Justin Gatlin still regrets Worlds defeat as 2016 nears

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NEW YORK — When Justin Gatlin mentions the World Championships in Beijing from two months ago, he still speaks in a sentimental tone.

There is the lingering hurt from being beaten by Usain Bolt in the 100m final. Gatlin, who later broke down in tears in the Bird’s Nest on Aug. 23, has watched replays.

“Toughest loss I’ve taken in my career because I feel like I let myself down,” Gatlin said in a Manhattan hotel lobby Thursday morning, more or less repeating his initial reaction from Aug. 23, and then pausing before adding context. “It wasn’t about getting beat by Usain. It wasn’t about being one of the slowest times I ran of the season. It was about, that at the end of the day, I didn’t perform 100 percent in the race and during the race while I was competing. I didn’t do what I was doing all season long. I veered away from what my strategy was, especially the last 20 meters. That’s something that I regret going into this season.”

There is also the residue of the scrutiny on Gatlin’s character from that meet.

He is five years removed from a four-year doping ban and is given the cold shoulder, or worse, by many in the sport. New IAAF president Seb Coe said last year he had “big problems” with Gatlin being eligible for an Athlete of the Year award (rules have changed, and serious doping offenders are no longer eligible for IAAF awards).

“I keep my head down and keep running,” Gatlin said.

Some of the most enduring images of Gatlin from Worlds were of him sitting next to and joking with Bolt after their 200m final and at a later press conference. Or of his face while on the podium at the 100m medal ceremony, when he called out a spectator for verbally harassing his mother.

“Beijing was more of a coming-out party for my human side,” he said. “I think people realize that I have been on a long journey. I have weathered a really big storm. Throughout the whole time, I have not lost my human side.”

That doesn’t change Gatlin’s mistakes. He said he’s been drug tested about 70 times this year, a majority at his Florida home with blood and urine tests.

“From day one, it’s fine with me,” Gatlin said. “Nothing to hide. Nothing to run from. So I’m happy with how many times I’m getting tested, hope that my supporters are comfortable with it and the critics as well. I want them to know that the system is working.”

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion, cycled through coaches and training partners when his suspension was up in 2010. About four years ago, he began working in the Orlando area under coach Dennis Mitchell, a three-time Olympian who also served a doping ban.

Mitchell’s stable of sprinters includes Isiah Young, a 25-year-old who finished second to the 33-year-old Gatlin in the 200m at the U.S. Championships in June. They share a passion.

“People ask me what would I do if I wasn’t a track and field runner, it would be two things,” Gatlin said. “I would try to work in special ops, and I would be a [pro] wrestler. [Young] is a huge fan of wrestling, way bigger than I am.”

Gatlin said he and Young attended a WWE card in Orlando in April — “our first real bonding experience” — and they each bought replica championship belts from a souvenir stand for about $30.

The belts were on the line this past season at Mitchell’s practices, with Gatlin and Young exchanging titles based on who performed better in various drills.

“Try to bring a little spice,” to practices, Gatlin said. “It’ll be maybe two weeks when I have his belt for the whole time, and he’ll get the belt back, and then he has to get my belt.”

One thing Gatlin takes with him around the world is his son’s first sports medal. Jace was born three months before Gatlin’s doping ban ended in 2010.

“He doesn’t care about the medal,” Gatlin said in a beIN Sport profile this summer. “He cares about the candy that comes with the medal.”

In 2010, Gatlin sat on a bench next to the Georgia Tech track in Atlanta, days before his first competition in four years, and explained the meaning behind his 11th and most recent tattoo — a four-leaf clover on his right wrist.

“I needed some luck,” he said.

Gatlin added two tattoos since — the words “Logos Ethos Pathos” in cursive across his upper chest, signifying man’s foundations, he said, and a tiger’s face on his left bicep.

“A representation of my hungry animal coming out,” Gatlin said.

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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