Wednesday, 09 August 2017 09:36

Botswana's Makwala barred from entering stadium

LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Botswana's Isaac Makwala was refused entry to the London Stadium on Tuesday after earlier being withdrawn from the night's 400 metres final at the World Championships after falling victim to an outbreak of sickness that has hit scores of competitors.

The 30-year-old, who was considered one of the main challengers to gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk and is a national icon, had also been ordered to withdraw from Monday's opening round of the 200m.

Makwala said he felt well and wanted to race but when he attempted to go through the athletes' entrance, an official and security personnel barred his way.

"I arrived at the stadium today ready to run but I found a trap set there ... and was denied entrance (Government order by the way not IAAF)," he said later in a message to his fans on Facebook.

"We fought all day for the truth to come out ... I still maintain I am not sick and have never been tested by any doctor ... I shall rise again. It is well."

The IAAF issued two statements on Tuesday, the first saying Makwala had been withdrawn due to a "medical condition" on the instruction of the "IAAF Medical Delegate".

The head of Botswana's athletics federation, Falcon Sedimo, told the BBC that there had been no communication from the IAAF and that Makwala had not undergone any medical tests.

"It's just generalised assumptions because of the outbreak of sickness and he has just one of those symptoms," he said.

"There has been ... no formal communication from the IAAF at all. We found out from the media that he could not take part and he is heartbroken."

In the second statement, the IAAF said Makwala had been diagnosed with an "infectious disease" following an examination by a doctor in the warm-up medical centre on Monday and said the Botswana team had been informed.

"The team doctor, team leader and team physio had been informed following the medical examination that the athlete should be quarantined for 48 hours and would therefore be missing the 400m final on Tuesday," it said.

"The IAAF is very sorry that the hard work and talent of Isaac Makwala won’t be on display tonight but we have to think of the welfare of all athletes."

South African Van Niekerk retained his world title in dominant fashion, storming to victory in 43.98 seconds.

FELT FIT

Makwala had told the BBC earlier on Tuesday that he had felt fit to race both in the 200m heats on Monday and the 400m final.

"I was not that sick," he said. "I just vomited. Like any other athlete, I vomit ... I could have run because I did my warm-up well and I did everything well. I was ready to run."

He added that he was "heartbroken" on Monday when he was pulled from the 200 and had been left in the dark about the reasons for his withdrawal.

"I was ready for this, I worked hard for this," he added "So I feel like sabotaging or something ... I don't know because I don't have the full information about this."

He did not specify in what way he felt he had been sabotaged and the IAAF did not respond specifically to Makwala's comments when contacted by Reuters.

The IAAF said it had been working with Public Health England to contain the outbreak of sickness and had issued guidelines to teams and their doctors.

Several Botswana, German, Canadian, Irish and Puerto Rican athletes have taken ill over the last few days, with some quarantined and others forced to miss their events.

Competition organisers said on Monday that the illnesses were a result of gastroenteritis, but public health officials said on Tuesday that laboratory tests had confirmed two cases of norovirus among approximately 30 victims.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry; writing by Brian Homewood, additonal reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Toby Davis, Ed Osmond and Peter Rutherford)


IAAF World Championships in London: Day 6 highlights

London (AFP) - Day six highlights for the IAAF World Championships on Wednesday:

Men's 5000 metres heats

Mo Farah may have emerged battered and bruised from his superb victory in the 10,000 metres but he will be intent on not seeing his farewell to track championships go awry in an event in which he has won the last five global titles (three world and two Olympics). The 34-year-old should have a routine qualification ahead of Saturday's grand finale but at least his presence will boost the morale of the home spectators who unlike London 2012 have had precious little to cheer about despite packing the stadium night after night.

Women's 400 metres final

This could be one of the races of the championships as it has everything in a potboiler of a plot. American track legend Allyson Felix is bidding for a 10th world gold medal (4 individual gold, 5 relay) but standing in her way is the Bahamas' Shaunae Miller-Uibo. The 31-year-old American may have beaten her younger rival in the 2015 world final but the latter got her revenge in the biggest arena of the Olympic final last year and in the most dramatic fashion, stealing the title from under her nose with a spectacular dive for the line and getting the nod by 0.07 of a second. The third major final meeting between the duo promises fireworks.

Men's 400 metres hurdles final

Kerron Clement, like Felix, has been a stalwart of American athletics for over a decade and the Trinidad-born star will be seeking his third individual world title here. The 31-year-old Olympic champion looked in sublime form in his semi-final, allowing Norwegian youngster Karsten Warholm to hare off in the lead before reeling him in in the finishing straight. "I keep pulling it out this season," said Clement. "I trust my strength and I know I am the best off that last hurdle." Warholm -- if he keeps his head -- and another American TJ Holmes could be Clement's greatest threats

Women's Shot Put final

After claiming six major silver or bronze medals since the 2008 Olympic Games, China's Gong Lijiao has a major opportunity to claim a maiden title. The 28-year-old has won three Diamond League meets this season and with reigning champion Christina Schwanitz and four-time champion Valerie Adams both absent this season, Gong surely won't have too many better chances to add a global title to her resume.

Men's 200m Semi-Finals

Wayde van Niekerk faces a sharp turnaround after defending his 400m title in style. The South African ran a blistering final bend to put the race out of reach and with neither Usain Bolt nor Botswanan Isaac Makwala in contention in the 200m, the 25-year-old looks a good bet for a rare double should he safely negotiate the semi-final.


One-lap wonder Van Niekerk targets Johnson double

London (AFP) - Wayde van Niekerk's bid for a first world double since 1995 now turns to the 200m after he stormed to a comfortable victory in the 400m.

After initially struggling with the cold, the 25-year-old ran a solid final bend to blast to victory in 43.98 seconds with a lot to spare, and went straight into recovery ahead of Wednesday's 200m semi-finals, with the final on Thursday.

"It was quite freezing and I struggled to get myself warmed up and ready," said Van Niekerk, who came into the 400m as defending world and Olympic champion.

"I was doubting my momentum. In the last 150 metres I tried putting in an extra gear, but I couldn’t catch my stride until my last few metres. I just allowed the race to go through to the finish line."

Thoughts will turn straight to the 200m, and a rare double.

The last athlete to claim the 200/400m double was American Michael Johnson, who achieved the feat the 1995 worlds in Gothenburg, repeating the achievement a year later in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

"It's easier said than done," said Van Niekerk, who smashed Johnson's 400m world record when winning gold in Rio and then his rarely-run 300m record in Ostrava last month.

"It's competition, it's very unpredictable.

"My body still feels very good. It took me a while to recover.

"But from endurance I go straight to speed... It's a day-by-day, step-by-step process for us athletes."

- New challenges -

Van Niekerk reiterated that every season threw up new challenges.

"I know it’s never going to be a walk in the park," he said. "I'm just so grateful to say I came through with a gold medal.

"Every year has its new challenges, and every year it gets tough. I don't think it ever became easier. Right after Rio I found out I had a back injury, and this entire season I have been struggling to find fitness, but at the same time my times have been getting better, especially in the short sprints."

Van Niekerk, the first athlete to break 10 seconds over 100m, 20sec over 200m and 44sec over 400m, added he was delighted his coach Anna "Tannie Ans" Botha would also receive a medal as part of a championships initiative to reward coaches.

"Everyone knows the superstar coach I have," he said of the 74-year-old great-grandmother who oversees the hottest property in world athletics.

"It's actually a massive honour for me to be able to reach these great heights with her.

"She has had to wait a long time – with the third gold, she gets to take one home with her too. Unfortunately my two previous medals had to go to Mum as she said 'Everything achieved at home has to stay here'. So I am glad to be able to take this one home myself!"


100 Champ Bowie Pulls Out Of The 200

World 100 metres champion Tori Bowie abandoned her bid to add the 200 metres gold when she withdrew from the heats of the longer event at the World Championships on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old American had suffered cuts and bruises in winning the 100 metres title after tumbling headlong on to the track following her dip to claim victory.

She could have joined Katrin Krabbe and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as the only women to have completed the 100/200m double in the same championships but had admitted to feeling "beaten up" after her fall.


Farah Sees Cheptegei As Big Rival In The 5000

• ‘The new, raw athletes are scary,’ says Briton before Wednesday’s heats 
• Farah would be surprised if team-mate Andy Butchart won a medal

Mo Farah believes his big-race experience will carry his battered and bloodied body to yet another world title in the 5,000m – but admits he will again be looking over his shoulder at the brilliant young Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei, who ran him so close in Friday’s 10,000m final.

Farah, who runs in the heats of the 5,000m on Wednesday night before Saturday’s final, is still nursing the after-effects of a choppy 10,000m final during which he tripped twice, spiked, and suffered a bruised knee. However, he has taken a leaf out of his 2012 London Olympics playbook by recovering in a cyro-sauna, which uses nitrogen to lower his skin surface temperature, as well as ensuring he does nothing more strenuous than play regular games of Fifa on the British team’s PlayStation.

“Experience is everything,” said Farah. “If you’ve been in a situation before and done it then it’s easier to deal with and that will help me massively.

“It’s like when I had a chance to live with the Kenyans. That’s what really changed me as an athlete. You see them and you tell yourself: ‘If what I am doing is not right and what they’re doing is right, how are you going to beat them?’”

On paper, Farah’s biggest challenge looks likely to come from the Ethiopian Muktar Edris and his 17-year-old compatriot Selemon Barega, who have run the two fastest times in the world this year. Farah, though, believes that the 20-year-old Cheptegei, who has run the third quickest 5,000m in 2017, is the man to beat again. “Cheptegei is strong,” he says. “He’s the one coming through.” But, with a clear nod to Barega as well, he added: “It’s all the new ones that are a bit more scary to race because they are raw. They don’t know what they are doing. They just go for it.”

But he warned his rivals that, just as in the 10,000m final, he would not back down. “A lot of times people say you are nice and try to take advantage,” he admitted. “But you have to be ruthless on the track and off it sometimes.”

Farah also expressed admiration for his team-mate Andy Butchart, who finished sixth at last year’s Olympics, but said it would be a surprise if he won a medal. “It is going to be tough for him, but if the race is run how it suits him then he has a chance,” he added. “We have a lot of guys who believe in themselves now and he is one of them. He will give you 110%, come out on the line and he is going to try his best. But the years of experience I’ve had tells me it’s going to be difficult for him to get a medal.”


Kendricks wins pole vault, Lavillenie frustrated again

LONDON, Aug 8 (Reuters) - American Sam Kendricks capped his memorable, unbeaten season by wining the pole vault at the World Championships on Tuesday as the title once again eluded world record holder and former Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie.

Kendricks, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army reserve, cleared 5.95 metres while Poland's Piotr Lisek took the silver and Lavillenie had to be content with a fourth world bronze despite producing his best leap of the season.

Lisek, joint bronze medallist in Beijing two years ago, and Frenchman Lavillenie, who also won silver in 2013, both cleared 5.89 but the Pole took silver on countback.

Olympic champions Fabio Braz pulled out last month due to form and fitness problems.

Kendricks, unbeaten in 2017 after 10 competitions outdoors and one indoors, was again in imperious form as he moved through the first five heights without a failure.

The 24-year-old, who barely picked his pole for five months during the autumn and winter while on active duty, failed his first two attempts at 5.95 before clearing the third to a huge roar.

"It is all part of a mission for me. I make a goal and chop it down to make it attainable. I've finally got that world title and I could not be happier," Kendricks said.

"It was another fantastic competition today and I had to jump high to take the gold."

Lisek had two failures at 5.65 and another at 5.82 before deciding to move to 5.89 which he cleared at the first attempt but the next height proved a bridge too far.

Lavillenie, unable to start training until May because of a foot injury, has been short of confidence and form all season and has failed to register a win in five appearances on the Diamond League circuit.

He had one failure and skipped two rounds before reaching 5.95 metres where he was agonisingly close on his second attempt, clearing the bar but nudging it on the way down.

Lavillenie then opted to move to 6.01 where his challenge ended.

Titleholder Shawn Barber of Canada struggled all evening and never looked in contention.

He had one failure at the lowest height of 5.50 and only just avoided elimination at 5.65 which he cleared at the third attempt despite clipping the bar, before going out at 5.75.

Germany's Raphael Holzdeppe, who won the title four years ago in Moscow, fared even worse as he was eliminated in the very first round at 5.50.

Belgian's Arnaud Art made an unfortunate exit at the first height, falling on his third attempt after his hands slipped from the pole. (Editing by Ed Osmond)


Van Niekerk defends world 400m title

- South African Wayde van Niekerk got his bid for an audacious 200/400m double off to a flying start when he defended his one-lap title. Van Niekerk, who also set the world record when winning Olympic gold in Rio last year, was in imperious form, running a devastating final bend to finish in 43.98 seconds, easing up a full 15 metres from the line. Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas claimed silver in 44.41sec, with Sudan-born Qatari Abdalelah Haroun taking bronze (44.48).


Jenny Simpson Savors Another Silver (Video)

She kicked past two runners in the final 100 meters to win her third medal at a world championships.

In what was one of the greatest women’s 1500-meter fields ever assembled, Jenny Simpson claimed a third world championships medal in London tonight, the 30-year-old American unleashing her trademark finishing kick to finish a superb second in 4:02.76.

With a field of intimidating quality in opposition—including Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya, Olympic 1500-meter champion Faith Kipyegon, and world No. 1 Sifan Hassan—Simpson ranked as an underdog for a medal, but she toed the line with remarkable confidence.

“I said to myself: You have to be a mountain, you have to be unshakeable, because everybody here is fit, everyone is in good shape, so what’s going to make the difference is who is the most confident,” Simpson said. “You’d be surprised how confident I am in myself. I really believed I could do it.”

The early pace was slow, with British heroine Laura Muir taking the field through 800 meters in 2:17.11. But with 600 meters to run, Hassan sprinted to the front, which set off a chain reaction in the pack.

Simpson assumed pole position behind Hassan and Kipyegon, who hit full throttle out front with 300 meters left, leaving Simpson to battle with Muir and Semenya for the minor medals. While Kipyegon came home strongly to win in 4:02.59, Simpson had to summon all her courage in the home stretch to overtake Hassan, edge past Muir, and hold off the late charge of Semenya to take silver.

“I went down the stretch and thought: Just run your guts out, run the hardest you’ve ever run in your life [even if] you black out,” Simpson said.

The moments after the finish were just as nerve-wracking as the start line, with Simpson unsure if she had won a medal and gazing up at the big screen to see her fate. When her name flashed up in second, she erupted in celebration.

“It felt amazing,” she said. “I had a slow start to the season but my coaches really prepared me to be ready late in the season and it paid off. I wanted to win tonight, but I look back and get to say I’m lucky. I’m really proud of it.”

Simpson, the 1500-meter world champion in 2011, the silver medalist at the world championships in 2013, and the Olympic bronze medalist last year, had defeated not just the local favorite in Muir, the world’s best half-miler in Semenya, or the fastest athlete this season in Hassan, but also the controversial figure of Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500-meter world record holder whose coach, Jama Aden, is awaiting trial in Spain after being implicated in a doping scandal.

Afterward Simpson was adamant her performance showed it was possible to win clean.

“I want a clean sport so it feels amazing to come out and beat people [under suspicion],” she said. “If I’m second in this race, you beat cheaters because there’s not zero cheaters in the race or the world. But they’re not all stealing my moment. I’m so lucky I get to have those moments on the podium.”


Gatlin: "Athlete Of His Time, Not A Villain"

The sprinter Justin Gatlin is a tailor-made stand-in for the doping ills of track and field.

He served a four-year suspension after testing positive for steroids. He came back and continues to run fiercely in his 35th year, laying down the fastest times ever for a runner his age. Last weekend, in London, he spoiled the retirement run of the great Olympic champion Usain Bolt, whom some writers revere as the symbol of a clean sport. Gatlin ran 9.92 seconds in the 100 meters on Saturday night at the world championships, and took the gold medal. Bolt settled for the bronze.

Fans showered Gatlin with boos; British sportswriters waxed righteous about their pantomime villain (“Gatlin is a shameless fraud” was one of the milder takes); and Sebastian Coe, president of track and field’s international governing body, was beside himself for having to award a medal to Gatlin.

“I’m not eulogistic at the thought of somebody who has served two bans in our sport walking off with one of the biggest prizes,” Coe said.

This narrative is fractured and self-righteous. Gatlin has sinned, but the outrage, particularly from those who know better, edges toward the absurd.

Let’s start with what is, by now, the standard indictment: Gatlin is a “two-time drug cheat,” with “unrepentant” added as the adjectival chaser.

This is inaccurate. His first offense was no offense at all.

In the summer of 2001, after his freshman year at the University of Tennessee, Gatlin tested positive for a very small trace of amphetamine after running as an amateur in an event sponsored by USA Track & Field. Amphetamines are ingredients in Adderall, for which Gatlin has carried a prescription since he was 7 years old and learned he had an attention deficit disorder. He took Adderall while preparing for summer midterms three days before the race.

His decision was consistent with N.C.A.A. rules and guidance given to professional athletes. Nonetheless, Coe’s organization, the International Association of Athletics Federations, handed down a two-year ban. Gatlin appealed and got the suspension cut to a year. The grand executioners in the press corps might want to page to the decision’s conclusion:

“Mr. Gatlin neither cheated nor intended to cheat,” the appeals panel wrote. “He is certainly not a doper.”

So Gatlin is a one-time doper. In 2006, he tested positive for a steroid and was suspended for eight years, a sentence reduced to four years after he cooperated with federal investigators. He would lose four peak years and millions of dollars in earnings, a considerably tougher penalty than those meted out to athletes in pro baseball, basketball or football. (World soccer has adopted the Olympic Code and consequently levies tough penalties).

That seems a suitably stiff sentence for a first offense.

Let me now back off a step or three and interrogate my own righteousness.

A month ago, I talked with the American high jumper Chaunté Lowe about the moment last November when she learned she had won a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics. The international antidoping agency, taking advantage of technological advances, retested the blood of three jumpers (two Russians and a Ukrainian) who finished ahead of her at those Games. It disqualified all three. Lowe learned of this by Facebook and felt caught between elation and sorrow, aware of opportunities lost, not least that joyous moment atop a podium.

A year ago, I sat atop a mountain outside Oslo and heard two top American biathletes, Susan Dunklee and Lowell Bailey, talk about the frustration of competing to their lung-straining best and suspecting that some of the athletes a few paces ahead of them might have a chemical advantage.

These athletes work too hard to think we can just slap them on the back and murmur que será, será. They enjoy precious few years at their peak. Several of them told me they would like to see career suspensions for first doping offenses.

There is, too, the peculiar challenge presented when nations or Olympic committees cover their eyes, with all the advantages and subterfuge that implies. The United States Olympic Committee, for many years in the 1980s, enabled a pervasive doping problem. Its leaders knew that American swimmers, runners and jumpers were doping with the complicity of top Olympic coaches.

The United States has cracked down hard. But Russia has taken on the mantle and gone far beyond, running a state-sponsored doping program with a thuggish insistence that gives its athletes and coaches little choice. This represents an existential threat to clean sport.

I called Max Cobb, the president of U.S. Biathlon and an insistent reformer, and asked about the question of appropriate penalties for athletes like Gatlin. He is not by temperament the sort who favors blanket lifetime suspensions, and he sees considerable mitigating factors in Gatlin’s case. He also sees a place for lifetime bans as a threat.

“If you are engaged in systematic blood manipulation, you are deliberately trying to cheat the system,” Cobb noted. “It cannot be an accident, and that’s where the option of a lifetime ban would really help.”

Track and field’s reputation as irreparably tarnished by doping may be unfair and owe paradoxically to its growing ability to ferret out offenders. The doping era may have reached its body-distorting peak at the turn of this century, when athletes from many nations imbibed all sorts of steroids. Olympians break records with less regularity now; some women’s records set in that period have stood for decades. Scientists speculate that cheating athletes now take smaller doses to avoid detection.

As for Bolt and Gatlin, too many reporters and fans remain invested in fairy-tale dichotomies. Bolt is a glorious runner and a joyous showman for the ages, and he has passed every drug test without a glitch. So writers fit him for a crown as the king of clean sport.

What, however, explains the urgency in fitting Gatlin for the crown of thorns? Gatlin is an athlete of his time and place. He finished third in the 100 meters at the 2012 London Olympics. Five of the eight men who ran that day have served doping bans. There were runners in London last weekend who had served doping suspensions and returned to competition.

Track and field offers a complicated world.

Coe’s rhetoric is steely, and he has accomplished some good since becoming chief of the international federation. He was also forced to acknowledge in 2015 that Nike had paid him $150,000 annually to serve as a company “ambassador.” French prosecutors are examining whether anyone bribed top international track officials to steer the 2021 world championships to Eugene, Ore.

Shadows, too, have fallen across the sporting goods companies, which wield great influence over the sport. Nike, its pre-eminent power, runs a top track program out of its facilities in Oregon, and its coach Alberto Salazar has faced repeated reports suggesting his approach is tainted by chemicals.

My intention here is not to throw up a cloud and allow Gatlin to slip untouched off the stage. His athletic history is a cross of his making. After a four-year absence, he returned overweight and slow, turning in embarrassing times in places like Finland.

He found a new coach, who had himself once tested positive, and dismantled and reworked his form. He began to explode out of the blocks with surgical precision. By 2015, he was laying down eyebrow-raising times, peaking at 9.74. That led even sober analysts like Ross Tucker, whose website Science of Sport is much respected, to wonder aloud if he was doping again, or had ever stopped.

That moment likely has passed.

The championship race in London was an old man’s affair. Gatlin won with a 9.92. Had he run that time at the world championships in Beijing in 2015, he would have finished far behind Bolt. He is tested randomly by the United States Anti-Doping Agency; screeners checked his blood four times and his urine 10 times last year before the Olympics.

He passed all of those.

Age is the runner that will track Gatlin to earth. When I saw him in Oregon in May, he acknowledged mental fatigue and hamstrings and thighs that growl like old hounds.

He is a personable man; he is flawed. There’s no need to turn him into a hero. But the villain stuff plays like the cheap tricks adults use to distract from bigger problems.


Britain's WC Woes Based On "Mentality"?

British athletes are underperforming at the World Championships because of issues with their mentality, says ex-Olympic champion Darren Campbell.

UK Sport's target is between six and eight medals but, after five days of competition, Britain have one - Mo Farah's gold in Friday's 10,000m.

While Campbell believes there is "hope" for the future, he told BBC Radio 5 live: "Clearly there's something wrong.

"We can't pretend it's not happening. If medals are not won, funding is cut."

On Monday, Britain's Laura Muir just missed out on a medal by finishing fourth in the 1500m, while Olympic bronze medallist Sophie Hitchon was seventh in the hammer throw.

The previous day, Katarina Johnson-Thompson finished fifth in the heptathlon, Holly Bradshaw was sixth in the pole vault and Andrew Pozzi failed to qualify for the final of the 110m hurdles.

"I am the last British sprinter to win an individual global medal, at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, but the talent we have is better than that," said Campbell.

"The problem we have is the mental side of things."

Many high-profile athletes missed the British trials in July, which formed part of the selection process for the World Championships in London.

Campbell said: "We were told that the top athletes who weren't there were being rested for the Worlds. Well now we're here, where are they producing what we were told they would?"

Campbell, who won 4x100m gold in Athens in 2004, said the experience of former athletes such as Brendan Foster, now a BBC commentator, should be utilised.

"You've got Brendan up here, in five minutes you can see his experience. We're not tapping into that? Wow."

'A reminder that sport is brutal'

UK Sport funding is already set for the Olympic cycle up to 2020 - with athletics the second-highest Olympic recipient behind rowing.

When the funding was announced in December, UK Sport CEO Liz Nicholl said the decision to cut funding from several sports was "based on a judgement of potential number of medals".

"With only one medal at the halfway stage, it's not going to plan," former Olympic javelin thrower Steve Backley told BBC Sport. "That is the simple message.

"There have been some marginal performances that went the wrong way. With medal hopes like Hitchon, Muir, Bradshaw, Johnson-Thompson, we could have had three or four medals in the bag by now.

"But sport is brutal, and this is a reminder of how tough it is out there. There aren't that many more chances left."


Will Usain Bolt win his final career race?

Your last chance to watch Usain Bolt race is very likely Saturday.

Bolt, one week after being upset in the world championships 100m final, is expected to anchor the Jamaican 4x100m relay team during NBC’s live coverage from London from 3-5 p.m. ET.

Bolt and the Jamaicans crossed the finish line first in all seven Olympic and world championships relays dating to the 2008 Beijing Games.

However, the island nation is losing its sprint dominance. Not only was Bolt relegated to 100m bronze by Americans Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman, but Jamaica also lacks depth.

Former relay stalwarts Asafa Powell and Nesta Carter have aged and didn’t make the world team. Yohan Blake, the primary global rival to Bolt in 2011 and 2012, was a respectable fourth in the 100m last Saturday, but the Jamaicans are lacking depth.

Like in the 100m, the U.S. could spoil Bolt’s farewell party yet again in the relay.

Add up the 100m times from Gatlin, Coleman and U.S. bronze medalist Christopher Belcher, and the Americans were a net .01 faster than the Jamaican trio of Bolt, Blake and Julian Forte last Saturday.

The key will be clean baton handoffs. The Americans have botched the relay consistently, missing the podium due to bad exchanges or disqualifications at five of the last six global championships.

Jamaica is much cleaner passing the stick, plus it has the biggest intangible in its favor: Bolt on anchor, which could intimidate whoever is running the last leg for the Americans if it’s a close race.


Tori Bowie follows her instincts to 100-meter gold at worlds

LONDON -- Lying on the track, shoulder and hip burning from her fall after crossing the 100-meter finish line, Tori Bowie had no idea what to expect.

"I was just trying to get to the finish line," Bowie said. "I knew I was in the mix, I knew I was in the top three. I didn't know if I had won or not."

The 26-year-old American used a furious charge over the final 20 meters to close in on the frontrunner, Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast. Bowie leaned so hard at the tape, she tumbled forward, ripping the skin off her shoulder and bruising several other parts of her body.

When Bowie stood up, the winner still had not been announced. When the scoreboard flashed her name in first place at 10.85 seconds, .01 ahead of Ta Lou, the moment knocked her back down.

The fastest woman in the world lay on her back and covered her face with her hands. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe this just happened. This is the greatest night of my life,'" Bowie said.

Bowie is a slender, shy country girl from rural Sand Hill, Mississippi. At several points during interviews after Sunday's race, she was overwhelmed by emotion and took some time to compose herself. But there is steely determination beneath her reticence, which fueled her devastating late-race charge.

"I don't know where the finishing comes from. I guess, just hungry -- a determined, motivated moment," she said. "It just comes from instinct, from wanting it so bad."

The favorite Sunday was Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, who won the 100 and 200 in Rio, the first woman to complete that double since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988. On Sunday, Thompson stumbled slightly when Bowie passed her halfway down the track. She finished fifth in 10.98, well off her season best of 10.71. Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands finished third in 10.96.

"Honestly, I don't know what happened," Thompson said. "I came out here with a brave heart and a strong mind. It didn't go as I planned, but you have to give those other girls a lot of credit."

Last year at the Rio Olympics, Bowie used another closing burst to move from fourth place to second, losing by a step to Thompson. On Sunday, Ta Lou led the entire race from Lane 4, and had no idea Bowie was bearing down on her from Lane 7. Ta Lou did not lean at the tape, and looked to her left with a shocked expression as Bowie flashed past.

"I didn't see her coming," Ta Lou said. "But it's OK, I have a medal."

Bowie, though, has the gold. She specialized in the long jump at the University of Southern Mississippi, and many consider the 200 to be her best event. Yet she insisted on focusing on the 100 in London.

"I'm probably the only person in the world who thought I could come out here and win the 100 meters tonight," Bowie said. "I learned a lot from tonight. I learned to always follow your heart."


"Mr. Silk" Omar McLeod Brings Joy To Jamaica

LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - As Usain Bolt takes his leave of athletics and the desperate hunt grows to find charismatic new trailblazers for the sport, another young Jamaican, Omar McLeod, demonstrated in winning the 110 metres hurdles title on Monday why he may fit the bill.

He's young, cool, bright, very fast and likes to style himself as "Mr Silk" with the smooth hurdling technique.

After a weekend where it was all doom and gloom back home after the 100 metres losses of Bolt and Elaine Thompson, 23-year-old Mcleod chose the perfect night to bound headlong to world championship glory and cheer his nation.

"Happy Independence Day, Jamaica! I love you guys!" he declared with a laugh, recognising that everyone was watching him on the island's public holiday as he became the first man since American Allen Johnson in 1997 to pull off the Olympics/World Championships 110m hurdles double in successive years.

"I'm elated, completely overcome with emotion and I especially wanted to dedicate this win to Usain. I felt it was up to me out there to bring the boost back to Jamaica and I think I've done that."

Yet while he saluted his peerless hero Bolt, who was only able to win bronze in his final individual 100m, he also looked and sounded every inch the sort of talismanic figure who could ensure swiftly that Jamaica has a new male superstar to savour.

For after comfortably defeating what he considered the best 110m hurdles field in history in 13.04 seconds, the U.S.-based speedster made it clear that he felt this was just the beginning of something even more spectacular.

NEW WORLDS

Nobody is suggesting that Bolt is anything but irreplaceable but here is an athlete who actually has strings to his bow that even the great Usain never had.

For not only is he already the only man ever to have run under 10 seconds for 100 metres and under 13 seconds for the 110m hurdles, he can also spread his talent across events as varied as the 400m hurdles and the 200m.

Next year, he declared after his victory, would be the time to see him spread his wings.

"I've got new worlds to conquer now," he beamed. "I really, really want that world record now so we'll see what happens next."

The man who holds the 12.80 seconds mark that he is after, American Aries Merritt, could only finish fifth in the final and the future of the event now lies in McLeod's quicksilver feet.

He is the only top high hurdler still taking eight steps to reach the first hurdle and, though he was planning to move down to seven this season, he put that plan back to next year to ensure he did not mess with his world championships ambitions.

Next year, though, he will definitely experiment.

"It was probably the best line up in history tonight. I knew in order to win I had to do it the Omar McLeod way," he said.

"I had to bring my own spark back. I had to get out and take control of the race. And just go out and have fun. And I did that."

There was, he said, a special reason to deliver. "My mum is here, so I had to do it for her," he said, after having given her a big hug at trackside. McLeod looks to be a breath of fresh air for the sport. (Reporting by Ian Chadband; editing by Ken Ferris)


Laura Muir refuses to enter Caster Semenya debate after heartbreak

• Briton pipped to 1500m bronze by Olympic 800m champion 
• London organisers close hotel floor over gastroenteritis outbreak

Laura Muir was close to tears after missing out on a world championship 1500m medal by seven hundredths of a second to South Africa’s Caster Semenya.

Muir had led for much of the race but ran out of gas down the home straight and was beaten to bronze by Semenya, the Olympic 800m champion. South Africa’s Semenya later attempted to shut down debate over hyperandrogenism, the medical condition she has which is characterised by excessive levels of male sex hormones such as testosterone.

Athletics’ world governing body, the IAAF, is putting together a case to convince the court of arbitration for sport that Semenya’s condition gives her an unfair advantage over her rivals. Semenya could be forced to undergo hormone replacement therapy or face being unable to compete in the future.

“I really don’t have time for nonsense,” she said. “I do not think about something that might happen in eight months. I don’t focus on the IAAF. It’s not my business. My business is to train hard and see what I come up with in competition.”

Muir refused to be drawn into the complex debate round Semenya’s participation in these championships. “I’ve not got anything to say about that,” she said.

The race was won by Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon in 4min 02.59sec while experience proved valuable for the 30-year-old American Jenny Simpson who ran an exquisitely judged race to take silver.

London 2017 organisers have ordered a floor in one of the hotels used by competitors to be quarantined after an outbreak of gastroenteritis.

Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, a medal prospect in the 400m, was given medical dispensation to withdraw from the 200m heats after throwing up in the call room.

A number of other athletes staying at the same hotel also have gastroenteritis, including the Ireland 400m hurdler Thomas Barr. “I’m gutted to have to withdraw from the semi-final. My whole year has been focused on the world championships. To not be able to go out and compete for Ireland is beyond disappointing.”

An organisers’ statement read: “Those affected have been supported by both team and local organising committee medical staff. In addition we have been working with Public Health England to ensure the situation is managed and contained.

“As a result, further advice and guidelines have been issued to team doctors and support staff – standard procedure for such an occurrence where a number of teams are occupying championship accommodation.”


Kipyegon wins world 1500m, Semenya bronze

Faith Kipyegon of Kenya added the world title to her Olympic crown after sprinting to victory in the women's 1500m on Monday.

In a fantastic race that erupted on the final lap, Kipyegon held off allcomers down the home straight to clock 4min 02.59sec.

American Jennifer Simpson claimed silver, at 0.17sec, with South Africa's 800m specialist Caster Semenya taking bronze (4:02.90).

Defending world champion Genzebe Dibaba finished 12th and last, more than 4sec off the winning pace.

Laura Muir, one of two Britons in the field led from the off, laying down a 65sec first lap, with Kipyegon a constant companion on her outside shoulder.

Semenya was her usual comfortable self in the middle of the pack, with Dibaba behind her and the Netherlands' world indoor champion Sifan Hassan, who took bronze two years ago in Beijing, bringing up the rear.

They went through 800m in a relatively sedate 2:17 before Hassan moved up the field and kicked, Kipyegon following.

Suddenly the pack split, Hassan and Kipyegon looking to have the battle for top of the podium to themselves.

But it was not to be, at least for the Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman.

Semenya left it late for her attack, eating up the yards from ninth place with 200 metres to run.

As they hit the home stretch, Hassan tied up in dramatic fashion, 2011 world champion Simpson timed her tactically astute race to near perfection and Semenya powered through for bronze on her coattails.

Muir pipped Hassan for fourth, while world record holder Dibaba could muster nothing worthwhile in the sprint finish as she went backwards.


5 Gator Alums Qualify For World Champs Finals

Kerron Clement is into his sixth 400 hurdles final, and Novlene Williams-Mills became the oldest woman in history to make a 400 meters final

LONDON – Five Gators advanced to finals, and incoming freshman sprinter Hakim Sani Brown qualified for the 200 meters semifinals Monday (Aug. 7) night at the IAAF World Championships.

For a second consecutive day, 400-meter hurdlers Kerron Clement (2004-05), the reigning Olympic gold medalist and a two-time world champion in the event, and TJ Holmes (2015-17), this year's USATF Outdoor Championships bronze medalist, won their respective heats.

Clement, who could become the first man in history to win three 400 hurdles world titles, posted the fastest overall time (48.35 seconds) to qualify for his sixth World Championships final. His six finals are the second-most appearances in meet history.



Jamaican team captain and six-time World Championships medalist Novlene Williams-Mills (2003-04) finished third in her heat, but advanced to the final as the fastest non-automatic qualifier. At age 35, Williams-Mills is the oldest woman in history to make the World Championships 400 meters final. Russia's Tatyana Alekseyeva (33 years, 301 days in 1997) was the oldest prior to Monday. This will be Williams-Mills' sixth final, the most in meet history.

Two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion Christian Taylor (2009-11) only needed one attempt to automatically make Thursday's (Aug. 10) triple jump final. Fellow American and reigning two-time Olympic silver medalist Will Claye (2010-11) also qualified for the final, posting the fifth-best jump of the night.

Sani Brown's bid to become the youngest 200 meters finalist in World Championships history continues, as he finished second in his heat and automatically qualified for the semifinals.



Tuesday's events do not feature any Gators. Clement, Holmes, and Williams-Mills all compete in Wednesday (Aug. 9) finals Sani Brown's 200 meters semi is Wednesday as well.

Two-time steeplechase Olympian Genevieve LaCaze (2009-12) and 2015 World Championships long jump silver medalist Shara Proctor (2007-10) begin their respective events Wednesday. Proctor is making her sixth World Championships appearance, trailing only Williams-Mills' seven for the most by a female Gator.


Clement eases into position for third hurdles gold

Olympic champion Kerron Clement put himself in pole position to win a third world title as the American went through the gears before cruising into the final of the 400 metres hurdles at the London Stadium on Monday.
The gifted 31-year-old, who won his first title a decade ago and has made such a revival late in his career that he struck Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro last year, won his opening heat to ensure he was the fastest qualifier in 48.35 seconds.

It had looked briefly off the final bend that the Trinidadian-born Clement might have his work cut out.

Yet he actually timed his run in lane seven with considerable precision to reel in the field, headed by the second automatic qualifier, powerful young Norwegian hope Karsten Warholm, in what was to prove by far the fastest heat.

It left Clement delighted as he seems to have rediscovered his best form at just the right time after an indifferent season, having also won at the London Stadium in last month's Diamond League meeting.

"I trust my strength and I know I am the best off that last hurdle. If anyone is within arm's length of me at the last hurdle, it's a wrap," said Clement, who despite the titles to his name is still seen as a slightly unfulfilled talent.

"I just need to concentrate on the turn because that can be my Achilles heel. I need to make sure that goes smoothly for the final."

Clement's US colleague TJ Holmes won the slowest, faintly shambolic, heat in 49.12 seconds, but did look to have enough in reserve to be a potential threat to his illustrious compatriot in Wednesday's final.

However, American hopes of having a powerful three-pronged assault on gold were thwarted by national champion Eric Futch's poor run on the inside lane in the other heat dominated by two of the sport's growing legion of 'allegiance transferees'.

Heat winner Abderrahaman Samba, who won in 48.75, now runs for Qatar, having switched his allegiance from Mauritania, while Turkey's European champion Yasmani Copello, who eased home just behind him in 48.91, used to run for Cuba.


Stat Blitz: World Championships Day 4

(from K. Ken Nakamura)

Day 4

WTJ

Rojas became 4th TJ to win both World Indoor and World Championships

2cm is the smallest winning margin in the history of WC WTJ; previous min was 4cm in 1997 and 2003

Difference of 35cm between 3rd and 4th is the largest ever in WC WTJ; previously, 18cm in 1995 and 2003 were max

WIth a silver medal tonight, Ibaguen now has a complete set of WC medals at WTJ

Rojas won the first medal of any kind for VEN at WC WTJ

W1500m

Kipyegon also became third (after Liu Dong and Genzebe) runner to win both WOrld and WOrld Junior at W1500m

Kipyegon also became third runner to win both Olympics and WOrld Championships (after Masterkova and Bulmerka) at W1500m

Kipyegon won first gold for KEN at WC W1500m

Difference between 1st and 3rd was 0.31 second, smallest ever for WC W1500m, replacing 0.44sec from 2009

Faith Kipyegon become the first CWG champion to win World Championships at W1500m

Faith Kipyegon become the first World Youth champion to win World Championships at W1500m

110mH

McLeod also became fifth hurdler to win both WC and World Indoor

McLeod won first gold for JAM in 110mH at WC

Baji won first medal for HUN at 110mH in WC

Shubenkov won silver, thus he joined Jackson and Liu as one of the three hurdlers with complete set of medals.

McLeod joined Allen Johnson and Liu as one of the three hurdlers with both Olympic and World Championships gold

WHT

For the first time in the history of WC, a nation (this case POL) won two medals (Wlodarczyk & Kopron) at WHT

77.90 is the British all comers' record improving her own mark, 77.60 from the Olympics

Wlodarczyk won third gold in WC WHT, tying Moreno for the most gold in this event at WC

It is also fourth medal for Wlodarczyk, also tying Moreno with a number of medals in WC WHT


GOLDEN MUM Who is Jessica Ennis-Hill? Olympic heptathlon gold medallist who’s pregnant with a second child – all you need to know

The 31-year-old is one of the most-decorated British sportswomen in history, but has now retired from competition

JESSICA ENNIS-HILL DBE is one of the most decorated British sportswomen in history, having conquered the world as a heptathlete.

As a professional, she has won gold medals in the Olympics, the World Championships, the World Indoor Championships and the European Championships.

However after last year’s Olympics in Rio, she retired from competing, leaving behind a glittering career that brought her vast amounts of success.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 31-year-old…

How old is Jessica Ennis-Hill? What’s her background?

The superstar was born on January 28, 1986 in Sheffield, where she is one of two daughters to father from Jamaica, and a mother from England.

Both her parents had an interest in athletics – her dad was a keen sprinter, whilst her mum preferred the high jump – and they introduced her to the sport as a child taking her to the Don Valley Stadium to watch events.

She ended up joining the City of Sheffield and Dearne Athletic Club aged 11 where she excelled, and attended King Ecgbert School, before graduating from the University of Sheffield with a 2:2 in psychology.

What was Jessica Ennis-Hill’s career record?

In junior competitions, Jessica won two silver medals in the 2004 Commonwealth Youth Games, and won in the heptathlon at the 2005 European Athletics Junior Championships.

Her professional career took off when she took home a bronze in the Commonwealth Games in heptathlon in 2006 at Melbourne.

In 2009 she won the gold medal in World Championships, a whopping 238 points ahead of Jennifer Oeser in second, and in 2010 took won the gold in the World Indoor Championships and the European Championships.

In 2011 she won a silver medal in the World Championships, although this has now been upgraded to a gold medal after Tatyana Chernova was proved of being a drugs cheat. She also won at the World Championships in 2015.

After winning a silver medal at the 2012 World Indoor Championships Jessica cemented herself in Great British folklore after picking home the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

However, she couldn’t defend her title in Rio last year as she had to settle for a silver.

When did Jess get married? How many children do they have?

In 2013, Jessica Ennis married Andy Hill in Derbyshire, and announced she would be known as Jessica Ennis-Hill.

She was forced to withdraw from participation in the 2014 Commonwealth Games as she was pregnant with her first child – her son Reggie was born in July 2014.

On March 16 Jess announced she’s pregnant again on Instagram with a photograph of Reggie holding a book entitled “I’m Going to be a Big Brother!”.

She wrote: “Someone’s going to be a big brother ? Another little Ennis-Hill on the way. So happy.”

What does DBE mean?

In 2017, Ennis-Hill was appointed as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 New Year Honours list.

The 31-year-old was awarded the second highest class for her services to athletics in which she has achieved so much success.

What is Jessica doing now?

Since retiring from athletics in October 2016, she has put her focus on spending time with her family after ten years as a professional competitor.

Before announcing that she was pregnant, Jess was rumoured to be in the running to be a contestant in the next series of BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing in the autumn.


Damage Control: IAAF Considering A Name Change?

  • Atheltics' governing body contemplating changing its name as part of overhaul
  • Ex-president Lamine Diack was found to have collaborated with drug cheats
  • Organisation has sunk so low that it may need a new name to market the sport
  • They plan on considering all branding issues during this calender year

Athletics' governing body, the IAAF, is considering a name change in an attempt to overhaul its tainted reputation.
The IAAF name was dragged through the mud two years ago when it was revealed disgraced former president Lamine Diack collaborated with Russian drugs cheats.
Current president Lord Coe has repaired some of the damage from Diack’s regime with a reform programme, but the IAAF name has sunk so low that some within the federation believe a fresh title such as World Athletics would help market the sport.

The IAAF will consider all branding issues this year with a possible name change on the agenda, especially as what IAAF stands for is not widely known outside athletics — the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The sport still has to cope with the fall-out from the full disclosure of Diack’s actions, which have yet to reach court. He is currently under house arrest in Paris. There is also an international arrest warrant for his son Papa. He remains a fugitive in his native Senegal, who will not agree to his extradition.
When Diack was arrested in Paris, his son was on the runway in Dakar on a flight bound for Paris. Papa was quickly off the plane and has not risked leaving Senegal since.

It seemed remarkable that Sky could announce a revamped Soccer AM — the breakfast programme will include former Hull midfielder Jimmy Bullard — without mentioning the departure of excellent presenter Helen Chamberlain, the original ladette, after 22 years.


But Sky say Chamberlain, whose contract was not renewed, did not want any fanfare.

Athletes are concerned about the number of people who have gained access to the practice track at the London Stadium. 
The area is swarming with agents, team delegates and friends and family, forcing runners to dodge idle spectators crossing the lanes as they warm up.

Olympics president Thomas Bach’s decision to go on holiday after only attending the first weekend of the World Athletics Championships did not break any IOC obligations. 
But his absence was all the more conspicuous because his predecessor Jacques Rogge is staying on a lot longer.

Stadium strikes a chord

The London Stadium is gaining ground on Wembley as the best outdoor music concert venue in the capital. 
Depeche Mode, Guns N’ Roses and Robbie Williams all played shows there before the championships. 
Promoters like the Stratford base because it has more room for standing on the pitch and large gangways mean concert-goers can get out of the stadium within six minutes.
After the West Ham security nightmare at the start of their tenancy a year ago, the biggest problem for stewards has been keeping order among women of a certain age who had queued all night to be in the front row for Robbie’s show.

Brendan Foster brings an end to a great broadcasting career at the weekend and calling Mo Farah to another triumph on Saturday night would be the perfect send-off. 
Foster targeted the championships in London — and the Farah races in particular — as his TV swansong in the knowledge that there won’t be another athletics occasion as big until Tokyo in 2020, which is in the wrong time zone to attract BBC audience peaks like the 7.5million who watched Farah’s 10,000m win.

It is difficult to see why athletics fans at the championships have been forced to put up with money-saving expert Martin Lewis as their trackside athletics pundit. 
Lewis, who has been doing a similar role at lower-profile British Athletics meetings, is a friend of BA chief executive Niels de Vos. 
In contrast, the stadium commentary, in the hands of athletics expert and experienced broadcaster John Rawling, has been top class.


Sore Bolt To Run In The 4x1 Heats

Usain Bolt will run in the 4x100 metres relay heats for Jamaica on Saturday despite being a bit sore after winning bronze in the 100m final at the weekend, he told Reuters on Monday.

"We'll see, we haven't done any baton changes as yet with the guys, but I feel we are ready," said the 11-time World Championships gold medallist.

"I have talked to Julian Forte (100m semi-finalist) a little bit. I haven't really talked to the youngsters so we'll see when it comes to the baton changes, but I'm always excited to run relays and we see what the guys are prepared and ready to do."

Yohan Blake is the only other experienced member of Jamaica's sprint relay pool to have won medals at the World Championships or Olympics.

"Physically I am alright, there is a little bit of pain, but nothing a massage can't cure, I'm taking it easy," Bolt said of his condition two days after clocking a season's best equalling 9.95 seconds in the 100m final.


Omar McLeod preserves Jamaican glory; U.S. shut out of 110m hurdles

Omar McLeod finally gave Jamaica a gold medal to celebrate at the world track and field championships.

After Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson lost 100m finals, it was McLeod who won the 110m hurdles title in London on Monday night.

The Rio gold medalist prevailed in 13.04 seconds, one tenth ahead of Sergey Shubenkov, who was part of Russia’s exclusion from the 2016 Olympics. Shubenkov, the 2015 World champion, competed as a neutral athlete in London.

Hungary’s Balazs Baji grabbed bronze, while 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt was fifth.

The U.S. failed to earn a world 110m hurdles medal for the first time, one year after failing to earn an Olympic 110m hurdles medal for the first time (excluding the 1980 Moscow Games).

Full worlds results are here.

In other events Monday, Kenyan Faith Kipyegon took gold in the women’s 1500m, .17 ahead of a hard-charging Jenny Simpson. Scrutinized South African Caster Semenya earned bronze with a late surge.

Kipyegon, the Rio gold medalist, became the first Kenyan woman to win a world 1500m title.

Simpson captured her fourth global medal following her 2011 World title, 2013 World silver medal and 2016 Olympic bronze medal.

Semenya, scrutnized after a gender-testing controversy in 2009, made the podium in her first 1500m outside of Africa since 2011. Semenya is an overwhelming favorite in the 800m (final Sunday) after taking Olympic gold in that event.

Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo set up a rematch in Wednesday’s 400m final. Felix topped Miller-Uibo for the 2015 World title, but Miller-Uibo edged Felix in Rio with that famous finish-line dive.

Wayde van Niekerk, looking to join Michael Johnson as the only men to sweep the 200m and 400m at an Olympics or worlds, headlined the qualifiers from the 200m heats.

Van Niekerk races the 400m final Tuesday, the 200m semifinals Wednesday and, if he advances, the 200m final Thursday.

Both the 200m and 400m are lacking superstars. Neither 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt nor 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James is in the 400m final. Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin skipped the 200m this year, and Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse withdrew before worlds with a strained hamstring.

Olympic champion Kerron Clement led the qualifiers into Wednesday’s 400m hurdles final.

Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk repeated as world champion in the hammer throw, one year after repeating as Olympic champion. Wlodarczyk, who last lost in June 2014, threw 77.90 meters to win by six feet, but she was 17 feet shy of her world record from last August.


Justin Gatlin: From Despair To Destiny

LONDON — They introduced Justin Gatlin to the Olympic Stadium crowd here Sunday evening, just before they put a gold medal around his neck, before The Star-Spangled Banner played in his honor, and along with some cheers a chorus of boos rang out.

The cheers — great. The boos — this fell somewhere between disappointing and reprehensible. Olympic-style sport is not the English Premier League, the NFL or NBA. It is supposed to be about promoting three key values: friendship, excellence and respect.

Saturday’s men’s 100-meter final immediately became arguably the biggest gold-medal victory in the history of the event. Gatlin defeated the sport’s biggest legend, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. It’s how the race will forever be remembered: who beat Bolt, and in Bolt’s last individual 100? Gatlin. And who, before Saturday, was the last guy ever to beat Bolt? Gatlin, in Rome in 2013.

None of that takes anything away from Bolt. It does, however, catapult Gatlin. The two respect each other, unequivocally.

The sport’s establishment and significant segments of the British media nonetheless remained fixated Sunday on the same tiresome narrative (cue boos): Bolt and Gatlin as a clash of good and evil, even though that narrative holds no factual support.

How about — the truth?

The truth does not care about demonizing a champion for the sake of a grotesque caricature of a narrative. Instead, the truth turns to a real story about a real person who learned to overcome, as all of us must, to succeed. It includes, in measure, acceptance, gratitude, humility and, centrally, love. With love — for each other and what we do — anything is possible.

The truth tells us all how Justin Gatlin went from despair to what destiny had in store for him Saturday night in 9.92 seconds.

On July 4, Gatlin ran a 9.98 for the win in the 100 at a meet in Budapest.

That night, he, along with his longtime coach, Dennis Mitchell, and Dave Pascal, a Cary, N.C.-based chiropractor who focuses on severe neurological injury and whose practice also includes an extensive sports background, piled into a van to drive to Vienna. Pascal’s track roster includes a host of other superb U.S. athletes, including Sunday’s women’s 100 winner, Tori Bowie.

Mitchell was riding shotgun; Pascal in the middle bench of the three rows; Gatlin in the way back, on the driver’s side.

Twenty minutes into a two-and-a-half hour trip, on a pitch-black two-lane road, a truck traveling in the opposite direction crossed the center line. Both vehicles were traveling roughly 70 miles per hour. That’s a combined closing speed of 140.

Mitchell saw the crash coming. He knew the truck did not have enough time to get all the way back onto the right side of the road. He slumped back into his seat, resigned to whatever was next.

Bam!

A head-on crash? No. At the last possible moment, the truck, in fact, slid over — just enough.

The driver of the van slowed and then pulled over by the side of the road to assess the damage. The driver’s side mirror — gone. Truck from the paint ran down the side of the van, heaviest just outside the third window, right where Gatlin had been.

Everyone was sick to their stomachs. Everyone called home. Everyone was alive.

No one was seriously hurt.

Two nights later, on July 6, Gatlin ran in one of the sport’s traditional summer highlights, a meet in Lausanne, Switzerland.

You want mentally tough?

Gatlin won, in 9.96. That was his final tune-up before London.

The cosmos whisper to us. The trick is to listen.

Gatlin, Mitchell and Pascal had of course known each other for years. Now, though — they had this. Pascal’s daughter had years before been in a serious car crash herself. On the side of the road, there was talk about her crash, and how she had survived: “I told this story to Justin,” Pascal recalled Sunday. “He was like — thank you. That helped him.”

“That incident,” Pascal said, “gave us a bond, a commonality, that we will always have.” Indeed, in the moments after Gatlin’s victory Saturday, Pascal managed to find Mitchell: “You could feel the weight come off him. You could literally feel that … someone like Dennis, who has been put through it — to feel it come off, it was really cool.”

Both Mitchell and Gatlin have had encounters with the doping authorities. Accounts in the press typically have done neither any favors, in Mitchell’s case tending to downplay his testimony for the government in the BALCO matter and in Gatlin’s this vital detail: he never intended to cheat:

Gatlin’s first positive test was for Adderall, which he assuredly was not hiding, in 2001. His second, in 2006, was for testosterone; how it got into his system remains entirely unclear, according to a voluminous record on file in federal court in Florida.

To call for lifetime bans for doping offenses, as some did here Sunday, ignores the World Anti-Doping Code rules that since 2015 include assessments of intent and proportionality. Ask Gil Roberts, who won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. 4×400 relay team last year in Rio; on July 10, an arbiter ruled he had ingested the masking agent probenecid unknowingly by “frequently and passionately” kissing his girlfriend just hours before a March 24 test; she had swallowed sinus medication powder; this was thus not a case of intentional doping.

In the doping arena, facts, rules and process matter.

During the four years he was ordered to take off, 2006 to 2010, one of the things Gatlin did was train 8-year-olds in Atlanta. It is a long way from training 8-year-olds to defeating Usain Bolt on the world stage.

“It takes a special person to endure all this,” Gatlin’s longtime agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, said Sunday.

Asked if during those long four years he ever envisioned a moment like Saturday night, Gatlin paused and said, “I would just say — no.”

At first, Nehemiah said, it was enough for Gatlin just to get back onto the track with an eye toward being competitive:

“He loves what he does. For him, it is not about money or fame. This is his safe haven — the track.”

After connecting with Mitchell, Gatlin worked his way back to bronze in the 100 here in 2012 in London, behind Bolt of course.

Then at the 2013 worlds, silver, again behind Bolt.

The 100 at the 2015 worlds in Beijing should have been Gatlin’s race.

He came in on a hot streak — including a 9.74 that May at a race in Doha, Qatar.

That Beijing 100, however, went Bolt’s way, by one-hundredth of a second, Bolt crossing in 9.79, Gatlin breaking form about five meters from the line and finishing in 9.8.

In Beijing, the good vs. evil theme got big play.

That race in Beijing, Gatlin reflected Sunday: “That was a hard loss.” Physically, he said, he was ready. But: “Emotionally, I wasn’t there. Mentally, I wasn’t there. That’s what stopped me from winning. Emotionally and mentally, I wasn’t connected.”

That is, he said, he was running perhaps too selfishly — he wasn’t feeling part of something bigger, at least enough to make a difference.

Last year, in Rio, Gatlin again took silver, behind Bolt.

Gatlin has said many times since that he was injured in 2016. Nehemiah said Sunday it was something even more.

About three weeks after the Games, Nehemiah said, he called Gatlin and said, what happened? You faded at 80 meters — that’s not like you.

Gatlin is not one to complain. Even with Nehemiah — with whom he has worked since 2003 — he is not an excuse-maker.

Food poisoning, Gatlin said. I was sick the entire time I was in Rio.

“The previous two lessons,” Nehemiah said softly Sunday, meaning 2015 and 2016, “were about realizing that he was the only thing that was in his way.”

This 2017 season did not start auspiciously. Gatlin, who turned 35 in February, battled a succession of injuries. On May 5 and May 21, Gatlin ran two races in the 10s. On May 27 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, which is a fast track, he ran a wind-aided 9.97, good only for fifth — with the U.S. nationals, and a spot on the line for the worlds, coming up just three weeks later.

After the first round of heats at the nationals in Sacramento, California, Gatlin texted Pascal.

The two had first started working together in 2003. This is the nature of Gatlin’s world — a close inner circle and longstanding relationships. With Pascal, the work has not been every year. But now Gatlin was again reaching out, asking if they could connect while simultaneously offering a heartfelt apology for wrongs he might have committed over the course of their years together.

“He deeply apologized,” Pascal said, “then he said he was hoping we could work together that day. I said, yes, of course.

“If you look at his form, to me, I’m biased, in his semifinal, he looked dramatically better and his final he won,” Gatlin going 9.95, NCAA champion Christian Coleman 9.98.

That had maybe taken care of Gatlin’s physical connection. Now — emotionally and mentally?

Before the race, Mitchell had turned to Gatlin. Understand that Mitchell is not the sort who demands of his athletes, I need x or y. This time, though, he said to Gatlin, I need 9 seconds.

“Something inside of me just rose up,” Gatlin said Sunday, adding a moment later, “When my coach said, ‘I want those 9 seconds, it turned something on in me I haven’t felt in a long time. I said, ‘OK, I am going to give it to you.’ “

Mitchell said Sunday, “A cup can only hold so much water. We had walked this walk together for so many years. He found comfort in sharing with someone.”

He also said of Gatlin, “Humility is about life and humility is what you make of it. He got to the point where he wanted to do something that was bigger than himself. You have to share it or lose it. At this point in his career, he was willing to humble himself enough to give some of it away to keep all of it.”

Mitchell added, “It’s a love story,” in part the love the two men had for each other after all they had been through and in part their shared passion for the sport.

No one in the Gatlin circle is uncomfortable speaking like this. They love track and field. They love competing.

“Gat gave me — his love for track and the person he is gave me back my love for track,” Pascal said.

“‘I love it,’” Gatlin would tell Nehemiah, meaning everything about track and field. “‘I missed it so much.’ And,” Nehemiah said, “the thought of losing it weighed on him tremendously …”

That near-death experience on the highway in Europe? Gratitude for being alive. Humility that everyone had been given more time. The sense that there had to be a reason. Right? Why else?

“Spiritually,” Nehemiah would say Sunday, “it wasn’t his time the last two seasons.

“This was his season.”

Bolt came into London ranked only seventh in the world. Coleman was the world No. 1, with a 9.82 in Eugene at the NCAAs.

Team Gatlin had something of a stealth plan through the rounds: just do enough to get to the finals. No need to run too fast.

Which is exactly what Gatlin did, a 10.05 in the heats, then a 10.09, second in his semifinal, enough to get through to the final, where he drew Lane 8 — way out on the outside.

Bolt drew Lane 4, Coleman 5.

“Me and Dennis got quiet,” Gatlin said, when the lane draw came out, and they were looking at 8. “I was like, it’s going to be a glorified time trials again — it can work in our favor … I can set my own pace and no one is going to see me coming.”

Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

When Gatlin lined up, the boos rained down. Each and every round.

“Normal people might have folded or used the booing as naysaying or why didn’t you win? Everyone was wanting Usain to win,” Gatlin said. “I just dialed it out.”

In the final, when the gun went off, Gatlin’s mind was calm. He was not running solely for himself. He was, he said, running for, in no particular order, Pascal; for the USA Track & Field medical staff; for Nehemiah; for Mitchell; for the crew he trained with day in and out in Clermont, Florida; for his U.S. teammates here and in years gone by; for fans here and at home; for his family; for anyone and everyone who had supported him on this journey.

He was feeling the love.

He ran free and easy. He surged over the last half of the race, the way he did in the 100 in Athens in 2004, 13 long years ago, when he won Olympic gold: “That’s what got me to the line. That’s what took away the pressure. That’s what got me to the line first.”

A moment later, he bowed to Bolt, out of — genuine — respect. They embraced, again out of — real — respect.

Then, while the crowd chanted Bolt’s name, Gatlin, wrapped in the American flag, went over to the side of the stadium, to find his parents, Willie and Jeanette.

“For years the agony,” his father said Sunday. Now: “Just total redemption.”


Bowie Was Rare In Thinking She Could Win

LONDON- Tori Bowie admitted she felt like she was in the minority. Other than her, not many people believed she would win the 100-meter final at the IAAF World Championships on Sunday.

“I’d bet I’m probably the only person in the world who thought I could come out and win the 100 meters,” Bowie told Excelle Sports. “Tonight, I learned a lot. Always follow your heart. Everyone in the world was telling me, ‘Oh my god, why are you choosing the 100 over the 200?’ I was like, ‘This is how I’m feeling, this is the event I want to be the world champion in,’ and it happened.”

The American sprinter, who turns 27 later in the month, can claim the moniker of “World’s Fastest Woman” after sharply leaning on her final stride to the finish line to edge Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire by .01 seconds. London Olympic Stadium fell silent for a minute or two, as the athletes gasped for air on the track, waiting for the results of the photo finish. Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands won the bronze medal a tenth of a second behind Bowie and Ta Lou.

“The last 40 meters are the best part of my race,” said Bowie. “I am currently working on the others. It’s slowly getting better. I was happy with the finish because I thought I was the top three, but when I saw my name on the board, I couldn’t believe it.”

The result finally vaulted the former long jumper at the University of Southern Mississippi to the top of the podium at a major event. Bowie won the 100-meter bronze medal in the previous World Championships two years ago in Beijing, losing to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. At the Rio Olympics last summer, she placed silver in the 100 and bronze in the 200 before anchoring the 4-by-100 relay team to a gold medal. Elaine Thompson of Jamaica defeated her in both individual sprint events in Rio and was a disappointing fifth on Sunday, as she was the world leader again this season.

“They all deserved to be on that podium, they worked hard and deserved it,” Thompson told Excelle Sports. “Tonight didn’t go as planned. I’ll have to watch the video because I don’t know what went wrong. I didn’t execute my race, which is a shame.”

Heats for the 200 are on Tuesday night, with the semifinals and final on Thursday. Joining Bowie in the field are Americans Deajah Stevens and Kimberlyn Duncan, plus Schippers – the reigning champion. The Olympic champion Thompson is not running the 200 meters.

Bowie’s 100-meter victory also came one night after Justin Gatlin upset Usain Bolt in the men’s final of track’s marquee event. This means the U.S. now claims both world titles simultaneously for the first time since Gatlin and Lauryn Williams achieved the feat at Helsinki in 2005. Since then, Jamaica won 14 of the 16 World and Olympic 100-meter gold medals. With all of the hype over Bolt’s retirement and the end of an era in men’s track, perhaps there is a changing of the guard for the women, as well.


Thompson Shocker Adds To Bolt Heartbreak

LONDON, England:

For the first time since 2005, Jamaica has been kept off the top of the medal podium at a major championship in the 100m events.

There was no Jamaican winner in the men's 100m and, last night, with double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson finishing fifth in 10.98 seconds, no winner in the women's 100m.

For fans of the 'Sprint Capital' of the world, it is a bitter pill to swallow, a rude awakening of what might become in the continued absence of intervention.

Thompson did not make much of it, but a pre-race vomiting incident had her rivals worried about her, with silver medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast, who ran 10.86, noting, "I am sorry for her (Thompson). I think before the race, she was sick. I hope she gets better and I have respect for her. She is a big, big athlete!"

The Jamaican was still struggling to find the answers after what was her first non-top-three finish since June 2014.

Push Me Harder

"I don't know what happened. I have to go and watch the replay. I stumbled and tried to get it back. I wasn't getting the form I wanted to and I tried not to panic," said a smiling Thompson, who also alleviated fears she had suffered an injury mid-race. "I am healthy. I came out here brave, strong and ready to go, but that didn't happen. This defeat will push me harder and help me to work harder."

American Tori Bowie took gold in 10.85 seconds, with Ta Lou taking silver in 10.86. Dafne Schippers was third in 10.96 seconds.

This was Thompson's fourth loss in 35 races over 100m.

Yesterday's third day of competition inside the London Stadium actually started well enough for the Jamaicans, who will today have four athletes competing in finals.

Rich in quarter-mile history, Jamaica has had five different finalists in the men's 400m at these championships. The last one was Jermaine Gonzales, who finished fourth in 2011 in Daegu, South Korea.

The island, however, has never had two men qualifying for the final of the one-lap event at the same championship, an accomplishment achieved by the ever-improving pair of Nathon Allen and Demish Gaye.

Allen glided to a second-place finish behind Bahamian Steven Gardiner, 43.89, with a personal-best mark of 44.19 seconds in his semi-final, and Gaye matching that effort, finishing second to Botswana's Isaac Makwala, 44.30, also in personal-best fashion with a time of 44.55 seconds.

"It's a great feeling representing my country. To make the final is a great feeling and I am just focused on going out there and doing my best," Gaye told The Gleaner after his run. "It means a lot to me to see that I can go out there and represent my country well along with my teammate Nathon Allen. It's a great feeling.

Any Issues

Allen, for the second straight day, was taken straight to the medical area for a check-up, but was later cleared of any issues.

The final will take place tomorrow at 9:50 p.m. (3:50 p.m. Jamaica time), with Allen drawn to compete in Lane Six beside South African Wayde Van Niekerk, the world record holder, and Gaye lining up in Lane Eight.

There will also be two Jamaicans in the 110m hurdles final, with Olympic champion Omar McLeod and Beijing 2015 silver medal winner Hansle Parchment both securing lanes in the medal round.

"I remember in 2015, I had just turned pro. I was paying my dues. I got a sixth place and it was, honestly, like a gold medal for me, so this year is like a redemption. I just have to go out there and focus on me, have fun and execute," said McLeod after his all-qualifiers-leading 13.10 seconds win in last night's semi-final.

McLeod has won all but one of his 10 races this season and will enter the final as the strong favourite for a second straight gold medal at a major international championship.

Parchment has been less convincing this season, but has a history of showing up when it matters. He is looking for another big-race run in tonight's 9:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.) final.

"When I come out, I tell myself that I am the best. I know I need to show that, so I keep motivating myself every time I step on the track because I know Jamaica is looking for me to give them good performances. I want to surprise myself with strong times as well," said Parchment.

All three Jamaicans are through to tonight's men's 400m hurdles semi-final at 8:20 p.m. (2:20 p.m.)

Jaheel Hyde, 49.72, was second in his heat, with Ricardo Cunningham, 49.91, and Kemar Mowatt, 50.00, both taking fourth spot in their respective heats.

Novlene Williams-Mills, 51.00, was the fastest Jamaican qualifier in women's 400m and the fourth fastest overall, with Chrisann Gordon, 51.14, Shericka Jackson, 51.26, and Stephenie-Ann McPherson, 51.27, all comfortably advancing as well.

Kimberly Williams and Shaneika Ricketts will compete in the women's triple jump final at 8:25 p.m. (2:25 p.m.), with Yohan Blake, Rasheed Dwyer and Warren Weir taking the track a bit earlier in the men's 200m heats at 6:30 p.m (12:30 p.m).


"BBC Happy To Ignore (British) Elephant In The Room"

Treatment of Gatlin in stark contrast to the refusal to ask questions about Mo Farah’s coach

here are cheerleaders in every sport but not all carry pompoms. It seems that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has decided to reserve all critical analysis in relation to any controversy, past or present, drugs or otherwise, for ‘Johnny Foreigner’ when it comes to the World Athletics Championships in London.

The victories of Somali-born, Brit superstar Mo Farah (men’s 10,000 metres), American Justin Gatlin (100 metres), and Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana (women’s 10,000 metres) invoked pride and prejudice but unlike the title character in Jane Austen’s novel, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the BBC commentary and analysis principals haven’t come to realise the important difference between the superficial and the essential.

There is a latent jingoism that’s front and centre when it comes to dear old Auntie and its coverage of the world of athletics, so tut-tutting about impartiality or restraint when there’s a red, white and blue filter on every screen image is a little naïve. They’re entitled to be bullish.

Accepting the partisan nature and the cloying emotional sentiment invested in the glory of the land of hope is one thing but the BBC ought to have a professional journalistic responsibility not to run a mile from discussing uncomfortable issues pertaining to one of their own.

Farah’s coach Alberto Salazar is currently being investigated as there have been allegations leaked in a 329-page report by the US anti-doping agency (Usada) into Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project training group.

The report alleges Salazar abused prescription medicines and used prohibited infusions to boost testosterone levels of his athletes. It also claims UK Athletics ignored warnings from a doctor that Farah was receiving potentially harmful treatments from his coach on moving to the US to join Salazar’s training group (2010).

Usada’s investigation continues but Farah and Salazar have always vehemently denied any wrongdoing. No one expects this to be woven into the race commentary but it’s germane to any pre- or post-race discussion, especially as Farah declined to do any media interviews prior to the 10,000 metres final to address the accusations.

Instead the task of defence fell to Neil Black, the UK Athletics Performance Director, who claimed he had looked in the eyes of Farah and Salazar and asserted that they weren’t cheats. He may be employing the black arts, so to speak, but a more likely suspicion is that it’s another mumbo-jumbo assertion drawn from the lexicon of sporting bureaucrats.

Stunning triumph

The post-race discourse relating to Ayana’s stunning triumph in the women’s 10,000 metres was also oddly incongruous given the circumstances; her first 10,000m race of an injury-plagued season saw her decimate a field of the best athletes in the world by a margin of 46 seconds.

This comes a matter of days after the Guardian newspaper ran an article by Martha Kelner under the headline, ‘Inside the doping hotspot of Ethiopia: dodgy testing and EPO over the counter’.

The allegations made in the article are eye-opening but it should be stated that there is no correlation whatsoever between Ayana’s triumph and its contents other than that the issues raised would merit some reference in any middle distance running discussion. To pick at one strand might have unravelled others and the BBC weren’t willing to take that chance.

But the Beeb had no problem fixing Justin Gatlin in their crosshairs. A twice-banned drugs cheat ruins Usain Bolt’s swansong championship appearance by winning the 100-metres title. The crowd bayed at and booed the villain; the BBC verbally and pictorially ignored the winner to focus on Bolt, exuding a moral righteousness as if adopting a tone from those in the stadium.

The BBC didn’t contemplate for one instant that Gatlin might win and so Steve Cram and his buddies were at a loss for words; well, until he had a chance to arrange his thoughts and have them beamed into the Twittersphere by BBC5 live.

The gist of his contribution on Gatlin’s triumph was that the London crowd were perfectly entitled to boo the American, that the sprinter’s primary fame is for being a drugs cheat and that he must accept and understand it when people articulate their displeasure.

Cram concluded: “And that’s just people explaining and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that, in explaining to athletes, explaining to the IAAF, explaining to journalists, explaining to us as broadcasters how they feel about this man [Gatlin].”
No critical analysis of either Farah or Ayana has turned the BBC coverage into a ‘fawnzine’.

So ethics are to be decided by a public vote, sport’s version of reality television, a popularity contest defined under narrow parameters, where nationality is key and as long as the elephant is prepared to sit quietly in the corner of the room, there is no need to reference its presence, or think about it. It’s the modern way, live in the moment.


Centrowitz The Best American Miler Ever?

He’s running for the American record and another world championship. But first, he needs to check his Twitter timeline.

For once, Matthew Centrowitz didn't know what to do when he crossed the finish line.

He had copied a LeBron James celebration after winning the U.S. title in the 1,500 meters in 2015 and dabbed like Cam Newton after winning an indoor mile in 3:54.02 last year in Charlotte. But after finishing first to become the first American to win Olympic gold in the 1,500 meters since 1908, a stunned Centrowitz could only extend his arms and hold his palms up to the sky as if to ask, “Did that just happen?”

Centrowitz won silver at the 2011 world championships and bronze in 2013, but a win in Rio seemed out of the question going up against Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop, one of the best metric milers of all time. Centrowitz controlled the race from the gun, however, and blitzed through a last lap of 50.6 seconds as his family and close friends celebrated by yelling and attempting to crowd surf in the stands.

One week after the race of his life, Centrowitz was still in disbelief. If he could break the American record in the 1,500 or the mile, he told me then, he would have claim to the title of greatest American miler of all time.

“There’s definitely been a lot of talk about me getting the American record in the 1,500 before my career is over,” Centrowitz says. “At least for my mindset, that would kind of put the nail in the coffin.”

One year later, his gold medal tour hasn’t been the record-breaking celebration he hoped it would be. Injuries and other setbacks have turned the year into a tour of so-so races. He nearly didn’t run the U.S. Championships because of injury. He did just enough to qualify for the world championships, where he’ll compete in London in the 1.500-meter event beginning on Aug. 10. There, he will have a chance to redeem what can be best described as a hangover of a season.

Centrowitz is on borrowed time if he is going to set records, inching over to the wrong side of his prime at 27. As the glow of his Olympic gold fades, his mission to become the greatest American miler is ongoing, but losing steam.

With less than three weeks until the 2017 U.S. Track and Field Championships, Centrowitz wasn’t supposed to be in Las Vegas. Like the rest of the top runners in the country, he should have been on the track. But a slight tear in his right adductor — one of his many setbacks in 2017 — left Centrowitz dejected.

Centrowitz dyed his hair blonde and bought a one-way ticket to Las Vegas. His season, he decided, was over.

The members of Centrowitz’s inner circle — his father, coaches, friends, and training partners — don’t stop him from reaching NBA levels of pettiness on social media, like when he calls out a Twitter troll for running a “pedestrian” 4:46 mile. They don’t mind his finish-line antics. They do, however, hold him accountable, and they weren’t going to let him wallow away in Vegas.

Centrowitz arrived in Vegas on a Saturday. His coach, agent, and some family members called him on Sunday to convince him he could still race at the national championships. He flew back to Portland on Monday and received a platelet-rich plasma injection to help his adductor that day.

Centrowitz is very close with his family. His dad, Matt Centrowitz, was a 1976 Olympian and made the Olympic team in 1980 when the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Games. His mother, Beverly Bannister-Centrowitz, is in the Hunter College Athletics Hall of Fame for track. His older sister, Lauren, was an All-American runner at Stanford.

“All my kids were great runners,” Matt says, “but Matthew took it much more seriously.”

Matt recalls how his son had a penchant for history at a young age. Matt ran with Steve Prefontaine at the University of Oregon and used to tell his son stories about the legendary runner. Centrowitz studied all of the sport’s greats.

Jim Ryun above all. Ryun was the first high school runner to break four minutes in the mile, an Olympic silver medalist, and a world record holder with a 3:51 mile. He was, and still is, Centrowitz’s favorite. “For him to run those times in the 1960s and ‘70s,” Centrowitz says, “it’s just incredible.” He pored over Ryun’s In Quest of Gold, his dad calling it his bible.

Centrowitz still geeks out when he talks about his heroes. “I think my favorite part of winning gold,” he says, “was just kind of seeing all the legends of the event, the mile—guys like Jim Ryun, Sebastian Coe, Hicham el Guerrouj — and seeing how excited they were for me. These are guys I’ve looked up to and still look up to, and for them to give me any kind of credit, is just humbling and honoring. It’s honestly surreal.”

Centrowitz started building his legacy as a 21-year-old at his dad’s alma mater, Oregon, winning a bronze medal in the 1,500 at the 2011 world championships. He turned pro the following year, joining the Nike Oregon Project under coach Alberto Salazar. He missed out on a medal at the 2012 London Olympics by 0.04 seconds. He made up for that heartbreak and then some in Rio, leading nearly wire to wire in a slowly paced race to win a shocking gold.

After that race, Coe, the British runner who won the 1,500 at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, presented Centrowitz with his gold medal. “Welcome to the club,” Coe said. Centrowitz’s father went even further. At some point in the weeks following his gold medal race, he told his son: “You’re the best American miler ever.”

Two weeks before the 2017 U.S. Championships in Sacramento, however, the gold medalist was struggling after his return from Vegas. “I couldn’t break 33 [seconds] for 200 meters,” Centrowitz says of his first workout after his injection. He kept at it, and ran a 1,000-meter time trial five days later. The result, a 2:21, wasn’t his best (Centrowitz has run 2:16.67), but it was progress.

Less than a week later, he hopped on a plane to Sacramento and ran a preliminary race that he says “shook off the rust.” Two days later, he finished second in the final to qualify for the world championships.

Did you see the Andy Bayer one?” Centrowitz asks me over the phone from St. Moritz, Switzerland, where he was training at altitude throughout July. In quick, excitable bursts, he’s talking about another Twitter beef.

He laughs them all off, like the 20-year-old college student who tweeted a month before the Olympics that he’d get a tattoo of Centrowitz’s face if he medaled in Rio. Centrowitz called him out on it. A tattoo of Centrowitz holding the American flag now covers the student’s left shoulder blade.

Centrowitz’s finish-line celebrations, which he likens to end-zone dances, are ripped from other sports. He’s partial to the LeBron celebration in which he mock-fired a pistol into the sky before reloading and holstering it. Centrowitz jokingly modeled it in front of training partners in the weight room while watching 2015 NBA Finals highlights before unleashing it on the track. Despite knowing the dab had already lived a life in full, Centrowitz honored Cam Newton at an indoor meet in Charlotte.

Like those NBA and NFL superstars, Centrowitz is a different athlete from his peers.

The best basketball and football athletes do things that mere mortals can't dream of, whereas almost everyone in the world can run. In track, fans want to know what elite athletes are doing so that they can apply it to their own training. Because of this, many runners, like 2016 Olympian Brenda Martinez, have staid public personas, tweeting out workouts and pictures of their runs. Others, like American 10k record holder Galen Rupp, are almost absent from social media, like NBA players who “go dark” in the playoffs.

The thought of Ryun imitating Joe Namath or talking trash in the 1960s seems absurd. Centrowitz, however, enjoys trolling.

Even Centrowitz’s gait has flash. It appears smooth, and powerful, and effortless even as he’s running a 3:50 mile pace. His stride eats up the track when he breaks into his finishing sprint, like James turning on the jets for a chase-down block.

“The moves he makes in races are almost violent,” Johnny Gregorek, Centrowitz’s teammate in the 1,500 in London, said after the Olympic Trials last year. “They are so sudden and decisive.”

Like James and Newton, Centrowitz isn’t for everyone, and he’s not immune from controversy. Training with the Nike Oregon Project comes with its own set of headaches. While it is considered one of the best training groups in the world, it is also dogged by drug allegations. A BBC and ProPublica report in 2013 alleged that Salazar was leading a win-at-all-costs training regimen that included the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The group is under USADA investigation, and the FBI is reportedly involved.

Salazar adamantly denied the accusations on multiple occasions. Centrowitz, too, has continually denied taking performance-enhancing drugs. Centrowitz was the most drug-tested U.S. track athlete in 2016, with 17 out-of-competition tests, and has never failed one.

Centrowitz doesn’t let drug tests or online haters faze him. He seems to thrive off doubt and loves talking back — especially when he can back it up.

“Same as Kevin Durant after the Warriors won the title,” Centrowitz says. “As long as you’re taking care of business then you can have some fun.”

Centrowitz tries to be humble about his legacy, but he agrees that he is close to being considered the American GOAT — he just can’t put himself above his idol Ryun just yet without a record.

When it comes to hardware, no one matches up with Centrowitz. Other than Mel Sheppard (1908) and James Lightbody (1904), he’s the only U.S. runner with Olympic gold in the 1,500. In fact, since 1952 only Ryun (1972) and Leonel Manzano (2012) have won medals.

His times, however, aren’t quite the stuff of legend. His 3:30.40 in the 1,500 makes him the third-fastest American of all time at the distance. In the mile, Centrowitz’s 3:50.53 makes him the ninth-best.

Faster runners include Alan Webb, the American record holder in the mile at 3:46.91, and Bernard Lagat, the Kenyan-born American who won the 1,500 and 5,000 at the 2007 world championships and has the American record in the 1,500 at 3:29.3. Steve Scott had the American record before Webb and ran a world record 136 sub-4:00 miles. Sydney Maree had the 1,500 record before Lagat.

Ryun, meanwhile, has a resume that’s hard to match: He held the world record in the mile for almost 10 years. Dr. Michael Joyner is an expert in human performance at the Mayo Clinic — back in 1991, he predicted that a human could run 1:57:58 in the marathon, long before Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran 2:00:25 in a controlled, Nike-sponsored race in May — thinks Ryun’s 3:51.3 world record in 1966 was one of the most impressive runs of all time.

At 27, Centrowitz is about to leave what many consider his prime. A 2011 French study concluded that athletes start to see physical declines at age 26. Centrowitz hasn’t set a personal best in the 1,500 since 2015, or the mile since 2014. The American mile record has been broken 16 times by seven different runners since 1955, and the average age of the runner on each record-breaking run was 23 years and 243 days. Only two of the seven — Jim Beatty and Jim Grelle — were 27 years or older when they set the record.

This isn’t to say Centrowitz is washed up. Thanks to better training, injury prevention, and earning opportunities (athletes were amateurs in the 1950s and ‘60s), more and more runners are extending their careers. Lagat, for example, won U.S. Olympic Trials at 5,000 meters last year as a 39-year-old and set the current 1,500 record in 2005 when he was 30.

But age isn’t the only factor. Racing for time is a different beast than racing for place. Tactical races like the Olympic finals are all about positioning and strategy.

Centrowitz’s gold medal time in Rio was more than 20 seconds off Lagat’s record, for example. He won in large part because he is a savvy racer. With about 450 meters to go, Ayanleh Souleiman briefly took the lead from Centrowitz, but only for an instant. Almost immediately, Centrowitz slithered by Souleiman on the inside, brushing him with his elbow. If Centrowitz hadn’t responded so quickly, he could have been swallowed up by the pack. Instead, he was clear of the field and had the inside track for the final 400 meters.

Most record-breaking races occur when the runners are in a single file, with pacemakers leading the way for the first half of the race or more. Instead of worrying about timing a finishing sprint or getting tripped up by an opponent, runners can focus on efficiency.

Comparing records to medals is a little like comparing rings to stats. If you’re an NBA fan, would you rather have Russell and his 11 rings or Wilt Chamberlain and his preposterous numbers? It’s a difficult question. Until Centrowitz has numbers on his side, his legacy will be the subject of similar debate.

The morning after the night in Rio that changed everything for Centrowitz — after NBC cameras caught his family’s bombastic celebration in the stands, after the blur of the victory lap and the medal ceremony, after decompressing with those closest to him at a small restaurant in the early hours of the next morning — he woke up early to his father asking if he was awake. They had to get to a morning show on NBC.

“Yeah, Dad,” he said. “What’s up?”

“My son, Olympic champion,” Matt said. “I still can’t believe this is real.”

“Me neither, Dad,” Matthew said with a grin as he pulled the gold medal out from under his pillow.

It was one of the few moments of calm for Centrowitz in the immediate aftermath of his gold medal run. He spent the next few weeks answering media requests and making appearances with his new piece of hardware. Almost one year later, he is still answering questions about the gold medal — the price of being an Olympic champion. His dad published a book called Like Father, Like Son, and Centrowitz has become a headliner at races where he used to be an also-ran.

Centrowitz believes he’s handling the extra pressure. His attitude hasn’t changed. The hardware hasn’t altered his off-track or post-race antics, even if the circumstances are different.

One thing remains the same 11 months after the Rio win: There is still a sense of disbelief. Centrowitz says he and his dad still talk about the race, citing that moment with about 450 meters to go as the turning point in a career-defining race.

They also talk about his legacy and what else he can do on the track and the American record. Not that they need to. Centrowitz is getting older, and breaking records is hard. By winning gold the way he did, Centrowitz did plenty to get the world talking.

“Is Michael Jordan better than LeBron?” Centrowitz says. “You’re gonna have that talk for the rest of our lives. I won’t be able to race Jim Ryun or Alan Webb — at everyone’s peak especially. I think it’s entertaining to talk about it.”

To be considered among the best ever isn’t easy. Centrowitz knows his history, and he knows he has a place in it. Staring down the American record, he is exactly where he wants to be.


Unrepentant Gatlin Rejects "Bad Boy" Label

Justin Gatlin insisted his pariah status was undeserved as the least popular world 100 metres champion in history still refused to see his triumph over Usain Bolt as a setback for the sport.

The two-time drug cheat's victory on Saturday night in 9.92 seconds was greeted by a cacophony of boos, as his every appearance at the London Stadium has been.

There is no hiding from the embarrassment that the unrepentant American's victory will cause to a sport still struggling to regain credibility in the wake of repeated doping scandals.

The retiring Bolt, cast as the 'saviour' of athletics in his battles with Gatlin, had his goodbye gatecrashed - and by the one man almost no one wanted to spoil the party.

Gatlin was effusive and gracious in his praise of bronze medallist Bolt after the race, bowing down to him on the track and lauding him in interviews, but for the 35-year-old sorry still seems to be the hardest word.

His first ban in 2001 he blamed on an amphetamine contained in attention deficit disorder medication. The second in 2006, which resulted in a four-year suspension, reduced from eight on appeal, he attributed to a testosterone massage cream applied to his body without his knowledge.

Remorse has not been forthcoming - and still, at least publicly, is not.

Asked if he could understand why his victory was seen as a disaster for the sport, he said: "I really don't need to understand.

"I can understand the rivalry that I have with Usain, but it's not a bitter rivalry. I respect the man and every time we come across the line I've shaken his hand, given him a hug and told him congratulations and that's all the really matters for me.

"I'm just a runner, I'm back in the sport, I've done my time.

"I've come back, did community service, I talked to kids and inspired kids about the right path. That's all I can do.

"Society does that for people who have made mistakes and I hope track and field can understand that to. That's why I'm back in the sport and that's why I'm still running."

Gatlin has Bolt's backing - "he deserves to be here, because he's done his time," said the Jamaican - and he is of course far from alone in having a doping past.

Plenty of athletes have returned from bans and won medals and received far warmer receptions.

Asked about his "bad boy" reputation, Gatlin said: "What do I do that makes me a bad boy?

"Do I talk bad about anybody? Do I give bad gestures? I don't. I shake every athlete's hand. I congratulate them, I tell them good luck. That doesn't sound like a bad boy to me.

"It seems like the media want to sensationalise it and make me a bad boy because Usain is the hero. That's fine, I know you've got to have a black hat and a white hat, but guys, come on.

"I keep it classy and I never talk bad. I try to inspire other athletes. I don't see where the bad boy comes from."

"I'm just a runner, I'm back in the sport, I've done my time."
The fact is, though, that the 100m is the blue riband event and has been particularly beset by drug problems.

Of the 30 best 100m times in history, 21 have been achieved by athletes who have served drug bans - with the other nine all coming from Bolt.

It is grovelling rather than winning that Gatlin has to focus on if he wants to silence the boos.

There will inevitably be more when he returns to the stadium on Sunday to take to the top of the podium, a ceremony that has been brought forward from 8.00pm to 6.50pm.

And, after landing the 100m crown 12 years after his last global title, Gatlin looks set to be around for some time yet.

While Bolt, at 30, has run his last individual race and will hang up his spikes after Saturday's 4x100m relay final, Gatlin has no retirement plans. Indeed, he indicated the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 could be a goal.

"One millisecond when I crossed the line, I was like, 'I'm retiring'," he said.

"My son wants (me) to go to Tokyo 2020, so I'm just going to take it year by year, race by race, and work hard."