Usain Bolt ‘in extremely good shape’ on eve of return, reacts to Russia ban

Usain Bolt
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Usain Bolt said he’s in “extremely good shape,” better than last year, in fact, one day before his first race in three weeks, since suffering a strained hamstring at the Jamaican Olympic Trials.

Bolt will race a 200m for the first time since Aug. 27 at a Diamond League meet in London on Friday, scheduled for 4:52 p.m. ET. (full start lists here)

“My hamstrings are good. I have no issues right now,” Bolt said. “I’m happy that I didn’t get a really bad setback. … I was always able to train.”

Bolt did say, however, that he has done one start out of a block in training since the injury, and that it wasn’t as aggressive as it usually is.

“It’s not as bad as last season,” said Bolt, who went six weeks between races last summer due to a leg injury. “I’m happy with the progress I’m making.”

Bolt’s competition on Friday will not be imposing. It includes neither any U.S. Olympians nor top domestic rival Yohan Blake, who swept the 100m and 200m at the Jamaican Olympic Trials for a second straight time.

Bolt visited his usual German doctor for treatment two weeks ago.

“Worked his magic like always,” said Bolt, adding that a back injury that has led to leg problems is getting worse every year. “I’m here to win.”

Bolt stressed that he pulled out of the Jamaican Olympic Trials between the 100m semifinals and final not as a precaution. He was sincerely injured.

“If I had competed, I probably would have tore my hamstring really bad,” said Bolt, who received a medical exemption to compete at his fourth Olympics next month.

Bolt also looked forward to a showdown with American Justin Gatlin in Rio in three weeks. Gatlin entered the 2015 World Championships as a favorite and led the 100m final until tightening up in the final strides. That allowed Bolt to win by .01.

“I think last year Gatlin was just not ready because it was the first time he was actually being chased,” Bolt said Thursday. “He had a tough competitor, which was me, so it was hard for him. … This year it’s going to be different. I’m in much better shape. I won’t leave it to the last second.”

Bolt spoke about 90 minutes after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld Russia’s Olympic track and field ban. He said twice that he had no comment, but did offer his usual stand against doping.

“If you have the proof and you catch somebody, then I definitely feel you should take action,” Bolt said. “The doping situation in track and field is getting really bad. If you feel like you need to make a statement, then thumbs up.

“This will scare a lot of people. It will send a strong message that the sport is serious.”

Bolt said he had not spoken to longtime relay teammate Nesta Carter since it was revealed June 3 that Carter failed a recent retest of a 2008 Olympic doping sample. Carter’s positive could lead to the stripping of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay title from the Beijing Games. Bolt was part of that relay.

“It will be a little bit disappointing, definitely, but as I always said rules are rules,” Bolt said. “What can I do? I can’t do anything about it. … I’ll be disappointed, but everybody knows … I’ve shown over the years that I’m the greatest athlete.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect start time for Bolt’s race Friday.

MORE: Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce get Jamaican postage stamps

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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