EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - Justin Gatlin won a 200 meters showdown with LaShawn Merritt and 41-year-old Bernard Lagat made his fifth Olympic team by winning the 5,000m at the U.S. athletics trials on Saturday.
World record holder Aries Merritt narrowly missed the men’s 110m hurdles team, while Allyson Felix kept her hopes of a rare 200-400 Olympic double alive by advancing through the women’s 200m semi-finals.
World silver medalist Gatlin, remembering a narrow loss to Usain Bolt in last year’s Beijing world championships 100m final, held off the charging LaShawn Merritt to win the 200 final in 19.75 seconds.
”About 40-50 meters (to go) I started seeing LaShawn’s legs coming,“ Gatlin said. ”I just had a flashback of Beijing all over again. I was like ‘Oh no we not!’
“I just kept me poise and dove for the line.”
Merritt clocked 19.79 seconds as both the sprinters qualified for Rio in a second event. Merritt earlier won the 400 and Gatlin the 100.
Merritt would not say whether he, like Felix, would try for a 200-400 double in Rio.
“I had three days between the 400 and the 200 (here), and at the Olympics it’ll be one day,” he said. “I’ll talk to my coach and see how he’ll adjust training headed toward Rio, and just handle it a round at a time.”
Ameer Webb rounded out the 200m team with an even 20 second run.
Kenya-born Lagat pulled to the front on the final straight to claim the 5,000 in 13 minutes and 35.50 seconds.
“I train with young guys and I don’t believe I am old,” said Lagat. “If you believe you are old, I am going to run like an old man.”
Lagat had represented Kenya for his first two Olympic teams and now will be going for a third Games with the U.S.
Hassan Mead and Paul Chelimo joined him on the Rio team.
Olympic 10,000 meters silver medalist Galen Rupp faded to ninth after leading early. He was already qualified for Rio in the marathon and 10,000.
Reigning Olympic hurdles champion Aries Merritt, who underwent a kidney transplant in September, missed the Rio team by a hundredth of a second as he came fourth in the final.
Only the top three finishers qualify for the Olympics in the cut-throat U.S. trials.
“I thought I had finished second or third,” said the 30-year-old, who was leading with two hurdles to go.
Officials re-read the finish photo but did not change the results.
Home-town collegian Devon Allen surprisingly won the race in 13.03 with Ronnie Ash and Jeff Porter finishing second and third, both in 13.21.
Favorite David Oliver did not start the final after injuring his hamstring in the semi-finals.
Felix, not happy with her curve running, clocked the third best 200m semi-final time of 22.57 seconds to advance to Sunday’s final.
“I was not as sharp as I would like to be but I am moving on,” said Felix, who has been slowed by a sprained ankle in April.
Tori Bowie was fastest at 22.27 seconds.
Olympic silver medalist Will Claye overtook London triple jump gold medalist Christian Taylor with a big fifth-place jump of 17.65 meters as both advanced to Rio. Taylor leaped 17.39.
Editing by Ian Ransom/Amlan Chakraborty