Justin Gatlin, Allyson Felix to end season with major tests; Brussels preview

Allyson Felix, Dafne Schippers
AP
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One year ago in Brussels, Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix put up their best performances since the London Olympics.

Gatlin pulled off perhaps the greatest single-day sprint double of all time. Felix put any torn hamstring concerns behind her with the fastest 200m in the world since her 2012 Olympic title.

The two marquee U.S. sprinters of the moment return to the Belgian capital for the final Diamond League meet of the season Friday. Their tests this year will be greater than in 2014.

Gatlin, 33 and five years removed from a four-year doping ban, races for the first time since he was beaten by Usain Bolt in the 100m and 200m at the World Championships in Beijing last month.

“You cannot dwell on races that are behind you,” Gatlin said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

He will compete twice in Brussels, without Bolt in either field, as he did in 2014. Gatlin is slated to run a 100m and then, 62 minutes later, a 200m.

In 2014, Gatlin ran a then-personal-best 100m (9.77) and then his second-best 200m (19.71) an hour later in Brussels.

This year, he will have to show he can bounce back from the stinging Worlds defeats. His primary competition in the Brussels 100m and 200m is stronger than in 2014 as well.

Felix, who won the 400m at Worlds to cap a comeback from tearing a hamstring in the 2013 Worlds 200m final, will race the 200m in Brussels for a second straight year.

In 2014, Felix entered the Brussels 200m as quite arguably an underdog. Three other women coming into the race had run faster over 200m that season, and it was Felix’s last chance that year to prove she was over the injury.

She came through, shaving .32 off her fastest time of 2014 and setting her up for a dominant 2015. However, Felix’s superiority over 200m is again in question on the eve of Brussels.

That’s because she sat out the World Championships 200m, to focus on the 400m, and saw the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers race to victory in the fourth fastest time ever.

Felix and Schippers will go head to head at 200m in the most anticipated race in Brussels on Friday.

“I’ve always loved to race against the best athletes, because it pushes you, it makes you have better performances,” Felix told media in Brussels. “I’m always up for the challenge.”

Here are the full entry lists and schedule. Here are five events to watch (all times Eastern):

Men’s Shot Put — 12:25 p.m.

It’s American Joe Kovacs versus German David Storl in a meeting of the last three World Championships winners. Kovacs, in his first outdoor global championship, kept Storl from a Worlds three-peat in Beijing. The two have combined for the top 13 throws in the world this year.

Two-time reigning Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland and Olympic bronze medalist Reese Hoffa are also in the field.

Men’s 100m — 2:14 p.m.

Though Gatlin lost to Bolt at Worlds, he was still the fastest man in the world that day (running 9.77 in the semifinals to Bolt’s 9.79 in the final) and over the last two years.

In Brussels, Gatlin will not face Bolt, who withdrew from this meet Monday, citing fatigue, and is done for the season. Gatlin will see the former world-record holder Asafa Powell, who is the third fastest man this year behind Gatlin and Bolt.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:29 p.m.

What does Christian Taylor have left? The Olympic and World champion triple jumped 18.21 meters in Beijing, the No. 2 mark all time behind Brit Jonathan Edwards‘ world record of 18.29.

Taylor will benefit from the presence of Cuban rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, who has jumped 18.08 and 18.06 meters this year, making him the No. 4 triple jumper all time.

Women’s 200m — 2:32 p.m.

Felix and Schippers have gone head to head four times since the start of 2014 and split the meetings, according to the track stats website Tilastopaja.org. This race is their most anticipated yet.

Felix has said she will definitely race the 200m at the Olympic trials in July to try to defend her Olympic title in Rio, even though she did not contest the 200m at Worlds last month. Schippers’ winning time at Worlds was .06 faster than Felix’s personal best from 2012.

If Schippers beats Felix in Brussels, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that the Dutchwoman is the clear Olympic 200m favorite heading into the Olympic year.

Jamaican Elaine Thompson could also win this race. At Worlds, she was .03 slower than Schippers and .03 faster than Felix’s personal best. She’s the youngest of the trio and the least experienced on the international stage.

Men’s 200m — 3:16 p.m.

If Bolt had stayed in this field, it would have marked the first time the reigning World champions in the 100m, 200m and 400m went head to head since 2009, when Bolt and LaShawn Merritt dueled.

Instead, the showdown will be the Worlds 100m and 200m silver medalist Gatlin against the Worlds 400m gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk. Gatlin has the fastest time this year among the field at 19.57, with the South African van Niekerk third at 19.94. Jamaicans Rasheed Dwyer and Nickel Ashmeade are also in the mix.

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Video: Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin’s first race from 2005

Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
Getty
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Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1900-08, according to Olympedia.org.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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