Justin Gatlin wins race on track over water (video)

Justin Gatlin
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Justin Gatlin admits a few years ago he would have found it difficult with the Olympics being in a place like Rio de Janeiro — with its beaches, nightlife and myriad diversions.

“When the Olympics come around, you can be distracted by the glitz, the glam,” Gatlin said. “Especially with the Olympics being in a place like Brazil, which is known to have big festivals, have festive parties and to have a great time.”

Gatlin was focused on Sunday in Rio and won a 100m exhibition ahead of the Olympics opening in two months.

The promotional race was run “on water,” a sprint across a 100m runway built over a small pond on the grounds of Brazil’s former imperial palace — known as Quinta da Boa Vista.

Gatlin ran 10.19 seconds in a light rain, off his top time this season of 9.93.

After three races in about a week Gatlin, heads back to the United States for training before the Olympic Trials from July 1-10 in Eugene, Ore. Gatlin won 100m gold in 2004 in Athens and is expected to challenge Usain Bolt, who has won the 100m in the last two Olympics.

“I want to go out with a bang,” said Gatlin, who has been banned twice for doping violations. “I want it to be one of the most exciting races in track and field history. And I want not just the fans here (in Brazil), but all around the world to stand still for nine seconds and be able to watch the fastest race ever.”

Asked about running nine seconds, he laughed and repeated: “Yeah, nine-flat.”

Bolt has the world record of 9.58 set in 2009.

Gatlin was asked about the Zika virus, which has its epicenter in Brazil and has been shown to cause birth defects in babies. He said he hoped to show that “Brazil is safe, it’s a great place to come.”

He said few athletes would be deterred.

“This is an Olympic dream,” he said. “It comes every four years, and sometimes as an athlete you don’t get that opportunity again.”

The World Health Organization has told pregnant women to stay away from Zika areas, although it says the Games should not be postponed, as some medical experts have urged.

Gatlin must qualify for Rio at trials. Nothing is guaranteed for any American — gold-medal winner or not.

“I don’t have that ticket yet,” he said. “My family has that ticket. They already have their tickets to Rio. The pressure is on me to be able to make sure I make the team.”

MORE: Gatlin, alter ego trailed by film crew for documentary

Mano a Mano
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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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