Usain Bolt shocked by Justin Gatlin in farewell world championships

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Usain Bolt‘s retirement party was spoiled by a man booed before and after all of his races at the world championships — American Justin Gatlin.

It was Gatlin, the 35-year-old Olympic 100m champion from 2004 (the last before Bolt’s ascension), who won the 100m title at the world championships in London on Saturday night. He leaned at the line in 9.92 seconds, edging countryman Christian Coleman (9.94).

Bronze for Bolt in 9.95 seconds.

“You can’t win everything,” Bolt, who didn’t appear to shed tears, told NBC’s Lewis Johnson with a laugh. “My body is saying it’s time to go. Every morning I wake up, I’m in a little pain here, a little pain there.”

His slowest 100m final time in seven Olympic and world finishes. Bolt has been decelerating since 2012. Somebody finally caught him.

It was Gatlin who handed Bolt his first defeat in a global final in 10 years (2011 false start aside). It was Gatlin who, after moments of waiting for the scoreboard results to show, screamed and held an index finger to his mouth.

Silence.

That’s what Gatlin heard back in 2010, when meet organizers refused to let him race. He had tested positive in 2006 and was banned four years. He was labeled a cheater. Still is by some. Hence the jeers the last two days.

“I dreamed about this day,” Gatlin, choking up with emotion, said on NBC. “I worked hard for this day. And it took for me to not be selfish and think about myself and think about others to give me that fight.”

The NCAA champion Coleman stormed out to an early lead, and Bolt in the adjacent lane closed on him. But it was Gatlin, out in 8 and forgotten the first seven seconds, who surpassed both of them with a perfect lean at the line.

“I started tightening up at the end, which you should never do,” Bolt said on the BBC. “I knew if I didn’t get the start, I would be in trouble. … I just didn’t execute when it matters.”

“I couldn’t see anything from lane 8,” Gatlin said. “From the starting line, it was a Coleman and Bolt show. I just ran for my life.”

Bolt will head into retirement after one last race next Saturday, the 4x100m relay (3 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). He chose not to contest the 200m this season.

Gatlin, like Bolt, slowed from 2015 to 2016 to 2017.

He was the fastest man at the 2015 World Championships, but that 9.77 time came in the semifinals. He choked in the final, tensing up in the final few strides as Bolt beat him by one hundredth.

Bolt relegated Gatlin to silver at the 2013 Worlds, 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics. For Gatlin, the feeling Saturday most resembled his first major title at the 2004 Olympics, though in Athens he was one of the pre-meet favorites. Still, it was a new feeling.

Thirteen years later, after Gatlin’s ban and slow journey back, he didn’t know how to handle this unexpected victory.

“I thought about all the things I would do if I did win, I didn’t even do none of that,” Gatlin said on the BBC. “It was almost like 2004 all over again.”

Bolt and Gatlin embraced before ceremonial laps (Bolt’s was much more time-consuming) and exchanged words. Gatlin went down on one knee and bowed before Bolt.

“We’re rivals on the track … but in the warm-up area we’re joking,” Gatlin said on the BBC. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘Congratulations, you worked hard for this,’ and he said, ‘You don’t deserve all these boos.’ I thanked him for that. I thanked him for inspiring me throughout the year, throughout my career. He’s an amazing man.”

For years, Bolt’s stance is that Gatlin has served his punishment and should be allowed to race.

“He’s an excellent person as far as I can tell,” Bolt said.

Bolt and his team said as far back as 2012 that the 2017 season would be his last. After Rio, sweeping the sprints at three straight Olympics, what else was there to prove as he decelerated into his 30s?

The past several months looked like the typical farewell tour only on the surface.

They rolled out the red carpet for his last race in Jamaica in June, including putting the fastest men in the meet to a separate heat. Three weeks later, a Czech crowd serenaded Bolt with the Jamaican national anthem following another tune-up victory.

Even in London, Bolt was greeted with applause from media at a pre-meet press conference. A series of congratulatory videos was played for Bolt, including one from the CCTV cameraman who infamously hit Bolt with a Segway at the 2015 World Championships. Everyone acted as if it was a formality that Bolt would leave the sport on top.

For Bolt, it has been a difficult year.

Close friend Germaine Mason, a 2008 Olympic high jump silver medalist, died in an early morning April 20 motorcycle crash. Bolt, reportedly on the scene in Kingston shortly after the crash, has not spoken in detail about it but did say he didn’t train for three weeks.

On the track, Bolt was his slowest since taking up the 100m in 2007 after winning a bet with his grumbling coach. In June, he failed to break 10 seconds in back-to-back finals for the first time.

Then on Saturday, Bolt was beaten in a 100m race for the first time in four years. Twice.

In the semifinals, Coleman stormed out to an early lead, and though Bolt pulled nearly even, the Jamaican eased off while looking across at Coleman as they passed the finish line. The move was reminiscent of Bolt and Canadian Andre De Grasse‘s matching smiles in the Rio Olympic 200m semifinals. Coleman: 9.97. Bolt: 9.98.

NBC Sports coverage of worlds continues with Sunday with the men’s and women’s marathons and the women’s 100m final. A full broadcast schedule is here.

In other events Saturday, Mason Finley became the first U.S. man to earn an Olympic or world championships discus medal since 1999. Finley, a Rio Olympian, extended his personal best by four feet to take bronze with a 68.03-meter throw.

Ethiopian Almaz Ayana backed up her Olympic 10,000m title (where she broke a 22-year-old world record by 14 seconds) with her first world title.

Ayana lapped most of the other 32 runners and won by 46.37 seconds in 30:16.32. The top American was 2015 World bronze medalist Emily Infeld in sixth.

Ayana, a former steeplechaser, was racing her third career 10,000m race and her first race of any distance since Sept. 9.

South African Luvo Manyonga took long jump gold, edging American Jarrion Lawson by four centimeters. Manyonga, a former crystal meth addict, was a breakout Rio silver medalist behind another American, Jeff Henderson. Henderson failed to qualify for the London final.

All of the favorites advanced to Monday’s women’s 1500m final.

That included Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, who is racing her first 1500m outside of Africa in six years. Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson also advanced from Saturday’s semifinals.

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

International Boxing Association lifts ban on Russia, Belarus

Boxing gloves
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The International Boxing Association (IBA) lifted its ban on amateur boxers from Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine that had been in place since early March.

“The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports,” the federation said in a press release. “Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.”

Most international sports federations banned athletes from Russia and Belarus indefinitely seven months ago, acting after an IOC recommendation. It is believed that the IBA is the first international federation in an Olympic sport to lift its ban.

The IOC has not officially changed its recommendation from last winter to exclude Russia and Belarus athletes “to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.”

Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could at some point be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag.

IBA, in lifting its ban, will also allow Russia and Belarus flags and national anthems.

“The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries,” IBA President Umar Kremlev, a Russian, said in a press release last week. “Both the IOC and the International Federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics.”

In 2019, the IOC stripped the IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition following an inquiry committee report into finance, governance, refereeing and judging. The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

The IBA will not run qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Games, but it does still hold world championships, the next being a men’s event in Uzbekistan next year.

Boxing, introduced on the Olympic program in 1904, was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but can still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” Bach said last December.

On Sept. 23, the IBA suspended Ukraine’s boxing federation, citing “government interference.” Ukraine boxers are still allowed to compete with their flag and anthem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Ilia Malinin’s quadruple Axel sheds light on first figure skater to land triple Axel

Vern Taylor
Vern Taylor, the first figure skater to land a triple Axel in competition. (Getty Images)
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Vern Taylor arrived at the Riverside Skating Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Sept. 15 to do what he has done at that rink for the last three decades: coach figure skaters. But this day was different.

Taylor, who in 1978 became the first man to land a ratified triple Axel in competition, was told that 17-year-old American Ilia Malinin performed the first quadruple Axel the previous night.

“When we heard that he landed it, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s terrific,'” Taylor said by phone.

He was then shown video of Malinin’s feat.

“Anything’s possible,” Taylor said. “43 years [later], that’s something. It’s knowing that you can perform the jump that makes it challenging.”

Malinin, the world junior champion, landed the most difficult jump in skating and checked off the only remaining quad yet to be performed.

At the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa, a 20-year-old Taylor broke through a similar barrier in hitting the last remaining unchecked triple jump. But while Malinin’s senior career seems to be just getting started, and many medals appear in his future, Taylor is largely a forgotten man outside of ardent figure skating followers.

He finished 12th at those 1978 World Championships. Taylor’s 1980 Olympic prospects were dimmed by the fact that Canada had just one men’s singles spot, and he had taken runner-up at nationals in 1978 and 1979 to Brian Pockar, who also outscored Taylor at those years’ world championships. So Taylor stopped competing a year before the Lake Placid Games.

“I didn’t have a reason,” he said. “I just decided to take a break.”

Taylor will always have that day at the world championships in Ottawa. He can still remember the nervousness, knowing that two other skaters also planned to attempt a triple Axel. They were unsuccessful, though Taylor didn’t know it.

“I didn’t see their jumps,” he said. “I didn’t want to know what was ahead of me.”

American David Jenkins landed a triple Axel in Movietone newsreel footage reported to be from 1957, but that was not in competition.

Taylor, skating to music from “Rocky,” put the triple Axel as the third jump of his program, according to reports at the time. The one YouTube video of it, published two years ago, has 32,000 views. It shows Taylor landing the three-and-a-half revolution jump on one foot and spinning out of it while managing to stay on that single skate blade amid a crowd roar.

“During that program, it was like a rock concert,” Taylor said. “I got the energy from the audience.”

The Montreal Gazette reported at the time that the jump was ratified three hours later. Italian Sonia Bianchetti, the men’s referee at the 1978 Worlds, said she met with the assistant referee, the ISU president and a technical delegate.

“During this short meeting it was recognized that Vern had completed the first triple Axel Paulsen jump [Norwegian Axel Paulsen was the skater who landed the first Axel jump in 1882, getting it named after him] in an officially recognized figure skating competition,” she wrote in an email last month. “The triple Axel was fully rotated and landed on one foot.”

One of the people inside the Ottawa Civic Centre that day was 16-year-old Canadian Brian Orser. Orser, inspired by Taylor, later became synonymous with the jump — labeled “Mr. Triple Axel” and landing it en route to silver medals at the Olympics in 1984 and 1988 and the 1987 World title.

Orser remembered Taylor visiting his skating club for an exhibition. Orser saw Taylor doing an Axel takeoff exercise off the ice, incorporated it into his own routine and began teaching it to his skaters after becoming a coach.

Yet another Canadian, Kurt Browning, was the first man to land a ratified quadruple jump of any kind in competition — a toe loop at the 1988 World Championships.

“For me, personally, it was huge,” he said, “because I was promised a car if I could land it.”

Through an agreement with an Edmonton car dealership, Browning was handed the keys to a Quattro — quad/Quattro — after hitting the toe loop. The skater was unaware that the dealer was merely leasing it to him. About six months later, Browning received a call asking to bring the car back.

Browning was inspired by American Brian Boitano, whom he previously saw land a quad outside of competition. Taylor motivated him, too.

“[Taylor] gave me permission, even at a young age, to start thinking bigger,” he said.

Browning also pointed to Jozef Sabovčík, a 1980s skater for then-Czechoslovakia who many believe was the first man to land a quad in competition, Browning included. Sabovčík was initially given credit for a quad toe loop at the 1986 European Championships, but weeks later it was invalidated because he touched down with his free foot, according to reports.

“I never want to come off as arrogant, but despite what ISU [International Skating Union] decided in the end, I do know that I landed the jump on that day,” Sabovčík, who said he performed a quad jump on his birthdays through age 44, wrote in an email. “The fact that most of the people in the skating world believe the same thing, it means everything to me that Kurt is one of them. It would have been nice to have my name in the Guinness Book of Records, but I am also not trying to change history.”

Sabovčík, now 58 and coaching in Salt Lake City, attended March’s world championships in Montpellier, France, where Malinin finished ninth. There, he spoke with Malinin’s parents, Russian-born Uzbek Olympic skaters Tatyana Malinina and Roman Skornyakov, whom he calls friends.

“They told me that he was already doing a quad Axel on a fishing pole harness [in practice], and that it was coming,” Sabovčík said.

Less than two months after that talk, the first video surfaced of Malinin landing a clean quad Axel — at a U.S. Figure Skating jump camp.

“I did not think [a quad Axel] was possible,” Sabovčík said. “It really has to be an athlete that can combine the technical ability with jumping ability with the speed of rotation. When Kurt and I jumped, we had a relatively speaking slow rotation, but we jumped really big compared to these kids. But Ilia, he has the vertical lift, but he [also] has an unbelievably fast rotation.”

The recent proliferation of quads in men’s and women’s skating can be attributed to several factors, including better boots, better ice conditions and improvements in technology that can aid coaching. Still, there are concerns about if and how the pounding of training quads can wear down a skater physically.

“It’s a lot of pain you don’t feel at first, but you know it comes later,” said Frenchwoman Surya Bonaly, who started training a quad in 1989 and attempting it through the mid-1990s. Bonaly had two hip surgeries after her competitive career.

Even Taylor faced those questions.

“People said, ‘Aren’t you worried about injuring yourself?'” he said. “I would say, ‘No, I want you to know it can be done.'”

Sabovčík never tried a quad Axel in his skating days, but Browning did for less than a week in the early 1990s after winning four consecutive world titles.

“Just playing with it,” said Browning, who never tried it in competition. “Ilia has that special ability to not only get up in the air, but then he has that beautiful rotation that doesn’t look hurried. It’s fast, it’s quick as lightning, but it doesn’t look hurried. It’s so easy. Like a good golfer swings easy, and the ball goes 400 yards.”

Browning recalled a conversation he had with two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who in recent years made the quad Axel his quest. Hanyu attempted it in competition last season but did not land it cleanly before retiring in July. He said upon retirement that he still hoped to master the jump for his non-competitive show career.

“I asked Yuzu one day, ‘When you do quad Axel, does it just feel like you’re up there forever?'” Browning said. “And he kind of looked at me funny, and he goes, ‘Yeah, like it never ends.'”

The skating world awaits the reserved Hanyu’s thoughts on Malinin’s quad.

“Knowing Yuzu, I would think he’d be very supportive,” said Orser, who coached Hanyu for nearly a decade. “He appreciates that kind of athleticism.”

Orser also noted what comes with being the first — and so far only — skater to land a rarefied jump. Malinin, who headlines Skate America in two weeks, will be asked about the quad Axel in just about every interview for the foreseeable future. For some skaters, they may feel a responsibility to land it all the time.

“But I don’t think [Malinin] thinks too much about it,” Orser said. “His technique is perfect, so he’ll be fine.”

The inevitable topic after that is the next progression in skating: the first quintuple jump. Orser said that Hanyu did five-rotation Salchows in practice with the aid of a harness.

“It’s just a little bit more rotation than the quadruple Axel, so it’s not that far off,” said Sabovčík, whose unratified quad toe loop came eight years after Taylor’s triple Axel. “Now that I’ve seen the quad Axel, I don’t think it’s impossible.”

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