Justin Gatlin, Ameer Webb
IAAF

Justin Gatlin nearly upset by new U.S. sprint sensation in Rome

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Justin Gatlin nearly lost to a countryman for the first time since 2013 at a Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday.

Gatlin, the reigning World 100m and 200m silver medalist, won a 100m in the Italian capital in 9.93 seconds, edging Ameer Webb by .01.

Gatlin moved to 33-0 in competitions not including Usain Bolt since the start of 2014, according to Tilastopaja.org, but his time was much slower than his 9.75 in Rome last year, continuing an unimpressive overall start relative to 2015.

“I want to start slow and then progress steadily,” Gatlin said, according to the IAAF.

Webb extended his torrid start to 2016 by nearly sweeping the 200m and 100m in 80 minutes on Thursday. The 26-year-old who has never made an Olympic or World Championships team won the 200m in 20.04 seconds and came back to nearly upset Gatlin.

Full Rome results are here.

Webb came to Rome already owning two of the three fastest 200m times in the world this year. His 100m personal best set Thursday ranks him No. 4 in the world in that event this year.

Another U.S. sprinter, World 100m co-bronze medalist Trayvon Bromell, is under greater scrutiny after finishing seventh in the 200m behind Webb on Thursday. Following a breakout 2015, Bromell has not put up any 100m or 200m times this year that would make him a favorite to make the Olympic team individually, though he still has one month before the Olympic Trials.

Also Thursday, controversial South African Caster Semenya matched her fastest time in the world this year in winning the 800m in 1:56.64. In typical style this spring, Semenya took the lead with a little less than 100 meters to go and quickly opened up a large gap. She won by a comfortable 1.56 seconds.

“I did a lot of traveling with very little rest,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF. “I am trying to keep up the shape. It is not easy.”

Ethiopian World champion Almaz Ayana won the 5000m with the second-fastest time ever — 14:12.59 — 1.44 seconds off Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record from 2008.

In the long jump, Olympic champion Greg Rutherford of Great Britain held off Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Rutherford leaped 8.31 meters to Goodwin’s 8.19 meters, but Goodwin still has the best jump in the world this year at 8.45 meters from May 14.

Jamaican Elaine Thompson won the 100m in 10.87 seconds, with American English Gardner taking second in 10.92. American Tori Bowie owns the fastest time in the world this year at 10.80, while Olympic and World champion Shelly Ann-Fraser-Pryce has been slowed by a toe injury. Neither Bowie nor Fraser-Pryce was in the Rome field.

World champion Wayde van Niekerk won the 400m in 44.19 seconds against a field that did not include the last two Olympic champions, Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt. James is fastest this year with a 44.08 from April 29.

Colombian triple jumper Caterine Ibarguen extended the longest winning streak in the sport with her 34th straight victory since taking silver at the London Games, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The Diamond League continues with a meet in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Sunday.

PHOTOS: Justin Gatlin to race on track over water

Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season