Ato Boldon on Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and the 2017 season

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Four-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon, NBC’s lead track and field analyst, witnessed a memorable year for the sport.

35-year-old Justin Gatlin shocking Usain Bolt to win the 100m world championship.

Bolt falling to the track in the final race of his decorated career.

The best-ever performance for the U.S. at Worlds, led by sprinter Allyson Felix, who passed retired Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey for the most career world championship medals.

Boldon discussed the 2017 track and field season before the year’s final Diamond League meet, which will take place today at 2:00 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold.

What are your biggest takeaways from the 2017 track and field season?

My biggest takeaways are the new stars emerging. You need only look as far as the world championships in London and the number of first-time world champions to realize that there are some new faces that you better get familiar with, because chances are they are around to stay.

Justin Gatlin upset Usain Bolt to win the 100m world championship. At 35, how much longer can he be a top sprinter?

I thought Justin had lost a step after last year. The response to that was, ‘Well, how is he the world champion in 2017?’ Simple answer: 9.92 seconds was all it took to win Worlds, one of the slowest winning times ever. If the winning time at championships (including the USA Championships) is 9.9, Justin will remain competitive. If Christian Coleman, Andre De Grasse and younger sprint stars of the world make it 9.7, he will be forced out.

Now that Bolt is hanging up his spikes, who will become the face of track and field?

I think it will be Wayde van Niekerk, because I think he has the ability to dominate his event (400m) the way Bolt did. I was disappointed to hear him say he won’t double at a championship again. The sport needs that. He was a lean from pulling off something that had been done before only once, so I hope he’ll reconsider. He doesn’t have the same extrovert personality as Bolt, but it’s partly the media’s job to continue to make him appealing to the global audience.

As the 2017 season comes to a close, who will you be watching in 2018?

In 2018, I will be watching the youngsters who almost won this year to see if they improve or decline next year: Coleman (100m silver), Salwa Eid Naser (400m silver from Bahrain), Steven Gardiner (400m silver from Bahamas), and Marie-Josee Ta Lou (100m and 200m silver medals from Ivory Coast).

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MORE: World champion Justin Gatlin beaten in Diamond League final

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal