LaShawn Merritt, Justin Gatlin joined in 200m final by high schoolers

1 Comment

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Those two high schoolers really can fly. So can that relative newcomer to the 200 meters, LaShawn Merritt.

Be ready, Justin Gatlin, they’ll be chasing you.

A pair of 18-year-olds, Michael Norman and Noah Lyles, turned heads Friday after blistering performances in the semifinals at the U.S. Track and Field Trials. Norman won his heat over Gatlin. Lyles wasn’t really challenged in his heat.

Moments later, Merritt stole the show; the runner known more for the 400 turned in a 200 time of 19.74 seconds, the fastest mark in the world this season.

“These kids, man, they’re good,” the 34-year-old Gatlin said. “They’re good at what they do. They’re strong. They’re brave man.

“Got to compete against them like they’re real competitors.”

Oh, they’re real all right. Maybe a little in awe and perhaps still a little green, but definitely real.

After crossing the line in 20.21 seconds, Norman reached over and shook Gatlin’s hand. He leaned in and said, “Do you remember me?”

Gatlin sure did. They once hung out at a Nike Elite camp. Norman thought about bringing up their encounter before the race, but didn’t want to interrupt the sprinter who figures to be the biggest threat to Usain Bolt at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Probably a wise move. Gatlin was all business.

“They’re coming out to be giant killers,” he said.

And Gatlin would be the giant in the final Saturday. Or perhaps it’s Merritt, given the time he ran.

“Came off the curve with everybody, felt good so I made a move,” said Merritt, who’s dabbling in the 200 after already earning a spot by winning the 400. “The key was to win the race. That’s what I did.”

Track and Field Trials: Results Daily Schedule | TV Schedule

Norman is from Murrieta, California, and plans to go to Southern California this fall. Lyles hails from Alexandria, Virginia, and will attend Florida.

They have a friendly rivalry on the junior circuit, with Norman beating out Lyles for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year award. But it was Lyles who beat Norman in the only 200 race in which they’ve squared off – at USATF Junior National Championships in 2015.

“We’re pretty close. We talk to each other all the time,” Norman said.

Feed off each other, too.

“Watch them in the call room, they look at each other, and you can tell they’re like, `We got this,”‘ Gatlin said. “I’m going to rise to the occasion when it’s time.”

Anything one does, the other tries to do better.

“Saw him going and I thought, `Oh, dang, he ran outside Gatlin. He just passed Gatlin,”‘ Lyles said. “I was like, `Oh, I got to get out there.’

“I don’t mean to brag, but we’re pretty extraordinary. We come out here and try to do our best, then try to show up for the crowd.”

Don’t be surprised if they earn a spot on the 200. They are that talented.

“Trying to go to the Olympics – it’s been a goal for four years and we’re trying to make it happen,” Lyles said.

Of course, Gatlin will have something to say about it. He’s already qualified in the 100, but hopes to earn a place in the 200, too. Merritt will be in the mix as well. He had the fastest 200 time coming in and has only gotten stronger despite running three rounds of the 400 earlier at trials.

“Just have to stay humble, stay grounded, get some rest and come out tomorrow and do it all over again,” Merritt said.

Merritt could be in line to try to become the first man to win a 200-400 Olympic double since Michael Johnson in 1996. But that’s a decision for down the road.

“I’m just trying to take it a race at a time,” Merritt said.

Flying under the radar are Ameer Webb and veteran Tyson Gay, who didn’t make the team in the 100.

“That’s two rounds down, one more to go,” Lyles said. “We’re just trying to make something cool happen.”

MORE: LaShawn Merritt eyes Michael Johnson-like double in Rio

Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

AP
Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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