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Nicholas Bett, 2015 World 400m hurdles champ, killed in car crash

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Nicholas Bett, a Kenyan who won the 2015 World 400m hurdles title, was killed in an early-morning car crash Wednesday in the country’s famed high-altitude training region, police and his coach said. He was 28.

Bett had only just returned home this week from the African Championships in Nigeria.

Nandi county police commander Patrick Wambani said Bett was killed in the crash on the road between Eldoret and Kapsabet, two of Kenya’s best-known distance-running training towns in the Rift Valley region.

Bett was driving alone, Wambani said.

Bett’s SUV hit bumps in a road and rolled, landing on its roof in a ditch, his coach, Vincent Mumo, told The Associated Press. Mumo said the accident happened at about 6 a.m.

“I’m out of words,” Mumo said. “We thank god for his life.”

Mumo said Bett’s twin brother, Aron Koech, who is also an athlete, was “beyond grief.”

Bett was also the father of 2-year-old twin boys.

His 2015 World title was a breakthrough victory for Kenya, normally a powerhouse only in middle- and long-distance events.

The triumph from lane eight was a big surprise as he became the first Kenyan to win a major title in the event. It signaled that Kenya was ready to challenge in track and field at the shorter distances, too.

Julius Yego, who also produced a surprise at the same worlds to win the javelin gold, wrote on Facebook: “Dark morning, horrifying news! Can’t believe it’s real but go rest with the angels Nicholas Bett!”

“I’m shocked beyond words!” Yego added. “My roommate in Beijing when we won gold together, and it was just the other day we were in Nigeria.”

Bett was initially a volleyball player before turning to track. He also won bronze medals at the 2014 African championships in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay.

“Bett earned the country great honors in his outstanding victories,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote on his official Twitter page. “My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family, relatives and friends.”

The IAAF said it was “deeply saddened and shocked” by Bett’s death. Athletics Kenya said it sent condolences to Bett’s family and would help organize the funeral.

“We are really mourning the loss,” Athletics Kenya president Jackson Tuwei said. “He has done a lot for this country … he is still a young boy and we will really miss him.”

Bett’s twin brother was part of the Kenyan 4x400m team that won gold at last week’s African championships in Asaba, Nigeria.

Bett didn’t run on that team. He did make the final of the 400m hurdles but didn’t earn a medal.

U.S. sweeps Oslo 100m hurdles; former World champ sprinter hurt

Brianna Rollins, Dawn Harper-Nelson
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The U.S. depth in the 100m hurdles was evident in a sweep at a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday.

Brianna RollinsDawn Harper-Nelson and Jasmin Stowers took the top three spots, but it’s likely at least one of them will not make the Olympic team.

That’s because of Keni Harrison, who wasn’t in Oslo but ran the second-fastest 100m hurdles of all time at the Pre Classic on May 28. Harrison clocked 12.24 seconds in Eugene, Ore., two weeks ago and owns the world’s four fastest times this year.

The top three in the Olympic Trials final on July 8 will make the Rio team.

The 2013 World champion Rollins, ranked No. 2 in the world this year, won in Oslo in 12.56 seconds into a slight headwind. Harper-Nelson, who finished first and second at the last two Olympics, was second in 12.75 in Oslo, followed by Stowers in 12.79.

Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia was last in 13.14 as she continues to return from a yearlong injury layoff.

Full Oslo results are here.

Also in Oslo, Canadian Andre De Grasse won the 100m in 10.07 seconds with a small tailwind behind him. De Grasse, 21, shared bronze at the 2015 World Championships in a personal-best 9.92 seconds but hasn’t been close to that form early this season.

“Next should be definitely a sub-10 seconds,” De Grasse said, according to the IAAF.

De Grasse beat a field in Oslo that didn’t include his Worlds podium mates Usain BoltJustin Gatlin and Trayvon Bromell.

Instead, the Canadian surged past a hobbled, 40-year-old Kim Collins for the victory. Collins, the 2003 World champion, grimaced as he limped across the finish line with a left groin cramp, according to his social media.

Dutch World champion Dafne Schippers won the women’s 200m in 21.93 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. Schippers, a former heptathlete, is expected to challenge U.S. Olympic champion Allyson Felix for gold in Rio.

World silver medalist Elaine Thompson of Jamaica was a distant second to Schippers in Oslo in 22.64.

World 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya remained undefeated in 1500m or mile races since May 30, 2015, winning a mile event in 3:51.48, .56 ahead of countryman and World 1500m silver medalist Elijah Manangoi. Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria was third in 3:52.24.

In the 400m hurdles, surprise World champion Nicholas Bett of Kenya finished sixth, continuing a slow early season. Bett became the first Kenyan Olympic or World champion in a race shorter than 800m last year, when he also struggled early in the season.

U.S. Olympic team contenders Michael Tinsley and Kerron Clement were third and fourth behind Turkish winner Yasmani Copello.

World champion Joe Kovacs won the shot put with a 22.01-meter throw against a field that did not include top rival David Storl of Germany.

Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie cleared 5.80 meters to win the pole vault over World champion Shawn Barber of Canada, who cleared 5.73.

The Diamond League continues in Stockholm next Thursday, the final meet of the series before the U.S. Olympic Trials that begin July 1.

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Justin Gatlin wins in photo finish, Allyson Felix beaten in season finale

Justin Gatlin
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Justin Gatlin barely held off a Qatari sprinter, while Allyson Felix lost to the World champion in the 200m in a possible Rio preview, concluding the top-level track and field season in Brussels on Friday.

Gatlin clocked 9.98 to win the 100m, the same time as Nigerian-born Qatari Femi Ogunode, though the photo finish went to the American in lane five (the first part of the jersey/kit to cross the finish line counts, not the head).

Running into a -0.4 m/s headwind, Gatlin slowed from his five previous 100m races (including first-round and semifinal heats at Worlds) — 9.80, 9.77, 9.83, 9.78, 9.75.

Jamaican Asafa Powell, the former world-record holder who hasn’t finished ahead of Gatlin in a race since 2004, was fifth in 10.04.

Gatlin then skipped the 200m he was originally slated to run a little more than an hour later. Ogunode did not skip that race and won it in 19.97, beating a field that included World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk (fourth, 20.37).

Gatlin said he withdrew from the 200m because he “felt something” in his right quad after the first 75 meters of the 100m, according to the Diamond League.

“I still went for the warming up of the 200 meter, but my muscles still felt hard so my coach advised not to start,” Gatlin said. “Next season is very important, so I wouldn’t risk an injury.”

Gatlin competed for the first time since he suffered his first defeats in two years at the World Championships, coming second to Usain Bolt in the 100m and 200m.

“I remember that I won medals, not that I lost,” Gatlin said of Worlds on Friday, according to the Diamond League.

Full Brussels results are here.

The Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, the World champion, beat Felix, the Olympic champion, in the 200m, solidifying Schippers’ status as Olympic 200m favorite going into 2016.

Schippers clocked 22.12, pulling away slightly from Felix on the straightaway and raising her right arm and right index finger in before crossing the finish line. Felix was second in 22.22.

“It’s quite logical Schippers beat me because I’m not the sharpest 200m runner at the moment,” Felix said, according to the Diamond League. “My switch to the 400m definitely took away some of my speed.”

At Worlds, the former heptathlete Schippers won the 200m title in 21.63, which was .06 faster than Felix’s personal best. Felix chose not to race the 200m at Worlds because the 200m semifinals were the same night as the 400m final, and Felix preferred the 400m.

Felix said after winning the Worlds 400m title that she would definitely race the 200m at the 2016 Olympic trials with hopes of definitely contesting it at the Olympics. She said she may or may not try to run the 400m at the Olympics, too.

The next top-level outdoor international meet will be in the spring. However, top U.S. sprinters could compete in the World Indoor Championships (where they have 60m and 400m but not 100m or 200m) in Portland, Ore., in March.

In other Brussels track action, 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson won the 100m hurdles in 12.63 seconds, leading a U.S. sweep followed by Sharika Nelvis (12.65) and Jasmin Stowers (12.76).

At Worlds, the U.S. entered that event with hopes of sweeping places one through four but finished with zero medals. Harper-Nelson crashed in the Worlds semifinals Aug. 28.

Nelvis owns the fastest time in the world this year (12.34) and Stowers is No. 2 (12.35). Jamaica’s Danielle Williams won the World title in 12.57.

World silver medalist Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas powered past American Francena McCorory in the final straightaway of the 400m in Brussels. McCorory was also passed late in the U.S. Championships final to fail to make the Worlds 400m, despite having the two fastest times in the world for the year going into that final.

In the 400m hurdles, World champion Nicholas Bett of Kenya finished seventh and complained of stomach problems maybe caused by food, according to the Diamond League.

In Brussels field action, Olympic and World champion Christian Taylor outdueled Cuban rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo. Taylor leaped 17.59 meters to Pichardo’s 17.06. At Worlds, Taylor triple jumped 18.21 meters, second all time to Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards‘ 18.29 meters from 1995.

The 2015 World champion Joe Kovacs, 2011 and 2013 World champion David Storl and 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski had a shot put showdown in Brussels.

None finished in the top two.

Australian Tom Walsh prevailed with a 21.39-meter throw, a distance that would have placed fifth at Worlds. Kovacs was third, Storl fourth and Majewski seventh.

Renaud Lavillenie exacted a little revenge against Shawn Barber, clearing 5.95 meters to win the pole vault. The Canadian Barber, who was second with a 5.85-meter clearance, upset the French world-record holder at Worlds.

Colombian two-time World champion Caterine Ibarguen won her 30th straight triple jump competition, according to the track stats website Tilastopaja. Her last loss was the 2012 Olympics, when she earned silver.

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