Justin Gatlin
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Justin Gatlin wins race on track over water (video)

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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

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

Shelby Houlihan
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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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MORE: Usain Bolt says one man can bring him out of retirement

Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

MORE: NHL players vote on world’s best female hockey player

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