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

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”