Trayvon Bromell

On Justin Gatlin: 'The man is just good'

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EUGENE — Justin Gatlin cruised Sunday to victory in the men’s 100-meter dash at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, setting in motion the next chapter in a long-running drama about the interplay of reality and perception mixed with the unlimited possibilities and enormous potential of redemption.

Or, not.

Gatlin, who is 34, ancient by sprint standards, ran 9.8 seconds to defeat Trayvon Bromell, who turns 21 next week, and Marvin Bracy, who is 22 and a former Florida State wide receiver who three years ago gave up football to run track. Bromell is the 2015 world bronze medalist; Bracy is the 2014 world indoor silver medalist at 60 meters.

Bromell ran 9.84, Bracy 9.98. The outcome was never seriously in doubt. Gatlin got off to his usual solid start and ran clean and hard through the line.

“I have new peers,” Gatlin said. “I have to be able to evolve with that. These young talented guys keep pushing me and I keep pushing them.”

Justin Gatlin celebrates his Trials victory // Getty Images

Justin and Jace Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell and Marvin Bracy after the race

The 100-meter final highlighted a series of finals under brilliant blue skies and before a solid crowd of 22,424 at historic Hayward Field.

In the women’s 400, Allyson Felix, running on a bum ankle, blew by the other seven women in the homestretch like they were standing still to win in 49.68. Phyllis Francis went 49.94, Natasha Hastings 50.17.

The call on NBC — “Here comes Allyson Felix! Felix just goes right by them!” — hardly does justice to her finishing kick. It was just — outrageous. As she crossed the line, she said, “Thank you, lord.”

“That’s why she’s great,” the NBC analyst Ato Boldon said. “Because somehow she always finds a way.”

“It’s up there,” Felix said afterward when asked to rate how the race ranks in her career. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a race with so much against me.”

Felix’s quest to qualify in the 200 as well gets underway with prelims Friday: “My goals haven’t changed at all.”

Allyson Felix running to victory in the 400 // Getty Images

In the decathlon, Ashton Eaton earned the chance to go for back-to-back Olympic gold. Never really threatened, he took first with 8750 points. With Trey Hardee out because of injury, Jeremy Taiwo took second, with 8425. Zach Ziemek got third, 8413.

The men’s 400 saw LaShawn Merritt go 43.97, the eighth time he has broken 44 and, as well, fastest time in the world this year. Gil Roberts took second in 44.73, David Verburg third in 44.82.

In Rio, Merritt, the Beijing 2008 gold medalist in the 400, likely will resume his rivalry with Kirani James of Grenada, the London 2012 winner. “I trained very hard for this season,” Merritt said. “I wanted to go out there and win another Olympic Trials.”

The 32-year-old mother of three, Chaunte Lowe, won the women’s high jump, at 2.01 meters, or 6 feet, 7 inches — Rio will be her fourth Olympics. The 18-year-old Vashti Cunningham, the 2016 world indoor champion, took second, at 1.97, 6-5 1/2; she becomes the youngest U.S. track and field Olympian in 36 years. Inika McPherson got third, 1.93, 6-4.

“The high jump has never had this much depth,” Lowe said. “I had to train my butt off every day.”

In the men’s long jump, Jeffrey Henderson ripped off a fourth-round jump of 8.59, 28-2 1/4, for the win. In the next round, Jarrion Lawson went 8.58, 28-1 3/4.

Will Claye, the London 2012 long jump bronze medalist (and triple jump silver medalist), took third, with a fifth-round 8.42, 27-7 1/2. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin finished seventh.

Marquis Dendy matched Claye’s jump but Claye held the second-longest jump tiebreaker. Dendy, meanwhile, pulled up limping after Round 4 and passed on his last two jumps.

Even so, and this makes for emphatic evidence of why the rules of track and field can be so trying for the average fan -- while Claye is the third-place finisher, Dendy is the third Rio qualifier.

USA Track & Field explains:

"Will Claye and Marquis Dendy each had marks of 8.42m/27-7.5 today with Claye holding the better secondary mark to secure third place. However, Claye’s best jump today was wind-aided and his best legal mark since May 1 of last year was an 8.14m/26-8.50 from the Trials qualifying round on Saturday, which is one centimeter away from the Olympic standard. There is no standard chasing at the track & field trials, thus Dendy is the third qualifier for Rio."

Moving along:

In a women’s 100 final that saw five of the eight go under 11 seconds, English Gardner ran to victory in 10.74. Tianna Bartoletta and Tori Bowie crossed in 10.78. Bartoletta on Saturday had qualified for the Rio women’s long jump, taking second behind Brittney Reese.

At the line, left to right: Gardner, Bartoletta, Bowie // Getty Images

“Honestly, I remember 2012,” Gardner said, recalling her seventh-place finish here at Hayward four years ago, when she ran 11.28. “I sat in the car. And I cried my eyes out. I came to the realization I never wanted to feel that feeling again.”

“I have to conquer myself,” Bartoletta said. “One of the things I studied between jumps and between rounds is that conquering myself is the only victory that matters.”

She also said, “It really comes down to mental preparation or execution. Physics does not care how you feel or if you’re having a bad day emotionally. All you have to do is execute.”

Gardner added with a smile, “Our relay is going to be nasty,” and in this context “nasty” means good.

Justin Gatlin can far too often be portrayed in the worldwide press as nasty, and in this instance nasty means nasty.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the celebratory news conference, he brought his son, Jace, who just turned 6. The proud father said, “I’m glad my son is here.”

The victory in Sunday’s 100 sends Gatlin to his third Olympic Games and, presumably, his fourth major championship run against Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

In the semis, Gatlin ran 9.83, the fastest time in the world this year. In the next heat, Bromell answered with a 9.86.

In the final about 90 minutes later, Gatlin, in Lane 3, was fully in control. He knew when he had crossed that he had won, flashing a left-handed No. 1 to the crowd.

Tyson Gay took fifth, in 10.03.

Lawson, having just taken second in the long jump, lined it up just a few minutes later in Lane 1 of the 100 final. He got seventh, 10.07.

When he was 22, Gatlin won the 2004 Athens Olympic 100.

By then, he had served a year off after taking Adderall. He took it to help stay focused for midterms at Tennessee. A stipulated agreement — between Gatlin and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency — declared that Gatlin “neither cheated nor intended to cheat.”

In 2006, Gatlin — training with Trevor Graham, who would emerge as one of the central figures in the BALCO scandal — tested positive for testosterone.

To make a very long story as simple as possible, Gatlin would serve four years off for this second strike — even though he and supporters have long insisted, with sound reasoning, that the Adderall matter ought not to be held against him in a significant way, and even though it has long remained unclear how Gatlin came to test positive in 2006 for testosterone.

Jeff Novitzky, the federal agent who helped break the BALCO matter, would later testify that he had asked Gatlin if he “used any prohibited substances.” The answer: “His answer was no, never knowingly.” Novitzky added: “… I have not obtained any evidence of his knowing receipt and use of banned substances.”

It was during Gatln’s four years off that Bolt not only burst onto the scene but became the international face of track and field.

Bolt at the Jamaican Trials // Ayako Oikawa

Not counting the 200 or relays:

Bolt is the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 100 champion. He also won the 100 at the world championships in 2009 (Berlin), 2013 (Moscow) and 2015 (back in Beijing).

Over the years, Bolt seemingly could do no wrong. Gatlin, meantime, was often painted — inappropriately — as a two-time loser instead of what he more accurately is: a victim of circumstances.

Bolt and Gatlin squared off In those Olympic and worlds 100s in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

In 2012, Gatlin got bronze.

In 2013, silver.

Last summer in Beijing, Gatlin had the race — but then couldn’t hold his form powering toward the finish line, stumbling just enough to allow Bolt to get by. Bolt finished in 9.79, Gatlin in 9.80.

For years, the British press in particular has savaged Gatlin.

“He’s saved his title, he’s saved his reputation — he may even have saved his sport,” the BBC commentator and former world champion Steve Cram exulted as Bolt crossed ahead of Gatlin in the 100. Many in the British press had painted the race as nothing less than a clash of good and evil.

At the Jamaican Trials, which went down over the past several days, Bolt pulled out with what has been described as a “Grade 1” hamstring tear.

It’s not exactly that his participation in Rio is in doubt. Pretty much everyone in track and field expects Bolt to be there.

The issue is what kind of shape Bolt will be in. Gatlin, here, said he ran through the same injury at the 2013 worlds — managing, he said, to be at maybe 75 percent.

https://twitter.com/usainbolt/status/749076079462277121

“He’ll be very fit to be in Rio,” assuming Jamaican officials select him, Ricky Simms, Bolt’s agent who is in Eugene, said Sunday.

Of course he will be selected.

If Bolt is healthy — enough — to make the Rio final, what if Gatlin — finally — prevails?

Is the world ready to accept Justin Gatlin as he is?

As an intelligent, eloquent guy with deep family ties? Who happily signs autographs and poses for pictures and selfies with kids and grown-ups alike?

As a man who has made mistakes — who hasn’t — but has fought, and hard, to come back.

As a man who not only loves competing for the American team but cherishes the opportunity to do so?

In answering those questions, compare and contrast the case of the whistleblower Yulia Stepanova.

The sport’s international governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, has banned Russia’s track and field team amid explosive allegations of state-sponsored doping.

The 800-meter runner Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping agency doping control officer, served as the two primary whistleblowers in a German television documentary that in December 2014 brought the matter to worldwide attention.

A few days ago, the IAAF gave Stepanova permission to compete in Rio as a “neutral” athlete.

Rune Andersen, who leads the IAAF task force investigating the Russian matter, in recommending Stepanova’s case be “considered favorably,” had also said, “Any individual athlete who has made an extraordinary contribution to the fight against doping in sport should also be able to apply.”

The matter is far from settled. At any rate, Stepanova might return to international competition as soon as this week’s European championships. She and her husband, and their young son, are now living in exile in the United States.

Consider, meantime, the way the Guardian — which among the British papers has actually been relatively restrained in its descriptions of Gatlin — described the latest IAAF turn in the Stepanova case.

The first paragraph said she “bravely and spectacularly blew the whistle on widespread doping inside her country.”

But wait.

She “bravely and spectacularly” went to the press only after she got tagged with a two-year doping suspension, and then, again to simplify a complex story, after being referred by a World Anti-Doping Agency official.

A report due out in a couple weeks is likely to provide even more damning evidence against the Russian sport structure.

Even so, the Stepanov allegations have yet to be tested in the crucible of any formal inquiry, and in particular on cross-examination. They are living in the United States — who is paying the family’s bills, and why? Vitaly Stepanov sent more than 200 emails to WADA — who sends 200 emails about anything? Wouldn’t a good lawyer love to ask if 200 emails sounds like someone with maybe issues?

Gatlin’s matters, meanwhile, have been thoroughly tested, and under oath.

In 2013, after she found out she had tested positive, Yulia Stepanova stated making secret recordings of her meetings with sports officials. In exactly the same way, as soon as he found out he tested positive in 2006, Gatlin went to the authorities and volunteered to try to get evidence against Graham. To be clear: he cooperated with Novitzky and the feds, in all making some dozen undercover phone calls

It would stand to reason that Gatlin got a break, right?

No.

The majority of the three-person arbitration panel hearing Gatlin’s case took note of the “extensive, voluntary and unique nature” of his assistance.

But the rule then at issue: it had to be “substantial assistance” that led directly to an anti-doping agency discovering or establishing doping by another person.

So — because Graham didn’t cop to anything on the phone with Gatlin, Gatlin got no break.

Compare — because the Stepanovs went to WADA and then got passed on to the press, she gets a break?

Moreover — Gatlin’s current coach, Dennis Mitchell, testified for federal prosecutors against Graham.

Still Gatlin — and, by extension, Mitchell — get no break in the court of public opinion, and Yulia Stepanova is brave and spectacular?

Where are the calls to ban Stepanova for life — like so many would-be moralists have done with Gatlin?

This is all a logical disconnect.

Because if Yulia Stepanova is brave and spectacular, isn’t Justin Gatlin, too?

“Just seeing what he has done over the years, and what kind of person he is,” Bromell said Sunday, referring to Gatlin, “that’s why I would like to have someone like him as a mentor. A lot of people don’t know how good of a man this guy is.”

He said a moment later, “The man is just good.”

Mo Farah: long-running king of his domain

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BEIJING — The 10,000 meters is why track fans who are track fans are, really, track fans and those who are not track fans, well, aren’t.

It’s 25 laps around the track. The best men in the world run it in about 27 minutes.

It starts slow and finishes fast. Really fast.

It’s a race of will, skill, tactics, tenacity and great theater.

On Saturday at the Bird’s Nest, the first night of the Beijing 2015 world championships, Britain’s Mo Farah affirmed his standing as the best in the world, winning the 10k in 27:01.13. Two Kenyans, Geoffrey Kamworor and Paul Tanui, took second and third. The American Galen Rupp finished fifth.

To the beat of 16 drummers banging on giant red drums along the homestretch, Farah — in his typical style — unleashed a ferocious kick over the last lap and particularly the final 100 to claim his fourth world championship gold. The winning time made for a Bird’s Nest record, by three-hundredths of a second.

Britain's Mo Farah sprinting to victory in the men's 10k // Getty Images

The 10k went down after an evening that saw another jaw-dropping Bird's Nest opening ceremony — no drums this time, as at the start of the Beijing Olympics seven years ago, but plenty of dancing, singing and more — and, then, the first rounds of the men’s 100, dominated by Justin Gatlin in a (slightly) wind-aided 9.83 seconds.

In women’s shot put, Michelle Carter took third, just the second-ever American woman ever to win a medal in the event -- and the American team's first medal of the championships. Germany’s Christina Schwanitz won, China’s Lijiao Gona grabbed second.

The drumbeat heading into Saturday at the Bird's Nest had been doping, doping, doping -- and not much else.

Rupp and the Somali-born Farah, training partners at The Oregon Project under Alberto Salazar, have for months been fending off doping-related inquiries.

Gatlin, in the minds of many in the press, particularly the feral British media, came here as the symbol of a sport ever-afflicted by doping, the consequence of his two failed tests, the first for ADD medication in 2001, the second for a testosterone bust in 2006 — even though a read of the record makes it abundantly plain such a characterization is entirely unfair.

Bolt, meanwhile, returning to the scene of the first of his Olympic golds and his 9.69, then a world record (he would lower it the next year at the Berlin 2009 worlds to 9.58), was cast as all-around good guy, maybe even savior of the sport — a role he explicitly, at a pre-meet news conference, declined.

Even the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, was asked about doping, and not just once, at a Friday news conference.

Bach's answers, meantime, ought to serve as a vivid reminder that the world can be fraught with moral judgments that don’t serve to accomplish much of anything. As Bach made plain, we live in a world of grays, not black and white — of rules, laws, transgressions, sanctions, redemption and opportunity.

Bach was asked whether he — emotionally — could get behind a lifetime ban for doping.

“If you ask me about my emotions,” he said, “I would say clearly yes, a lifetime ban I would still support.”

But, he went on, “I had to learn from different courts and lawyers, like [IAAF president-elect] Sebastian Coe and others who were asking for this, that this is legally just not possible. A lifelong ban would not stand any kind of challenge. We have to accept this.

“… If you have an athlete who has served his suspension, then he has the right to participate in championships. There I can remind you that we made an effort once to change this, for the Olympic Games, with the so-called ‘Osaka rule,’ “ which would have barred participation in the next edition of the Games for an offender, “and again we lost the court case — that this is not possible.

“The suspension is there and afterwards we have to treat these athletes in the same way like the others.”

A few moments later, Bach was given this example — if a civil servant makes a mistake, he or she is out of a job. Why not the same for an elite athlete?

“This is a different kettle of fish,” he said.

“We have had examples for the sentences, the judgments made by courts. It’s a legal question. We are not allowed to go further to take stricter sanctions. It’s a question of human rights. I’m not going to give you a lecture here. It’s a question of human rights, and we must admit these facts.

“Also, we must be conscious of the fact that the fight against doping is not only a question of sanctions. It’s also a question of efficiency of test systems, it’s prevention as well and other measures.”

Doping, doping, doping — and then, finally, Saturday night, some running and throwing. Would it quiet the chatter?

Not on your life.

Gatlin, asked the inevitable question in a post-race interview, said, “Understand it has been 10 years since I’ve done that. It has been 10 years since that happened to me. And I’m here doing better things. So everybody needs to drop it.”

In the first heat of the men’s 100, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, in the inside lane, went 9.95 — the 91st official sub-10 of his career. (Only a skeptic would note that Powell, a former 100 world record-holder, himself served a doping ban.)

Next heat: the American Tyson Gay, into a slight headwind, 10.11 for the victory. (Attention, skeptics: Gay, the American record holder, 9.69, has also served a doping ban.)

Third: Femi Ogunode, the Nigerian-born sprinter who runs for Qatar, took the heat, in 9.99. (Skeptics: Ogunode served a two-year doping ban that ended January, 2014.)

Fourth: the American Trayvon Bromell, in his second international meet, his first major meet, rocked the occasion by bringing back the short shorts. In the outside lane, he eased up and still went 9.91 for the win. Yow.

Fifth: France’s Jimmy Vicault in an easy 9.92, Canadian Andre DeGrasse — the Pan Am Games and NCAA champion from USC — in 9.99.

Sixth: Gatlin gave the camera two kisses, then two fists together in a show of strength, then — in the outside lane — ripped off a wind-aided 9.83. Wind-aided but just barely — the wind .1 over the limit at 2.1 meters per second. The last few meters — Gatlin didn’t even run hard.

“I just did what my coach said," Gatlin said afterward, a reference to Dennis Mitchell, "and go out there and dominate the first part of the race.”

Justin Gatlin cruising to victory in the heats in round one of the men's 100. That's South Africa's Henricho Bruintjies also in the frame, who would finish third in the heat, 24-hundredths  back // Getty Images

Seventh: Bolt made a show for the cameras of “running” with his fingers. Settling in to the blocks, he crossed himself, then pointed to the sky. He then lumbered out of the blocks and jogged to victory in 9.96. The American Mike Rodgers (skeptics — Rodgers also served time off for doping) took second, in 9.97.

Bolt, afterward: “Overall, it was good,” fifth-best overall in qualifying, then conceded not “as great as I want it to be.”

That 9.96 was, for Bolt, fast for an opening round. At those 2009 worlds in Berlin, he went 10.2 in the first round; 2011 worlds in Daegu, South Korea, 10.1; at the London 2012 Olympics, 10.09; at the 2013 worlds in Moscow, 10.07.

Ultimately: Berlin, world record; Daegu, false start and DQ; London, gold; Moscow, gold.

Gatlin took third in 2012, second in 2013.

Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt after round one of the men's 100 // Getty Images

Bolt also said, “I know Gatlin was running very easy but that is how it is. I am not worried.”

Gatlin on Bolt: “He did the same thing in 2012. He ran kind of slow in the first round, picked it up in the semis, first in the finals.”

That’s exactly it — for all the intrigue of the first round, the semifinal heats will be far more telling.

As Maurice Greene, the Sydney 2000 100 gold medalist here as a broadcaster, had said Friday, “The semis is going to be able to tell a lot. It’s really going to show you if Bolt is really ready. Then you will be able to make your decision about the final.”

The 10k is, of course, far too demanding for rounds. It’s one shot, and one shot only.

In Daegu, Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeylan ran the last lap in 52.7; Farah, 53.36. Farah’s silver made for Britain’s first-ever medal in the 10k — but Jeylan was the winner, in 27:13.81.

Since then, in international majors, the 10k has been all Farah: gold in London, gold in Moscow. In 2013, Jeylan took second. The difference: Farah kicked the final 100 in 12.82, Jeylan 13.15.

In London, Rupp took silver; he had been eighth in Berlin in 2009, seventh in Daegu; then took fourth in Moscow.

No non-African born runner had won a medal at a 10k worlds since 1987, when Francesco Panetta of Italy took silver. Could Rupp?

Farah, meanwhile, was seeking to become the first non-Ethiopian multiple worlds 10k winner.

The first lap Saturday went 68:39. Typical.

The field went through one kilometer in 2:52.7, two in 5:32.1, three in 8:15 — a very quick 27:30 pace.

At 5k, 13:40, Rupp running sixth, Farah seventh.

At 6k, 16:22, Rupp up to third, Farah fourth.

By 7k, the 22-year-old Kamworor had made a move into the lead, at 19:06. He is the 2015 world cross-country champion, the 2014 world half-marathon winner. Tanui was second, Farah third, Rupp fourth.

At 8k, Kamworor was timed in 21:49.99, Farah 26 seconds back, Tanui 26-hundredths back. A third Kenyan, Bedan Karoki Muchiri, was 46-hundredths back. Rupp, 62-hundredths. Everyone else — far behind.

With three laps to go, Farah moved to the lead. Kamworor immediately took it back.

They stayed that way with two to go. On the homestretch, the drummers started pounding.

One lap: Farah in front, Kamworor on his shoulder, and the lapped runners getting in the way, Farah stumbling ever-so-much with perhaps 350 meters to go but just as quickly recovering.

Down the homestretch, Farah pulled away. That winning time again: 27:01.13.

Farah in victory // Getty Images

Kamworor — still learning how to run on the track and so a force with which to be reckoned come next year, and the Rio Games — crossed 63-hundredths back.

Kamworor joined two legends of the sport, Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Kenya’s Paul Tergat, as the only runners to win worlds cross-country gold, worlds half-marathon gold and worlds 10k silver. No one has ever won gold in all three races.

Tanui took third, 1.70 behind.

"We worked as a team trying to beat Mo Farah," Kamworor said. "But he is a tough guy to beat. I learned a lot from this race. It was very tactical, very slow from the beginning but getting faster and faster.

"I must say I am happy for our performance, medal counts, and with such a fierce competitor as Farah, silver counts."

 Muchiri ran a season-best 27:04.77 for fourth, Rupp a season-best 27:08.91 for fifth.

"I'm definitely disappointed," Rupp said, adding, "I just didn't have it today."

Farah ran the last kilometer in 2:28.81, Kamworor in 2:29.46.

"I nearly went down," he said, "but I managed to stay on my feet, thank God, and win the race. I just get to keep doing what I'm good at, and that is running and winning medals for my country.

"I just have to concentrate on winning my races. I do it for my family and the people behind me, for my wife and my kids."

Farah ran the first 5k in 13:40, the second in 13:21.

Seven years ago in Beijing, knocked out of his Olympic heat, Farah ran 13:50.

His last lap Saturday: 54.14 seconds.

Talk amongst yourselves. The 100 final goes down Sunday night.

A sprint champion to want to believe in

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Wouldn’t American track and field be so much better, goes the mournful refrain, if only there were a sprint champion everyone could actually believe in? Who wasn’t, you know, doped to the gills? Maybe Kendal Williams doesn’t go on to run 9.57. But now that he has won the men’s 100 at the world juniors in Eugene, Oregon, maybe it’s time, too, to celebrate the very sort of young athlete everyone says they really want — but then hardly gives more than a moment to when he does exactly what they say they’re begging for.

In Eugene, Williams defeated favorite Trayvon Bromell in the 100, running 10.21 to Bromell’s 10.28. They then teamed up — along with Jalen Miller and Trentavis Friday, the Eugene 200-meter champion — as the Americans won the 4x100 relay.

“I’ve been waiting all year for my time to come,” Williams said after the 100. “It finally came.”

Kendal Williams on Florida State signing day, flanked by grandfathers James Williams and Langston Austin // photo courtesy Williams family

First things first: of course 10.2 is not going to win anything at the Olympics. These were the juniors. Nonetheless, Kendal Williams has world-class potential. He is about a month shy of his 19th birthday, is about to start at Florida State and is already running 10.2 without lifting weights in high school.

Why no weights? Because he went to Stanton College Preparatory School, one of Jacksonville, Florida’s, most academically renowned institutions, dating to the 1860s, when it began serving the African-American community.

“Kendal went to an academic school,” said his father, Ken. adding a moment later, “They tore down the weight room to put another classroom in.”

Second, of course it’s always dangerous when it comes to the issue of performance-enhancing drugs to know absolutely, positively for sure if someone is clean. In the case of Kendal Williams every shred of evidence would suggest he is, as the old advertising saying goes, 99 and 44/100 percent clean.

Never mind the tests — and, yes, he has been tested, and the tests are clean.

It’s more, way more, than that.

“The kid I raised, the family we have, he would not even consider that,” Ken Williams said, adding, “We have instilled in him the fortitude, the character, whatever it takes to be a man of integrity. The character of a man is instilled by the standards he sets for himself. I love that and I tell that to him all the time.”

Asked how certain he was that Kendall Williams was clean, his coach, James May, said, “I’m 100 percent sure. There are very few kids I can say that about. Mostly god did a remarkable job.”

“He is a good, wholesome young man,” said Terry Isley, who is now a first officer for American Airlines, used to fly for the U.S. Navy — serving, all in, for 27 years — and is a family friend, adding, “The household he comes from is the same cloth. His dad and mom. He has an older brother. The older brother dated the same girl for three or four years before he married her. How often does that happen? I would be shocked. You can never say never. But what I see and know of him, I don’t see that being a problem.”

Kendal Williams’ older brother, Ken, 26, and his wife, Kimberly, are expecting their first child, a boy, in November.

His dad, Ken, and mom, also named Kimberly, have been together for 29 years. They are high school sweethearts.  He is an AT&T project manager; she is an AT&T finance manager.

Ken Williams’ mother -- that is, Kendal Williams' grandmother -- passed away three years ago; Kendal's grandparents had been married for 58 years.

Ken William’s parents met in college at Florida A&M. Kimberly Williams’ parents met in college at Bethune-Cookman.

Both of Kendal Williams’ grandfathers are graduates of Stanton Prep.

“My wife and I both came from two-parent homes and they came from two-parent homes. That’s been important to us,” Ken Williams said. “That’s been important to us, to raise our kids and give them that foundation. You don’t always see that these days.

“There’s a lot to be said for two parents in the home. Hopefully, kids will understand that marriage is you both have to give 100 percent all the time, and it’s work. I’d like to think we helped guide [Kendal] into the person he will become for the next four years.”

Athletic talent runs through the extended family. James Loney, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Rays, is a cousin.

Kendal Williams’ speed was obvious way back. In eighth grade, Isley’s son, Merrick, and Kendal ran a 100; halfway, Merrick was perhaps three or four meters ahead; by the finish, Kendal was three or four meters up.

“A lot of guys can run. But I had never seen anything like that,” said Isley, who played college football. “He ran 10.90-something, 10.92. That wasn’t what impressed me. It was his top-end speed. My wife said, ‘You can still outrun him.’ I said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘His top-end speed is world-class.’ The people around me laughed. I said, ‘I know what I am saying.’ “

May happened to be at the meet that day. To be on May’s team would be a commitment for the Williams family — a 40-mile drive.

“To show you the athleticism, the first time I showed [Kendal] how to long jump, he went 21 feet,” May said. This was March of Kendal's eighth-grade year, he said.

With Kendal, Isley and all of six other kids, May’s team would later go on to win the middle-school state meet.

“I’m always suspect of major leaps,” May said, meaning in times, which is why Kendal Williams’ progressions are further evidence of regular development.

In the 100, for instance, the progressions read like this: 2011 10.46, 2012 10.37, 2013 10.18, 2014 a personal-best 10.21. The 2012 and 2013 times were both wind-aided, both readings slightly above the allowable 2.0 meters per second.

The winning time in Eugene was run into a slight headwind, 0.6 meters per second. No question it is the real deal.

“Most sprinters run better in heat. He ran better in cool weather. He ran a PR in that weather,” May said.

You know what else? After Kendal Williams won the 100 in Eugene, May said, “He said thank you.”

 

'Anything is possible': Williams wins juniors 100

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EUGENE, Oregon — Two days ago, after Universal Sports posted onto Twitter a shot of a skinny Usain Bolt racing at the IAAF world junior championships — before a home crowd in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2002 — he told his 3.4 million-plus followers, “Still the greatest moment of my life.” This from a guy who, of course, has gone on to win six Olympic individual and relay medals as well as eight world titles and who holds the world record in the 200 meters, 19.19 seconds, and the 100, 9.58.

For social media purposes this week, meanwhile, that wasn’t all. Bolt followed up on Instagram by proclaiming, “It’s been a journey and a half from world juniors to now,” adding the hashtags, “anything is possible,” and “keep believing.”

On Wednesday here at Hayward Field, Trayvon Bromell was expected to win the men’s 100 meters. He had set the world junior record earlier this year on the very same track. Instead, in one of those upsets that makes track and field eminently watchable, another American, Kendal Williams, won, proof that, as Bolt said, anything is possible.

Kendal Williams crossing the finish line to win the men's 100 at the 2014 world juniors // photo Getty Images

Williams crossed in 10.21 seconds, Bromell in 10.28.

Yoshihide Kiryu of Japan took third, in 10.34

“I’ve been waiting all year for my time to shine,” Williams said later. “It finally came.”

The gold is the first for the United States at these world juniors.

It is also the first men’s 100-meter gold in the world juniors in 10 years, since Ivory Williams’ 10.29 in Grosseto, Italy. Over history, it made for the fourth time a U.S. male has won gold in the 100 at the world juniors.

The women’s 100 also produced a fascinating winner — Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who crushed the field with an explosive start and a take-no-prisoners style that makes for great theater down the lanes. She won in 11.23.

Afterward, asked to explain her victory, she said, “I can’t let myself slack.”

Fascinatingly, there were no Jamaicans — men’s or women’s — in either the men’s or women’s 100 final.

The focus heading into the meet had been all about Bromell. He had even been one of the invited athletes at the IAAF pre-meet news conference, and understandably.

On this same Hayward track, at the NCAA championships in June, he ran the 100 in 9.97, the first junior to run under 10 seconds.

The thing is, it’s difficult to know whether junior performances are a predictor of much of anything.

At those 2002 juniors, Bolt won the 200, in 20.61. He didn’t run the 100. Here are your top three finishers in that 100: Darrel Brown and Marc Burns, both of Trinidad and Tobago, and American Willie Hordge.

Bolt was just 15 at that race, about a month shy of 16.

Bromell turned 19 two weeks ago. The grind of a long season was wearing on him. But at that news conference he tried to make like, not.

He said, “Going back to getting my maintenance done on my body, I feel like I can still run fast. I don’t feel like I’m going to run any slower. I feel like my heart won’t let me. So we shall see if history will be made again.”

Here is the thing about history and track and field. It can often turn on a combination of weather and fate. When they combine in your favor, it’s all good. When it’s not that way — that’s why they run the races.

For instance, in May, at the Big 12 championships in Lubbock, Texas, when Bromell ran a 9.77 for 100 meters, that was very, very fast.

Then again, that day he had the wind at his back. The weather, you know. The wind was measured at 4.2 meters per second, which is way, way more than the 2.0 allowed under the rules of track and field.

That race brought Bromell lots and lots of attention.

In fact, for entertainment purposes only, history buffs might want to note that Carl Lewis — whose fastest legal time was a 9.86, in Tokyo in 1991 — ran 9.78 with an even stronger 5.2 wind at his back in Indianapolis in 1988.

So Bromell, at 19, is already faster on a windy day than Carl Lewis.

This is why Bromell got — and is getting, especially from track geeks — lots of attention.

When he ran 9.97 at the NCAAs in June — the wind that day at his back was 1.8, legal but very close — he took four-hundredths of a second off the former world junior record, which he had jointly held with Trinidad's Brown.

American Jeff Demps and Japan’s Kiryu also ran 10.01 but their times were never ratified as world junior records.

Meanwhile, back in Florida, in May, Williams won the state titles in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, becoming just the third athlete in state history to win four straight in the 200 (one of whom was Houston McTear in the 1970s). Williams won the 100 in 10.33, the 200 in 20.96. But who noticed outside of a few locals and the coaches at Florida State, where he’s headed?

This week in Eugene, Bromell opened Tuesday with a 10.13. That was a tenth of a second better than anyone in the field, which was what most people here saw.

But not if you were paying close attention: Williams was next, in a personal-best 10.23.

Cejhae Greene of Antigua went 10.27. No one else was under 10.3.

On Wednesday morning, the rain — the weather again — came down hard. The sequence here:  mid-day Tuesday in the sun, then semis and finals Wednesday evening on a soggy track.

“It it was a hot day, you probably would have seen three people go under 10 seconds, man,” Bromell would say later.

Trayvon Bromell and Kendall Williams after going 1-2 in the men's 100 // photo Getty Images

It was not hot. It was decidedly cool, sweatshirt weather, maybe more. A couple ladies were seen Wednesday evening eating popcorn under the Hayward stands wrapped in blankets. One volunteer, displaying awesome local knowledge for summer in Oregon, opted for a black down jacket. It was zipped up.

In the semifinal, Bromell again topped the field, now in 10.29, and in a still wind. He looked sluggish.

And the field crept closer, Levi Cadogan of Barbados in that same semifinal just two-hundredths back, Ojie Edoburun of Britain five-hundredths behind.

In his semi, Williams, ran an easy 10.49 to win.

In the final, Bromell actually got off to a great start, a reaction time of 0.121 off the gun, fastest in the field, Williams going 0.149.

But Bromell just didn’t have more, and by halfway down, it was clear Williams would take the race.

For Williams, that 10.21 was, again, a new personal best. Anything is possible. Keep believing.

“Execution was, I think, priority No. 2 behind mentally staying in the game,” Williams said later. “Not letting anything or anybody else mess with your mojo.”

He also said, “At the end of the day, I’m happy for Trayvon. He has accomplished a lot. He’s a humble kid. I like him. But at the end of the day, I still had to focus on what I had to do. I can’t run Trayvon Bromell’s race better than Trayvon Bromell can do. I had to go out there and run Kendall Williams’ race.”

Bromell said, “I seen the whole race when I came up. I seen Kendall right beside me. He had great knee lift. He was executing well. I was like, man, it’s his time to shine. I’ve had a great run this year. I’m just glad I got through the season healthy. It’s a blessing for him and I’m happy for him.”

He also said, and though these are the juniors these are words of wisdom from someone who is only 19, “You can’t run a fast race every time. You can’t PR every time.”

 

Eugene, beyond the 2014 world juniors?

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EUGENE, Oregon — First and foremost, Eugene is not TrackTown USA. That is an excellent bit of marketing. But everything is relative. This is a college town, and as track's worldwide governing body, the IAAF, comes to the United States for the first time in more than 20 years for a championship of any sort, it must be said, like it or not, this is most appropriately CollegeFootballTown USA. Anybody who tells you anything else simply picked a bad week to stop sniffing whatever might be in the air by the 7-Eleven at the corner of Franklin and Patterson.

IAAF president Lamine Diack at Monday's news conference on the University of Oregon campus

Just a couple blocks away from that 7-Eleven, Hayward Field, site of the IAAF world juniors, which get underway Tuesday, is — to use the preferred term — venerable, the fans said to be knowledgeable.

Even so, the local football palace, Autzen Stadium, where the IAAF held a party Monday night, is insane on a college football Saturday. Let us recap the past few seasons: 2010 Rose Bowl, 2011 BCS championship game, 2012 Rose Bowl victors, 2013 Fiesta Bowl winners.

It’s Nike money that helped bring the 2014 world juniors here. That’s fine. You want to see what Nike money can really do?

Check out the Hatfield-Dowlin complex, the 145,000-square foot, six-story black steel and glass football "performance facility" that opened here last year. Where to begin? The special wood floors in the weight room, the individually ventilated lockers to eliminate odors, the infection-free surfaces, the barber shop, specially designated workspaces for pro scouts as well as the dogs of the press, foosball tables in the players’ lounge that were made in Barcelona, the same sound engineering in the lobby that is used at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and on and on and on.

Even the Eugene Register-Guard, the local newspaper, knows what’s what. Monday’s edition displayed a feature on sprinter Kaylin Whitney while helpfully offering a sidebar on 10 Americans to watch at the world juniors.

Even so, on that Register-Guard website's sport section's drop-down menu, you can readily see that track -- and kudos to the paper for even mentioning track -- is sixth on its priority list. After "local," which figures, what dominates? "Oregon Ducks football." Under blogs, what's first? "Oregon football."

Here is the dilemma:

There is no TrackTown USA.

Not New York, not Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Seattle, Miami, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Boston, Washington, nowhere. Not Las Vegas. Not nothing.

If there were a TrackTown, there would have been a world championships here in the United States, the big deal itself, already.

The last major IAAF event in the United States took place in 1992, the cross-country championships in Boston. The world indoors were in 1987, in Indianapolis. The IAAF World Race Walking Cup was held in the United States twice, in New York in 1987 and San Jose in 1991.

Lamine Diack, who has been president of the IAAF for nearly 15 years, has said many, many times that he wished there could be a way to get it done in the States.

But how? What venue? Hayward seats 20,000-ish, max; that is not major league. How many hotel rooms are there in Eugene? Answer: not anywhere near enough. And have you tried to get to Eugene? It’s a long way from anywhere — 20-hours plus from Europe, as those on the IAAF’s ruling Council learned while slogging Sunday through jet lag and their meetings at the Valley River Inn.

Vin Lananna, who deserves a lot of credit for getting the world indoors to Portland in 2016 and is trying diligently to bring the world championships to Eugene in 2019, now calls Hayward Field the “Carnegie Hall of track and field.” He likens it to Augusta National and Wimbledon, trying to play it up as a destination, a place where, as he said at Monday’s news conference, “special things happen,” like Ashton Eaton’s 2012 world record in the decathlon.

Hayward Field, site of the 2014 world juniors

Again, excellent branding.

Eugene as a "destination" is an intriguing concept. There's now a Five Guys burger place here. That's a positive. Also, the Starbucks by the P.F. Chang's at the Oakway complex now features that new Clover brewing system, and you don't find that everywhere. So -- whoo! If for some reason you don't like that Starbucks, there's literally another Starbucks across the street. Which is, you know, nice. Eugene!

Make no mistake: these world juniors are surely an event unto themselves, but they are here to serve as the trial run for those 2019 worlds. Eugene is bidding against Doha and Barcelona. The IAAF will choose the winner later this year.

Diack said at Monday’s news conference that the world juniors mark “an important moment for the future of track and field” in the United States.

Asked later how important a successful world juniors would be for the Eugene 2019 bid, he answered, “Let us see the six days,” a reference to how long the meet goes.

“That’s a lot of pressure, President Diack,” Lananna said with a laugh.

Again, give Lananna credit. Consider the sequencing: Beijing 2015. London 2017. 2019 -- another great world capital for the IAAF like ... Eugene?!

Perhaps, though, Eugene does win for 2019.

Nike money can do a lot of things — even perhaps cozy up in places alongside adidas money, with which the IAAF has long been familiar. Now that Nike and USA Track & Field are in business together until 2040, who knows how the world might change? Wouldn’t Phil Knight want to see the championships in the United States before time claims its inevitable reward? Perhaps there are other factors and strategies at work, political or otherwise, that will ultimately see Eugene emerge the victor.

Then again, if it’s just the ability to use money to get projects done — hello, Doha? The Qatari capital finished runner-up to London for the 2017 worlds. It’s probable 2019 would be a far-better time for Doha than 2021, which would be the year before the soccer World Cup and thus likely too frenetic. And Doha is now seriously in the business of staging world championships for any number of federations; the world short-course swim championships will be there this December, for instance.

A group representing Doha perched over the weekend in the lobby of the Valley River Inn, as the Council was meeting.

Some of the athletes and IAAF personalities at Monday's news conference, including Americans sprinter Trayvon Bromell and middle-distance runner Mary Cain (front row, center)

 

Look, it’s bid season, and that is all well and good.

It’s a good idea, meanwhile, to consider timing and context when examining what people say. Here, then, are two 2011 quotes from the senior vice president of the IAAF, Bob Hersh, who happens to be an American, when there was no U.S. bid underway, and none was envisioned, and perhaps this speaks to the idea of TrackTown USA, or any such thing.

Citing stadiums in Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; and Seattle, Hersh said, “You look at large stadiums in cities that are big enough to host it,” meaning a world championships, "and they’ve removed the tracks.”

In that same story, he said, referring to the United States, “We just don’t have the wherewithal, starting with the fact that there is no stadium that could accommodate it.”

This, too, from Lananna, asked Monday to describe how Eugene got the world juniors: “It has long been a dream to host one of these world championships. We looked at what made the most sense on a college campus.”

Which this event does.

Beyond that?