was with our siblings, but I definitely think we are in a good place and this has the potential to be even a little higher.”

“I had a long career with my sister and it does feel strange to be at a competition like this without her, but I think I’m really lucky in the fact that I can use all the experiences I had with her to learn from, to teach Caroline and to build on this new partnership,” Parsons added.

*Editor’s Note: Due to a calculation error on the element “Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence” (PSt), the Rhythm Dance (RD) scores at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating event Skate America had to be re-calculated for all skaters. The revised results and details are published with the corrected scores. The overall RD standing did not change. They are correct in this article as of 10 a.m. Saturday. 

Friday afternoon, Nathan Chen was the only men’s skater to break the 100-point barrier. More on the men’s and pairs’ short program here.

MORE: Hubbell, Donohue already thinking about worlds in Montreal

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. Check out a free trial of the Figure Skating Pass during Skate America from Oct. 18-20. 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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