Justin Gatlin

Noah Lyles, U.S. take 4x100m silver at World Relays

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Noah Lyles anchored the U.S. 4x100m to silver on an upset-filled final day of the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama, Japan, on Sunday.

Lyles, the early 2020 Olympic 200m favorite, was given the baton in around fifth place after a poor previous exchange from Justin Gatlin to Isiah Young. He passed France, China and Great Britain but could not catch Brazil, coming up .02 short.

The Americans were also beaten in the men’s and women’s 4x400m and the women’s 4x200m.

U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs anchored the women’s 4x100m, holding off Jamaican Jonielle Smith, 43.27 to 43.29. The event lacked Olympic and world champions Tori Bowie, Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

IAAF World Relays: Full Results

Poland upset the U.S. women in the 4x400m as Courtney Okolo could not make up all of an eight tenths deficit on anchor, coming up .16 short. The Americans were without Olympic silver medalist Allyson Felix, working her way back from childbirth, and world champion Phyllis Francis.

Trinidad and Tobago overtook the U.S. on anchor in the men’s 4x400m, edging to the win by .03 before the U.S. was disqualified for a lane violation.

The U.S. did take the mixed-gender 4x400m, which makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

The track and field season continues with the Diamond League stopping in Shanghai on Saturday.

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MORE: Justin Gatlin finds missing piece of his career at IAAF World Relays

U.S. sweeps mixed-gender events at IAAF World Relays

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The U.S. dominated the opening night of the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama, Japan, highlighted by winning both finals in unusual mixed-gender events.

University of Oregon wide receiver turned Olympian Devon Allen anchored the shuttle hurdles relay, where two runners of each gender cover 110 meters per country. Each relay exchange (sans baton) is made at the opposite end of the track.

Allen received a lead from Christina Clemons, Freddie Crittenden and Sharika Nelvis, and the Americans won a two-team final over Japan by .63 of a second in 54.96. Jamaica withdrew before the final due to an injury, and Australia false-started out of the final.

Donavan Brazier and Ce’Aira Brown combined to win the 2x2x400m, essentially a 4x400m but with only two runners (one of each gender). Kenya had the early edge because it led off with its male runner, while Brown was the U.S.’ leadoff.

Brazier, the U.S. indoor 800m record holder, made up a 7.8-second deficit on Kenya’s female runner on the anchor split to win in 3:36.92, holding off Australia by .69.

The U.S. also advanced in all of the relays that have Sunday finals — both 4x100m, both 4x400m and the mixed 4x400m, which makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. Sunday’s race schedule and TV/stream schedule is here.

Justin Gatlin headlined a 4x100m preliminary squad that had the fourth-fastest time from Saturday’s heats. Anchor Cameron Burrell, the son of former world-record holder Leroy Burrell, had to slow up to receive the baton from Isiah Young before the end of the exchange zone.

Noah Lyles, the world’s fastest 200m sprinter over the last two years, is expected to join the 4x100m for Sunday’s final. Olympic silver medalist Japan failed to advance after placing third in its heat due to one of the most impressive baton handoffs in history (that would get it disqualified).

U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs anchored the women’s 4x100m preliminary heat squad that advanced in 42.51 seconds, .52 ahead of second qualifier Germany. World 100m champion Tori Bowie was expected to lead this quartet, but she withdrew before the meet.

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MORE: Justin Gatlin finds missing piece of his career at IAAF World Relays

Justin Gatlin lines up at World Relays reminded of his missing piece

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After Justin Gatlin lies down for a massage ahead of the IAAF World Relays, he ponders what’s left to accomplish before his controversial-but-decorated career ends in the coming years.

Gatlin has the greatest title in sprinting — Olympic 100m champion from 2004 — and pulled off the 100m/200m double at the 2005 World Championships. Both came before his four-year doping ban.

What also squeezes into the lede is that he won the last individual race of Usain Bolt‘s career, relegating the Jamaican to bronze in the 2017 World Championships 100m final and shushing the London crowd that had booed him before and after every round.

Gatlin is asked what, if anything, is missing. He thinks about it. He has just finished a training session in Japan for the World Relays (TV/stream schedule here), where he headlines a U.S. 4x100m team with Noah Lyles.

“Just keep doing it again and again,” Gatlin says, unable to come up with an answer. After two seconds of silence, he adds this: “Win the world championships and Olympics with my relay team. That would be a great accomplishment.”

It would also be a foreign one for Gatlin, who has been a part of eight U.S. 4x100m pools between the Olympics and world championships but never grabbed gold in the relay.

2004: Surprise Great Britain relegates the U.S. to silver in the Athens Olympics.
2005: Mardy Scales and Leonard Scott botch a handoff in the preliminary heat before Gatlin could get a chance in the final to complete a 100m, 200m and 4x100m sweep.
2007, 2008, 2009: Gatlin is excluded from two world championships and the Beijing Olympics due to a four-year doping ban.
2011: The U.S. DNFs after Doc Patton collides with burly British anchor Harry Aikines-Aryeetey.
2012: A valiant effort, but Ryan Bailey cannot outsprint Usain Bolt on anchor at the London Olympics. The U.S.’ silver medal is later stripped due to Tyson Gay‘s doping ban.
2013: Gatlin got the baton with a slight lead on anchor but had to adjust to keep from stumbling into Bolt’s lane. Bolt easily passed Gatlin. Jamaica won by three tenths.
2015: The U.S. led coming around the third-leg curve, but Gay and Mike Rodgers couldn’t complete their handoff in the zone and were disqualified.
2016: After the U.S.’ victory lap for earning a bronze medal, they were disqualified upon replay showing Gatlin received his handoff from Rodgers before the zone.
2017: Bolt somersaults in his last race, but Christian Coleman cannot run down Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, and Britain wins by .05.

Gatlin was part of winning U.S. quartets at the last two World Relays in 2015 and 2017 (the Americans beat a Bolt-anchored team in the former).

This will almost surely be the last time Gatlin takes part in the event and could be looked at as the beginning of a farewell tour that’s expected to end at either the 2020 Olympic Trials or, should he make a fourth Olympics, back in Japan for the Tokyo Games.

Gatlin said 2019 and 2020 will be his last two years of sprinting, according to Reuters in December.

“It’s a target I’m looking at,” he said Thursday, not confirming the timeline but not ruling it out. “I’m not trying to predict the future. At some point you’ve got to look to the future. Right now just focusing on what I’ve got to focus on.”

Gatlin can race carefree this spring and summer, knowing he has a bye into late September’s world championships 100m as defending champion.

He will be 38 come the summer of 2020 and in line to break Gail Devers‘ record as the oldest U.S. Olympic sprinter. He is already the oldest Olympic 100m medalist after finishing second to Bolt at the Rio Games. (Gatlin, by the way, said he has not conversed with Bolt since they last met at 2017 Worlds. “I’ve been watching him play soccer,” he joked.)

In limited racing last season (partially due to injury, partially to rest), Gatlin failed to break 10 seconds in the 100m for the first time since his out-of-shape comeback summer in 2010 when he raced at outposts Rakvere, Joensuu and Arzana while being excluded from major European meets.

Gatlin pulled up with a microtear in his upper left leg in a 200m in Grenada last month and missed some training. He has yet to race a 100m this year and said his agent is still working out his schedule after he enters a lower-level meet in Osaka on May 19.

It looks like Gatlin must summon his speed from the last Olympic cycle to have a chance at making the three-man 2020 Olympic 100m team.

The world’s top three men from 2018 were all Americans more than a decade younger than Gatlin. All went faster than Gatlin’s best time from 2017: Christian Coleman (9.79), Ronnie Baker (9.87) and Lyles (9.88).

Four more Americans born in the 1990s broke 10 seconds, making it possible that Gatlin could be an underdog to even make the Olympic relay pool (usually the top six in the 100m at trials).

“A lot of people said I would never be 9.7 when I came back to the sport,” Gatlin said, referencing his personal best of 9.74 at age 33 in 2015. “I’m always up for a challenge.”

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