Who can beat Usain Bolt at world championships?

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Usain Bolt is favored to win in his last career 100m race at the world championships on Saturday, even though four men in the field have run faster than him this year.

Bolt is known for turning it on at global championships. In 2015 and 2016, he laid down his fastest time of the year in the world championships and Olympic finals.

If that history is repeated, Bolt will run sub-9.9 seconds in London on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Gold).

“I think it will have to be 9.8 seconds low, perhaps the same time it took me to win at the Olympics,” Bolt, who won in Rio in 9.81 seconds, said Thursday, according to the Jamaica Gleaner.

In three races so far this season, Bolt’s best is 9.95, his slowest-ever time heading into an Olympics or worlds.

In 2013, 2015 and 2016, the silver medalist behind Bolt (Justin Gatlin every time) ran between 9.80 and 9.89 seconds.

There’s reason to believe this year’s group of Bolt challengers is the weakest yet. Only one man has run sub-9.9 this season, compared to four Bolt challengers going into the Rio Olympics and seven going into the 2015 Worlds.

Canadian Andre De Grasse, the only man to join Bolt on both Rio 100m and 200m podiums, is also out with a hamstring strain.

WORLDS: TV Schedule | 5 Men’s Races to Watch | 5 Women’s Races

A look at the four men with the best shot at handing Bolt his first defeat in four years on Saturday (some stats via Tilastopaja.org):

Justin Gatlin, United States
Personal Best: 9.74 seconds (2015)
2017 Best: 9.95 seconds
100m Accolades: 2004 Olympic champion, 2015 World/2016 Olympic silver medalist
100m Record vs. Bolt: 1-8 (Win: 2013 Rome)

Why he can beat Bolt: Gatlin was the world’s fastest man in 2014 and 2015, though he didn’t bring his top form to the 2015 World final and was edged by Bolt by .01. Gatlin has said he was slowed in the spring by injuries. If he’s close to fully healthy in London, expect him to run significantly faster than his best time of 9.95 this year. Gatlin and Bolt have the same best times of 2017, and it’s conceivable that Gatlin could be in for a greater time drop than Bolt on Saturday.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Gatlin is old, 35 years old. So those leg injuries early this season could have taken their toll. Gatlin also declined in 2016 from his 2014/2015 peak, so 2017 may prove a further slowdown. The one instance Gatlin had a shot to beat Bolt on a major stage, he choked under pressure in 2015.

Yohan Blake, Jamaica
Personal Best: 9.69 seconds (2012)
2017 Best: 9.90 seconds
100m Accolades: 2011 World champion, 2012 Olympic silver medalist
100m Record vs. Bolt: 2-6 (Wins: 2011 Worlds, 2012 Nationals)

Why he can beat Bolt: Blake has the fastest personal best in this field aside from Bolt’s world record 9.58. Though it came all the way back in 2012, the longtime Bolt training partner is still just 27 years old. Plus, he has steadily improved the last two years since returning from career-altering torn hamstrings. Blake’s best time in 2016 came at the Rio Olympics, which indicates a sub-9.9 is possible in London.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Blake hasn’t raced since June 25, pulling out of a meet in Morocco two weeks ago with a reported groin injury. He also hasn’t raced 100m outside of the friendly confines of Kingston since the Rio Games.

Christian Coleman, United States
Personal Best: 9.82 seconds (2017)
100m Accolades: 2017 NCAA champion
100m Record vs. Bolt: Never met

Why he can beat Bolt: Coleman is the fastest man in the world this year by a clear .08 of a second. Bolt’s final times at the last few Olympics and worlds have slowed from 9.58 (2009) to 9.63 (2012) to 9.77 (2013) to 9.79 (2015) and 9.81 (2016). If that trend continues, Coleman could repeat that 9.82 and win on Saturday.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Coleman should be tired. Another 9.82 in London would be a surprise. He has been the busiest sprinter in the world this year, racing a full NCAA indoor season from January through March, then the NCAA outdoor season from April to June and then turning pro and contesting the 100m and 200m at the USATF Outdoor Championships. Plus, he has never raced individually outside of the U.S. and Canada or in a global championship aside from the Rio 4x100m preliminary heats.

Akani Simbine, South Africa
Personal Best: 9.89 seconds (2016)
2017 Best: 9.92 seconds
100m Accolades: Fifth at 2016 Olympics
100m Record vs. Bolt: 0-5

Why he can beat Bolt: He has broken 10 seconds a total of eight times this year, most of any man in the world. Simbine, at 23, is significantly younger than Gatlin and Blake and, unlike Coleman, has plenty of international experience.

Why he won’t beat Bolt: Simbine has the slowest personal best of the Bolt challengers. And he hasn’t broken 9.99 in six tries since April. He also lost to Bolt in each man’s most recent race on July 21.

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MORE: How Bolt convinced his coach to become 100m runner

Nathan Chen, Simone Biles, U.S. women’s soccer team win Team USA Awards

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Simone Biles was named female athlete of the year and Nathan Chen took the corresponding award for men Tuesday at the Team USA Awards in Los Angeles.

Six-time Olympic swimming champion Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, who has taken up wheelchair CrossFit competition since an ATV accident in 2014 left her paralyzed from the waist down, took the Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award. She works to help other people with spinal cord injuries through the Amy Van Dyken Foundation and Amy’s Army, which has launched a Wheels for Kids program to help injured children find wheelchairs that may not be covered by insurance.

The show also included a medal ceremony in which the teammates and family of the late Steven Holcomb received silver medals that were reallocated after doping infractions changed the results of the 2014 Olympic bobsled competition.

MORE: Holcomb’s legacy lives on 

Award winners from the ceremony:

Female Olympic athlete of the year: Simone Biles, gymnastics 

Biles took a one-year break after winning four gold medals and a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics, then came back to do even better, unleashing new skills on the balance beam and in the floor exercise. This year, she won five gold medals at the world championships, breaking the record for career medals.

Female Paralympic athlete of the year: Oksana Masters, Para Nordic skiing and Para cycling 

Already an eight-time Paralympic medalist in Nordic skiing, biathlon and rowing, Masters had a breakout year in cycling, taking silver medals in the world championships. In Nordic skiing, Masters took five world championships (three cross-country, two biathlon) and the overall World Cup championship in sitting cross-country along with a second-place overall finish in biathlon.

Male Olympic athlete of the year: Nathan Chen, figure skating 

Chen had a double back-to-back year, winning his second straight world championship and his second straight Grand Prix final. He also started his 2019-20 season by winning both of his Grand Prix events. He and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu are far ahead of any other skaters in posted scores this season.

Male Paralympic athlete of the year: Ben Thompson, Para archery 

Thompson took the world championship and the No. 1 ranking in the men’s compound event and led the U.S. to a world record in the team compound event.

Olympic team of the year: U.S. women’s soccer team 

The team claimed the sport’s biggest prize for the second straight time, working its way through a difficult field that included a quarterfinal matchup with host France to win the World Cup once again, adding to its previous wins in 1991, 1999 and 2015.

Paralympic team of the year: U.S. sled hockey team 

Like the women’s soccer team, the sled hockey team went unbeaten in the world championships and claimed a fourth world title.

MORE: Golden goal clinches championship

Olympic coach of the year: KiSik Lee, archery 

This year, Brady Ellison won a world title and set a world record in the Pan Am Games, and Ellison teamed with Casey Kaufhold to win the world title in the mixed team event, which will be on the Olympic program in 2020.

Paralympic coach of the year: Wesley Johnson, paratriathlon 

The founder and head coach of Balanced Art Multisport in Salt Lake City, Johnson is the personal coach of three top-10 paratriathletes, and he served as an assistant coach in the world championships, where three of the athletes he coached won silver medals.

NBC will have highlights of the show at 2 p.m. ET Dec. 22.

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Hanyu, Zagitova control their Grand Prix Final destiny at NHK Trophy; TV, live stream schedule

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In order to qualify for the Grand Prix Final — after missing the event the past two seasons for varying reasons — two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu needs to finish inside the top four at NHK Trophy, the sixth and last remaining Grand Prix series event. Hanyu competes on home ice in Japan this weekend, and the event is streaming live for NBC Sports Gold subscribers.

A full breakdown of Grand Prix Final-clinching scenarios can be found here.

Hanyu won the Grand Prix Final four straight times (2013-16). The prestigious December event would be the first time this season Hanyu and two-time Grand Prix Final champion Nathan Chen would compete head-to-head, outside the world championships in March.

Hanyu trains in Toronto alongside American Jason Brown, who will also be competing in Japan. Brown clinches a spot in the Grand Prix Final if he earns a silver or better, but is also very likely in if he earns a bronze medal.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is in a similar situation this weekend at NHK Trophy, needing to finish on the podium to clinch a berth in the Final. She faces Moscow-based training partner Alena Kostornaia (who needs to finish fifth or better to make the Final) and Japan’s Rika Kihira (must earn a medal of any color), among others such as 2019 European champion Sofia Samodurova of Russia and 2017 U.S. national champion Karen Chen.

MORE: Alina Zagitova focused on artistry, while other Russians push technical boundaries

Three teams in the pairs’ field at NHK Trophy can earn spots in the Grand Prix Final. Two-time world pair champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China and Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov need a medal of any color to clinch, while Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro need silver to clinch, but could win with a bronze and a high score. See the breakdown here for details.

In ice dance, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France are favorites at NHK Trophy. They have appeared in three Grand Prix Finals and own a medal of each color, including a win at their most recent appearance in 2017. (The duo withdrew from a regular-series Grand Prix event last season and were unable to qualify for the Final.)

The most likely NHK Trophy scenario is that Papadakis and Cizeron win NHK Trophy, and Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin finish second – and if that happens, Papadakis and Cizeron, Stepanova and Bukin and Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates (currently on the cusp of an entry) all make the Final.

MORE: Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron on ‘Fame,’ chasing history

NHK Trophy Broadcast Schedule

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Thursday 10:30 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Friday 12 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
2:30 a.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
5 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
10 p.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Saturday 12:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
2:30 a.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
5 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Sunday 4 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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