Bernard Lagat wins the 5000m at the US Olympic Trials (© Getty Images)
London had its Super Saturday in 2012. The 2016 US Olympic Trials in Eugene condensed its Super Saturday (9) into 20 minutes.
First, Bernard Lagat kicked to win the 5000m as if he were aged 21, not 41. Then Justin Gatlin beat LaShawn Merritt in a 200m in which both ran under 19.80. Finally, hometown favorite and American football player Devon Allen won the 110m hurdles by the biggest margin in the history of the US Olympic Trials.
The back-to-back-to-back finishes came within 20 minutes of each other.
In the 5000m, 10,000m winner Galen Rupp tried to build a lead with a push over the closing four laps but could not outrun the peloton. As his pursuers began overtaking Rupp, Lagat waited until the final 100 metres to sprint toward his fifth Olympics. Lagat’s last 400m was timed in 52.82.
Lagat finished in 13:35.50, followed by Hassan Mead in 13:35.70 and Paul Chelimo in 13:35.92. Eric Jenkins missed making the team by .06 in the smallest difference between third and fourth ever in the trials 5000m. World indoor bronze medalist Ryan Hill was sixth and Rupp ninth.
In his three previous races at Eugene, Lagat was 10th in the 5000m at the 2015 US Championships, did not finish the 5000m in May’s Prefontaine Classic and dropped out of the 10,000m at these US trials.
“I wanted to come and do the best I could, and not end at TrackTown the way I did in the Prefontaine Classic,” he said. “And to win in front of my kids, who had been telling me we had to go. My daughter tells me, ‘Daddy, I want to go back to the Olympics so I can watch gymnastics.’ That’s true, she’s been telling me she wants to go back to the Olympics to watch gymnastics. We were watching gymnastics all day yesterday. So I’ve made my daughter’s day today.”
Lagat will not be the United States’ oldest Olympian in athletics. John Deni, 49, competed in the 50km race walk at Helsinki in 1952.
Gatlin completes double dash victory, Merritt earns Rio 200/400 double option
In the men's 200m, there was speculation lane eight might bother Gatlin, who won the 100m six days earlier, but it obviously did not. Gatlin, with more straight to run and less curve, won in 19.75 to LaShawn Merritt’s 19.79. Ameer Webb was third in 20.00.
So the Rio trio will include the world’s three fastest men this year: Merritt (19.74 in semifinals), Gatlin and Webb (19.85 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha).
Noah Lyles, 18, was fourth in 20.09, breaking the US junior record of 20.13 set by Roy Martin in 1985. Michael Norman, also 18, was fifth in 20.14, or .01 off Martin’s record. (Usain Bolt set the world U20 record of 19.93 in 2004.) The wind, which was against runners most of the day, cooperated in the final: 1.6m/s.
“It’s going to be a rivalry for who knows how long,” Norman said of his teenage counterpart.
Merritt sounded as if he would attempt a 200m/400m double in Rio after saying the day before that he might not. He had three days between the 400m and 200m at the US Trials but will have only one day at the Olympics.
Allen unleashes major upset
Allen pulled away from other hurdlers to win in 13.03, the second-fastest time in the world this year behind Omar McLeod’s 12.98. Ronnie Ash and Jeff Porter claimed the two other Olympic spots, separated by a thousandth of a second (13.205 to 13.206). Left behind – by .01 – was Olympic champion Aries Merritt, who battled back so courageously from a kidney transplant. Merritt said he thought he was second or third and was “shocked” to be fourth.
David Oliver, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist and 2013 world champion, withdrew after an injury from the semifinals. He formerly had the world’s No.2 time this year, 13.09.
Allen fully embraced his moment. He held his hands in shape of an 'O' for Oregon, as he was introduced before the race. Then he leaped into the crowd afterwards to celebrate.
“I planned it by myself,” said Allen, 21. “I didn’t tell anyone about it, but I knew where my parents and family were sitting, so I knew I was going to go up there.”
Allen is the first collegian to win the 110m hurdles at both the NCAA Championships and US Trials in the same year since Lee Calhoun in 1956.
Claye hands Taylor first defeat of the season
The order in the triple jump was reversed, but the United States is sending the gold and silver medallists from 2012 back to the Olympics.
Will Claye overtook Christian Taylor in the fifth round to win with a distance of 17.65m. Taylor, the gold medallist at the London Olympics and 2015 IAAF World Championships, jumped 17.39m for second.
Claye was third in the long jump at the US Trials but lacked the necessary 8.15m standard to qualify for the Olympics. Chris Benard claimed the final spot at 17.21m in the triple jump.
In the other final, Maggie Malone won the women’s javelin with a distance of 60.84m. Malone, who had the three longest throws, is the first ever in the event to win the NCAA and US Trials.
Hannah Carson was second at 58.19m and Kara Winger third at 57.90m. This will be the third Olympic team for Winger, 30. Brittany Borman was fourth at 56.60m but completes the team because she has the 62.00m standard and Carson does not.
In semifinals of the women’s 200m, Tori Bowie had the fastest time with 22.27. She beat Allyson Felix, who nonetheless stayed on track for a 200m/400m double in Rio. Felix’s time was 22.57. Candyce McGrone, fourth at the 2015 World Championships, missed the final by 0.03 with her time of 23.01.
Roy Jordan for the IAAF