Usain Bolt returns; 5 track and field events to watch Saturday

Usain Bolt
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Usain Bolt embarks on his latest-ever start to an Olympic season with his first competition since Aug. 29 at a meet at the Cayman Islands on Saturday night.

Bolt, last seen in race form sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 2015 World Championships, makes his 2016 debut in a low-key meet against largely low-key competition.

On the other side of the world, several more Olympic and World medalists, including Bolt rival Justin Gatlin, gather in Shanghai for the second Diamond League meet of the year.

Start lists are hyperlinked for the Cayman Invitational men’s 100m and the Shanghai Diamond League meet.

Here’s the Shanghai and Bolt schedule Saturday (all times Eastern):

4:55 a.m. — Women’s high jump
5:50 — Women’s discus
5:51 — Men’s shot put
6:22 — Women’s long jump
6:45 — Men’s pole vault
6:55 — Men’s high jump
7:04 — Men’s 400m hurdles
7:12 — Women’s 1500m
7:25 — Men’s 100m
7:35 — Women’s 400m
7:40 — Men’s long jump
7:43 — Men’s 800m
7:52 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
7:55 — Men’s javelin
8:11 — Women’s 200m
8:20 — Men’s 5000m
8:44 — Men’s 110m hurdles
8:40 p.m. — Usain Bolt in Cayman 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Shanghai women’s discus — 5:50 a.m.

Every women’s track event in Shanghai lacks either the Olympic favorite or top American, but the discus checks both boxes.

The field includes Olympic champion Sandra Perković of Croatia, World champion Denia Caballero of Cuba and American record holder Gia Lewis-Smallwood.

It will be an early test for Lewis-Smallwood, who broke the American record in 2014 but struggled in 2015, finishing 11th at Worlds, reportedly while injured.

Shanghai men’s 100m — 7:25 a.m.

Gatlin races his third 100m of the year against Mike Rodgers and Isiah Young, who finished third and fourth at the 2015 U.S. Championships (with Gatlin not in that field).

Plus, Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, who broke 10 seconds in his last two races of 2015 in September and his first two races this year in April, including a 9.91 that’s the fastest in the world for 2016.

But only Gatlin is an Olympic medal favorite in this group. He severely rolled an ankle last fall, then ran 9.90 on April 16 (with too much tailwind to be a legal time) and 10.02 last Sunday into a slight headwind.

On May 15, 2015, Gatlin ran 9.74, a time that would have beaten Bolt at the World Championships in August. He does not appear to be near that form this spring, but there’s plenty of time to reach it before the Olympic Trials and the Rio Games.

Shanghai men’s 800m — 7:43 a.m.

David Rudisha is the reigning Olympic and World champion and world-record holder, but the Kenyan is not the unstoppable force he was four years ago.

Rudisha went more than one year between races in 2013 and 2014 due to a right knee injury he first noticed in Central Park. Yes, he won the 2015 World title, but Rudisha received incredible fortune by not having to face any prior Olympic or World medalists in the final.

In Shanghai, Rudisha gets U.S. champion and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds, who last raced Aug. 8, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Shanghai 110m hurdles — 8:44 a.m.

The climax event of the meet includes the five fastest men’s hurdlers this year and three Americans who own Olympic or World titles.

There’s 2011 World champion Jason Richardson, 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt and 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Plus, Jamaicans Omar McLeod and Hansle Parchment and Spain’s Orlando Ortega, the top three men this year.

McLeod prevailed in the Diamond League opener in Doha last week, with Merritt taking sixth in his first Diamond League race since a Sept. 1 kidney transplant.

Cayman men’s 100m — 8:40 p.m.

There is one man scheduled for this race who will keep Bolt somewhat honest. That’s countryman Kemar Bailey-Cole, whom you may remember Bolt controversially beat with identical times at this meet three years ago.

Bolt is 8-0 against Bailey-Cole all time, according to Tilastopaja. Bolt’s all-time best record against one sprinter is 22-0 against Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, according to the website.

Bolt’s first races in 2004, 2008 and 2012 all came in March or April, according to Tilastopaja, but he was set back by a reported ankle injury this winter.

In 2012, Bolt’s first 100m came May 5, when he ran 9.82, but given an injury-slowed last couple of years, don’t expect him to go that fast on Saturday.

“Most of my friends, we have a bet on how fast I’m going to run,” Bolt said in a press conference Friday, via audio obtained from Cayman 27. “I have 9.91, so we’ll see how that goes.”

VIDEO: Race against Bolt’s world record with ‘BeatBot’

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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