Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt anchors Jamaica to 4x100m relay gold after U.S. mishap

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Usain Bolt completed a triple gold World Championships performance, anchoring the Jamaican 4x100m relay team to victory over the disqualified U.S. in Beijing on Saturday.

Also Saturday, Ashton Eaton broke his world record in the decathlon by six points. More on Eaton’s feat here.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have World Track and Field Championships coverage Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

The U.S. earned two medals Saturday, gold from Eaton and silver behind Jamaica in the women’s 4x100m relay. The U.S. leads the medal standings with 16 total and trails Jamaica and Kenya in golds (six to five) with one day of competition left at the Bird’s Nest.

U.S. track and field has won at least 22 medals at each of the last eight Olympics or World Championships, but it’s unlikely to reach that mark Sunday, even with likely medals in both 4x400m relays.

Bolt, who won the 100m on Sunday and 200m on Thursday, both over American Justin Gatlin, received the baton for the final leg of the 4x100m relay and cruised to win while the U.S. fumbled its last exchange, as it did at the 2013 World Championships.

“We were talking about it,” Bolt said of the American disqualification on Eurosport, “and it’s called pressure.”

Tyson Gay‘s handoff to American anchor Mike Rodgers came too late and out of the zone. The Americans were disqualified several minutes after the race. Gay had pulled even with Rodgers in his lane before Rodgers finally got out with the baton.

“I don’t think the pressure got to me,” Rodgers told media in Beijing. “I was very cool, calm and collected.”

By contrast, Nickel Ashmeade‘s handoff to Bolt was clean, and Bolt ended up winning it for Jamaica by .41 over the U.S., before the disqualification became official. China moved up to silver and Canada bronze.

“I saw the mess after 300 meters and was happy we were not in it,” Bolt said, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. led Jamaica early in the relay, after Gatlin’s second leg, and would have been about even with Bolt had the Gay-Rodgers exchange gone smoothly.

Gatlin did not anchor the U.S. because he is more used to running the second leg, as he did at the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas on May 2, when the U.S. defeated a Jamaican team with Bolt anchoring.

In that meet, Rodgers was the leadoff man with Ryan Bailey anchoring for the U.S., but Bailey did not make the U.S. team for Worlds. Trayvon Bromell, the 20-year-old co-World 100m bronze medalist, was inserted into the leadoff spot with Rodgers moving to anchor.

Bolt has won 17 straight Olympic and World Championships races he’s finished, dating to the 2008 Olympics. Bolt’s only loss in that span was a false-start disqualification in the 2011 World Championships 100m.

The U.S. men haven’t won an Olympic or Worlds 4x100m relay since the 2007 World Championships, which was Bolt’s last defeat in a race he finished at an Olympics or Worlds.

Full Saturday results are available here.

Earlier Saturday, Olympic and World 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce anchored Jamaica to 4x100m gold and the second fastest women’s 4x100m relay ever. They won in 41.07 seconds, shy of the world record 40.82 put up by the U.S. to win the 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. was .61 back for silver, missing World 100m bronze medalist Tori Bowie, who was not put on the team because she missed a relay training camp earlier this summer. Bowie’s presence likely wouldn’t have made a difference given the margin of victory.

Allyson Felix was on the U.S. quartet to earn her 12th career World Championships medal, extending her American record. She could earn a 13th in the 4x400m relay Sunday.

In the men’s 5000m, Mo Farah won his fifth career World Championship, passing Kenyan Caleb Ndiku coming into the final straightaway. Farah clocked 13:50.38. Ndiku took silver in 13:51.75, followed by Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet for bronze in 13:51.86.

Farah, who said he overcame a hamstring injury, swept the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds and 2015 Worlds.

Russian Maria Kuchina captured the high jump for her first global outdoor championship medal, clearing a personal best 2.01 meters. Two-time World champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia earned silver, with Russian Olympic champion Anna Chicherova capturing bronze.

Belarus’ Maryna Arzamasova also bagged her first global championship medal, gold in the 800m in 1:58.03. She upset 2013 World champion Eunice Sum of Kenya, who ended up with bronze in 1:58.18. Canadian Melissa Bishop finished between them in 1:58.12.

Poland discus thrower Piotr Malachowski won his first global title following one Olympic silver and two Worlds silvers. He threw 67.40 meters in the absence of injured German Robert Harting, the 2009, 2011 and 2013 World champion and 2012 Olympic champion.

World Championships: Segway cameraman apologizes, gives present to Usain Bolt

Amy Cragg to withdraw from U.S. Olympic marathon trials

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Defending champion Amy Cragg will miss the Feb. 29 U.S. Olympic marathon trials with an illness, according to her social media.

“The Trials are the reason I have shown up every day for the last four years, so this has been an extremely difficult decision,” was posted on her social media. Cragg later said she had Epstein-Barr virus, according to multiple reports.

Cragg, 36, was among the favorites to grab three Olympic spots at trials in Atlanta, despite not having competed over 26.2 miles since the February 2018 Tokyo Marathon.

She withdrew from the 2018 Chicago Marathon with a hamstring injury and also scratched a month before the 2019 Chicago Marathon, citing signs pointing to needing more time after the previous year’s injury.

Cragg, fourth at the 2012 Olympic trials, relegated Des Linden and Shalane Flanagan to second and third at the 2016 trials. Linden and Flanagan went on to win the Boston and New York City Marathons, respectively, ending long U.S. women’s victory droughts.

Cragg went on to finish ninth in Rio and earn a 2017 World bronze medal, the first world championships marathon podium finish for an American woman since the first worlds in 1983.

Cragg could still make the Tokyo Olympic team in the 10,000m if she races at track trials in June. She won the 2012 Olympic trials 10,000m but hasn’t raced the distance on the track since May 2017.

“Right now my only goal is to get healthy so that I can train at the level needed to be competitive,” Cragg said in an emailed message from her agent. “That being said, the reason I am still in this sport is because of the Olympic Trials and Olympics. It is what excites me more than anything, so it is something I would still love to do.”

With Cragg absent and Flanagan retired, Linden is the only woman in next week’s field with Olympic marathon experience.

Other favorites include Olympic 10,000m runner Molly Huddle, world championships 10,000m runner Emily Sisson and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history.

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Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

Galen Rupp
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As Galen Rupp bids for a fourth Olympics, and perhaps become the first man or woman to win the Olympic marathon trials twice outright, he found some rare familiarity these days on the roads Feb. 8.

“Feeling like my old self again,” Rupp said Wednesday of winning a low-key half marathon in Mesa, Ariz., his first completed race in 16 months and since parting from now-banned, career-long coach Alberto Salazar. “It’s obviously been a long year and a half.”

Rupp clocked 61 minutes, 19 seconds on a downhill course. It’s faster than any half marathon by an American recorded by World Athletics since the start of 2019. Granted the downhill, but Rupp also said he was instructed by new coach Mike Smith to make it a controlled effort.

“He didn’t want me to run all-out, didn’t want me to really push and put myself in a big hole,” Rupp said, noting he was still in heavy training. “You don’t want to break that [training] up and put yourself in a deficit by having a massive effort.”

Mesa answered questions about Rupp’s readiness for the Olympic trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (NBC, 12-3 p.m. ET). Even to the two-time Olympic medalist himself. Rupp said he started the half marathon with a little bit of doubt — given recent left ankle and calf injuries — but felt early on that everything would be fine.

“It really put my mind at ease,” he said. “I’m going to be good for the marathon.”

His last two marathons did not go well.

At the 2018 Chicago Marathon, Rupp dropped from the leaders around mile 19 and finished fifth in a title defense. An Achilles injury flared up near the end. He underwent surgery later that month for two tears. Doctors said the ankle had been “a ticking time bomb.”

“They said I was really lucky to have as good of health as I had and manage it as I did,” Rupp said.

He went a full year before racing again, at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, 12 days after Salazar’s ban was announced. Even that was a rushed comeback, Rupp said after dropping out around mile 23 with a calf injury.

“I’m not going to say it was a wake-up call,” Rupp said, “but I think I was a little bit stubborn before Chicago.”

Rupp said he ran through pain in training to get to the start line four months ago. He had trouble walking for several days after the abbreviated race and focused on physical therapy for about two months. He resumed normal, pain-free training in December.

By early January, Runner’s World reported that Oregon-based Rupp found a new Flagstaff-based coach in Smith, who leads a Northern Arizona University program that won the last three NCAA men’s cross-country titles.

“The biggest thing to me was Mike’s philosophy in coaching was very similar to the program that I was under for so many years,” said Rupp, who was for more than a decade part of the Nike Oregon Project, which was shut down last fall after Salazar’s ban for doping violations (which he appealed). Rupp wasn’t implicated by USADA and has a clean drug-testing record. “What I love most about it was Mike’s honesty and how forthright he was about everything. You could tell he wasn’t just saying what I wanted to hear or say, ‘We’re just going to do whatever you’ve been doing and try and replicate that.’ You’ve got to keep evolving and trying new things.”

Smith declined an interview request through NAU until after trials. He agreed to coach Rupp after about a month of communication and hard questions, according to Runner’s World.

“Because of its timing and the headlines I was reading like everyone else at the time, this was not a road I wanted to go down,” Smith said, according to the report. “To be honest, it was just easiest to turn it down. I’m actually — as crazy as this sounds — really proud I did not.

“What I found out by getting to know Galen was that there was much more going on than the picture portrayed of him, and I wish the world knew that. I have never seen someone more all-in in my life.”

Rupp, asked his toughest moment of the last two years, said he moves forward.

“Throughout any hardships and setbacks, I felt a lot of gratitude that I had as good of a run as I did with my health and everything going well for as long as I did,” he said. “It can be easy to get angry and get down, like why me, but I do believe that things always work out. There’s a reason behind all this stuff.”

Which brings Rupp to Atlanta next week for the first time in his life, aside from airport layovers. The race is unlike any other he has contested. The course is unusually hilly. The format — Americans only, top three make the Olympic team — makes for different tactics than the World Marathon Majors that Rupp is used to.

In 2016, Rupp entered as a favorite but without any marathon experience. He won convincingly, pulling away from now-retired Meb Keflezighi by 68 seconds.

The field is deeper this year. Seven Americans broke 2:11 in 2019. Only one did in 2015. But Rupp, at his best, is in his own class.

His personal best 2:06:07, from his last healthy marathon in 2018, is 1:49 faster than the second-fastest in the trials field in this Olympic cycle (Leonard Korir). The next-fastest, Scott Fauble, is more than three minutes behind by personal bests.

“I can confidently go in and say that I’ve put in the work for this, just like I know that I put in the work in 2016,” Rupp said. “Of course, you want to go in and have good races, feeling confident and being on a roll like I was several years ago. But I think that’s why that race in Mesa was so important to show, more to myself, that hey, you’re ready to go. You can still run well. You haven’t lost everything. Surgery didn’t wipe you out.”

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