Justin Gatlin
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Justin Gatlin wins in photo finish, Allyson Felix beaten in season finale

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Justin Gatlin barely held off a Qatari sprinter, while Allyson Felix lost to the World champion in the 200m in a possible Rio preview, concluding the top-level track and field season in Brussels on Friday.

Gatlin clocked 9.98 to win the 100m, the same time as Nigerian-born Qatari Femi Ogunode, though the photo finish went to the American in lane five (the first part of the jersey/kit to cross the finish line counts, not the head).

Running into a -0.4 m/s headwind, Gatlin slowed from his five previous 100m races (including first-round and semifinal heats at Worlds) — 9.80, 9.77, 9.83, 9.78, 9.75.

Jamaican Asafa Powell, the former world-record holder who hasn’t finished ahead of Gatlin in a race since 2004, was fifth in 10.04.

Gatlin then skipped the 200m he was originally slated to run a little more than an hour later. Ogunode did not skip that race and won it in 19.97, beating a field that included World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk (fourth, 20.37).

Gatlin said he withdrew from the 200m because he “felt something” in his right quad after the first 75 meters of the 100m, according to the Diamond League.

“I still went for the warming up of the 200 meter, but my muscles still felt hard so my coach advised not to start,” Gatlin said. “Next season is very important, so I wouldn’t risk an injury.”

Gatlin competed for the first time since he suffered his first defeats in two years at the World Championships, coming second to Usain Bolt in the 100m and 200m.

“I remember that I won medals, not that I lost,” Gatlin said of Worlds on Friday, according to the Diamond League.

Full Brussels results are here.

The Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, the World champion, beat Felix, the Olympic champion, in the 200m, solidifying Schippers’ status as Olympic 200m favorite going into 2016.

Schippers clocked 22.12, pulling away slightly from Felix on the straightaway and raising her right arm and right index finger in before crossing the finish line. Felix was second in 22.22.

“It’s quite logical Schippers beat me because I’m not the sharpest 200m runner at the moment,” Felix said, according to the Diamond League. “My switch to the 400m definitely took away some of my speed.”

At Worlds, the former heptathlete Schippers won the 200m title in 21.63, which was .06 faster than Felix’s personal best. Felix chose not to race the 200m at Worlds because the 200m semifinals were the same night as the 400m final, and Felix preferred the 400m.

Felix said after winning the Worlds 400m title that she would definitely race the 200m at the 2016 Olympic trials with hopes of definitely contesting it at the Olympics. She said she may or may not try to run the 400m at the Olympics, too.

The next top-level outdoor international meet will be in the spring. However, top U.S. sprinters could compete in the World Indoor Championships (where they have 60m and 400m but not 100m or 200m) in Portland, Ore., in March.

In other Brussels track action, 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson won the 100m hurdles in 12.63 seconds, leading a U.S. sweep followed by Sharika Nelvis (12.65) and Jasmin Stowers (12.76).

At Worlds, the U.S. entered that event with hopes of sweeping places one through four but finished with zero medals. Harper-Nelson crashed in the Worlds semifinals Aug. 28.

Nelvis owns the fastest time in the world this year (12.34) and Stowers is No. 2 (12.35). Jamaica’s Danielle Williams won the World title in 12.57.

World silver medalist Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas powered past American Francena McCorory in the final straightaway of the 400m in Brussels. McCorory was also passed late in the U.S. Championships final to fail to make the Worlds 400m, despite having the two fastest times in the world for the year going into that final.

In the 400m hurdles, World champion Nicholas Bett of Kenya finished seventh and complained of stomach problems maybe caused by food, according to the Diamond League.

In Brussels field action, Olympic and World champion Christian Taylor outdueled Cuban rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo. Taylor leaped 17.59 meters to Pichardo’s 17.06. At Worlds, Taylor triple jumped 18.21 meters, second all time to Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards‘ 18.29 meters from 1995.

The 2015 World champion Joe Kovacs, 2011 and 2013 World champion David Storl and 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski had a shot put showdown in Brussels.

None finished in the top two.

Australian Tom Walsh prevailed with a 21.39-meter throw, a distance that would have placed fifth at Worlds. Kovacs was third, Storl fourth and Majewski seventh.

Renaud Lavillenie exacted a little revenge against Shawn Barber, clearing 5.95 meters to win the pole vault. The Canadian Barber, who was second with a 5.85-meter clearance, upset the French world-record holder at Worlds.

Colombian two-time World champion Caterine Ibarguen won her 30th straight triple jump competition, according to the track stats website Tilastopaja. Her last loss was the 2012 Olympics, when she earned silver.

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Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

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Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

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It’s Nathan Chen’s time at nationals for a feat 32 years in the making

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Nathan Chen can join Brian Boitano in U.S. figure skating history this week, a decade after holding Boitano in the palm of his hands with a program set to music from “Kung Fu Panda.”

Chen seeks a fourth straight national title in Greensboro, N.C. He would be the seventh man to do so since World War II. Five of the previous six won Olympic titles — Dick Button, Hayes Jenkins, David Jenkins, Scott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano from 1985-88.

Boitano remembered the first time he met Chen. He and Kristi Yamaguchi were compelled to leave their seats to find the teeny, tiny wunderkind who performed that program to the 2008 DreamWorks film.

“He was taking off his skates, and he probably came up to our waist,” Boitano said. “We knew when we saw him back then that he was going to be something special. He was really quiet. He’s still very quiet.”

In an interview last week, Chen focused on the present — coming back from a two-week cold or flu bug — rather than the perspective.

“I don’t like to typically think about that,” Chen said when asked about his streak. “It’s just different [from year to year]. It’s not really necessarily easier or harder.”

It is also different from previous eras. The last five men to win four in a row did it all in one Olympic cycle, then stepped away from competition after the Winter Games. That was back when turning professional meant the end of an Olympic career.

“It was kind of the norm back then,” Hamilton said. “After that it was kind of back and forth a lot [until Chen]. The business of skating changed so skaters could stay in a lot more, a lot longer. With all the money they brought in, they were able to prevent skaters from turning professional. So that brought in a different approach to nationals.”

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Both Hamilton and six-time (non-consecutive) U.S. champion Todd Eldredge could think of just one name to compare Chen’s dominance in the history of U.S. men’s skating: Button, who won the first seven national titles after World War II, plus two Olympic golds.

Button earned national and world titles as a Harvard student. Chen is on a two-season win streak while majoring in statistics and data science at Yale. Button was the first skater to land a double Axel and a triple jump of any kind. Chen was the first to land six quads in one free skate.

Eldredge coaches skaters at the same rink where Chen trains when Chen visits his Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutunian. He is awed by watching Chen working out. Though Eldredge owns more national titles, he never felt the massive favorite status that accompanies Chen.

Eldredge competed in the post-Hamilton/Boitano era, when national champions began competing over multiple Olympic cycles. Eldredge ebbed and flowed from his first national title in 1990, when compulsory figures were still around, to 2002, when he defeated Timothy Goebel, then known as the Quad King.

“Physically, the demands of the sport take their toll on your body,” Eldredge said. “It’s hard to maintain that same level for that length of period of time.

“[In] 12 years [since Chen’s first national title], when he’s 29 years old, is he going to be able to continue to sustain that?”

All of the recent top U.S. men competed in multiple Olympic cycles. The last multiple national champion was Jeremy Abbott, who earned two titles each in two different Olympic cycles. Abbott finished his career in a third Olympic cycle, placing fifth at the 2015 U.S. Championships. Abbott didn’t remember that Chen made his senior nationals debut that year, finishing eighth at age 15.

“For me, winning the third and the fourth [titles] were harder because I started thinking about winning,” Abbott said. “After the second one, I was heading into a new quad and I was two-time U.S. champion. Then my focus was, oh, I’m expected to win. So that was a harder mental game rather than just focusing on making an Olympic team. The expectation now that I’ve done this twice in a row, I’m expected to win again and again and again.”

Abbott and Chen came up in the era of the points-based judging system instituted in 2004.

“Now with the way the scoring system is very different [from the old 6.0], cumulative points, if you have a bad day as a national champion, that’s it. You can’t get the points,” Eldredge said. “[In previous eras], if a certain skater was, I’ll say politically supposed to be the champion, you got a higher score, and rightfully so in most cases.”

Chen has the benefit of going into competitions knowing the kind of advantage he has in base value points from his jumping arsenal. He won last year’s national title by 58 points. This international season, he is 80 points clear of the next-highest-ranked U.S. man, Jason Brown.

“I don’t think that the try-to-push technique is necessarily my goal here,” at nationals, Chen said. “Hopefully just to maintain my body, maintain my health and try to prepare myself for the second half of the season.”

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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.