Justin Gatlin
AP

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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Kelly Slater has an Olympic decision to make

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Surfing icon Kelly Slater is in great position to qualify for his sport’s Olympic debut in 2020, but he’s undecided about making a required event appearance this summer to stay eligible.

The top two U.S. male surfers in this season’s World Surf League final standings are in line to qualify for the Olympics.

Slater, a 47-year-old, 11-time world champion, is ranked third among Americans through six of 11 events, but the No. 2, two-time world champion John John Florence, is likely out for the rest of the season after an ACL tear.

If Slater keeps up his current pace of results, he will pass Florence’s point total by the end of the season in December.

“It appears as though I have to make a decision [on the Olympics] sooner than that,” Slater said after being eliminated from South Africa’s J-Bay Open in ninth place on Wednesday. “I’ve really got to figure out all the factors around that and make a decision in the next few weeks.”

Slater’s concern is the ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan, in September, an event that top Olympic hopefuls on the WSL tour are required to attend, barring illness or injury.

“I think I have to surf that event, and if I don’t, it may disqualify me,” he said (the International Surfing Association, the sport’s governing body, later confirmed it would disqualify him). “But I’m not sure if I want to go to Japan and compete right now.”

The ISA Games take place in the week between the next two WSL events, the latter hosted by Slater’s Surf Ranch wave pool in California.

“I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the Olympics right now, anyways,” said Slater, who last year said he was “50-50” on the Olympics when noting his differing thoughts on the qualification process and venue. “The point is, I’m not really focusing on it at this point. I’m trying to get myself back in the flow of the tour.”

Slater missed 13 tour stops between the 2017 and 2018 seasons after breaking a foot and having multiple surgeries.

He finished fifth, third, ninth, ninth and ninth in his five most recent events to get into Olympic qualifying position. He expected more after placing third in the two contests he entered healthy last season. Slater said he competed at J-Bay after straining his back “really bad” on Sunday, keeping him from surfing the three days before the contest.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, at 48, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, via the OlyMADMen.

“Right now in my head the focus is more on this tour than it is on the Olympics, but we’ll see,” he said. “I was starting this year with a lot of pressure on myself to try and make the Olympic team and think, maybe I’ll retire there next year and that will be the end for me. It put so much pressure on the start of the year for me that I didn’t feel like I could freely compete. It was putting too many things in my head. I needed to let that take a backseat and not worry about it. I’m just not really thinking about it a lot.”

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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China on brink of sweeping every gold medal at diving worlds

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Shi Tingmao joined Guo Jingjing as the only women to win three straight world titles in an individual diving event, giving China 11 gold medals in 11 events with two finals left in Gwangju, South Korea.

Shi, who swept the individual and synchronized springboard titles in Rio, claimed the 3m world title on Friday by 18.25 points with 391 total. Countrywoman Wang Han took silver, 5.8 points ahead of Australian Maddison Keeney.

Americans Sarah Bacon and Brooke Schultz missed the 12-woman final, placing 14th and 29th.

China, which has dominated the sport for two decades, is looking to sweep the golds at an Olympics or worlds for the second time after winning all 10 events in 2011. This year’s feat could be more impressive, should China win the last two events Saturday — a mixed-gender springboard and the men’s platform.

That’s because three mixed-gender events were added to the world program (but not the Olympic program) since 2011. And this year, China has not only won every gold but also taken every silver in the three individual Olympic program events thus far.

China is in strong position to go one-two in the men’s platform. Yang Jian and Yang Hao were nearly 70 points clear of the field in Friday’s semifinals.

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