Justin Gatlin: I’m the world’s fastest man

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NEW YORK — Justin Gatlin is the world 100m champion. Usain Bolt is the Olympic 100m champion and world-record holder.

So who holds the title of world’s fastest man?

“I would consider myself the world’s fastest man because I won the [most recent] title,” at worlds in August, Gatlin said earlier this month at the USATF Black Tie and Sneakers Gala. “But you have to pay homage to Usain Bolt. He has the fastest times in the world.”

Carl Lewis, a two-time Olympic 100m champion, agreed.

“The one who won [a global title] last is the world’s fastest man,” Lewis said. “That’s Justin. He was the last one to win it. You can’t go back two times ago.”

Gatlin has been busy since edging Christian Coleman and Bolt at worlds in London. He started the Justin Gatlin Foundation, which hosted its inaugural sprint clinic in Staten Island in September, and traveled around the country to thank supporters.

He pointed out that he will be considered the world’s fastest man until at least 2019; 2018 is the only year in the Olympic cycle without a global championship. Worlds are held in odd years.

“No matter how many races you lose,” Gatlin said, “you’re still world champion.”

Gatlin’s goal for 2018 is “just running fast.” He plans on entering fewer races but also competing in smaller meets in locations around the world he would not normally visit.

Gatlin, who finished second to Bolt in the 200m at the 2015 World Championships, is not sure whether he will continue to race that event. He has not since bowing out in the Rio Olympic semifinals. Coach Dennis Mitchell prefers he specialize in the 100m.

Gatlin, 35, still has his eye on Tyson Gay’s American record of 9.69 seconds. Gatlin’s personal best is 9.74, set in 2015.

“People always look at age as a factor, but I still feel young,” said Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion who served a four-year doping ban from 2006 to 2010. “I train with young people. I take care of my body. I’ve learned when to tap-out during races and practices. I think I’ve still got a good shot at running the fastest I’ve ever run in my life over the next three years.”

As reigning world champion, Gatlin is guaranteed a 2019 World Championships spot, additional incentive to continue sprinting.

“I’m already on the starting line, and I’ve got to train for that because I can’t throw that away,” Gatlin said. “Then I’ve got to squeeze 2020 out after 2019.”

Gatlin will be 38 in 2020, when the Olympics will be in Tokyo. He is already the oldest Olympic 100m medalist ever after finishing second to Bolt at the Rio Games at 34.

“In a perfect world,” he said, “I started my career with an Olympic gold medal, and I would like to end my career with an Olympic gold medal.”

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U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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