Gatlin wins sprint double to extend undefeated run

Gatlin, unbeaten in 16 races coming into the finals in Brussels, set a personal and season’s best time in a strong 100 metres and followed that up an hour later by destroying his rivals in the 200 metres.

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If he wins his final race in Italy’s Rieti on Sunday, he would become the first male sprinter to go through an entire season unbeaten since Usain Bolt in 2009, taking full advantage of the Olympic and world champion’s exceptionally lean season.

In the 100 metres, Gatlin flew out of the blocks and crossed the line in 9.77 seconds, metres ahead of a strong field, all of them sub-10 seconds men.

Fellow American Mike Rogers was second in 9.93 and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell third in 9.95. Gatlin’s defeat of Rogers also made him the official 2014 Diamond League champion for the distance.

Gatlin, whose last defeat was his fourth-place finish a year ago in Brussels, took to the track again an hour later, destroying an arguably weaker 200 metres field.

His 19.71 seconds was three-hundredths of a second outside the season and personal best he set in Monaco in July. Qatar’s Femi Ogunode was a distant second, several metres back in 20.15.

The 32-year-old Gatlin, who won Olympic gold for the 100 metres in 2004 and was world champion at both 100 and 200 metres in 2005, served a four-year doping ban from 2006-2010, but said he was getting better with age.

He was second behind Bolt in last year’s world championships and said he wanted to challenge the Jamaican next season.

“Why not? It’s not just one lane on the track when it comes to the 100 metres or any other event,” he told reporters. “I feel the world wants to see a good rivalry… That’s what track and field is all about.”

Bolt had won the 100 metres in Brussels for the last three years but was absent from Friday’s season-concluding event after a poor season by his high standards.

He missed races early on with a foot injury, helped the Jamaican relay team win Commonwealth Games gold at the start of August and only dipped below 10 seconds in Warsaw two weeks ago.

HIGH JUMP SHOWDOWN

In the women’s 200 metres, Olympic champion Allyson Felix proved she is the queen of the longer sprint, setting a season’s best 22.02 seconds and also taking the title of Diamond League champion in her event.

“It’s been a tough season with a lot of bumps along the way,” she said. “I knew I would eventually get healthy again and hope to get another three quality years.”

The evening’s other highlight was a high jump showdown between Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko.

The Qatari won with a leap of 2.43 metres, the best in the world this year and beating his own Asian record by a centimetre, before each man tried, but failed, to surpass 2.46.

The 21-year-old record of 2.45 metres by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor still stands.

Earlier in the evening, New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams, twice Olympic champion, improved on her own 2014 best with a 20.59-metre second round throw which also broke a 27-year-old meeting record.

Another double Olympic champion, Czech javelin thrower Barbara Spokatova, threw a season’s best 67.99 metres.

In total seven season’s best throws and runs were set on Friday.

(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Rex Gowar)

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Day to play through pain

World No.

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6 Jason Day has been cleared of any serious back problems and will attempt to play through pain as he tries to claim the US PGA Tour’s season-long FedEx Cup.

Day was in serious discomfort with a lower back strain on Thursday in the opening round of the BMW Championship, the penultimate playoff event, but still managed to put together an even-par round of 70 to sit just three shots off the lead.

An MRI in Denver last night cleared the 26-year-old of any serious injury, instead showing general wear and tear, and allowing him to continue playing.

“The MRI came back clear I just have some stiffness and soreness, I guess you could just say it is golfer’s back,” Day told AAP before heading out to test himself on the range.

“It turns out my legs are too strong for my core and it is adding stress to my back, so I really have to strengthen my core over the off season to try and lessen the impact.”

Day was able to get through his warmup without issues and is headed to the first tee to try to chase down the overnight leaders, including world No.1 Rory McIlroy.

This is just the latest in a series of injury and health problems which have blighted Day’s season.

At seventh on the points list, Day is the highest-ranked Australian, giving him the best chance of winning the FedEx Cup at next week’s season-ending Tour Championship – if he continues to play.

He’s had a horror run since incurring thumb injury while winning the WGC-Match Play Championship in February.

He was able to play just four tournaments over the next five months, with several throat infections ruling out earlier comebacks.

When he returned to full practice at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early August, Day was floored by a bout of vertigo, a side effect to his medication, forcing another withdrawal.

Finally hitting his straps in the last month with a tie for 15th at the US PGA Championship, a second place at the opening playoffs event and a seventh at the second one last week, Day is understandably frustrated with this latest complaint.

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NATO boosts readiness to meet threats

NATO leaders have agreed to boost the readiness of the alliance to meet fresh security threats highlighted by the Ukraine crisis and reaffirmed their commitment to collective defence.

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A new rapid reaction force is aimed at helping the military alliance, which was set up in 1949 to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union, meet new threats and maintain a “continuous” presence in Eastern Europe.

“First and foremost, we have reaffirmed the central mission of the alliance,” US President Barack Obama said at the close of the two-day NATO summit on Friday.

“An armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against them all. This is a binding treaty obligation. It is non-negotiable,” Obama said.

To back up NATO’s renewed purpose, the 28 allies would increase defence spending, he said, aiming to devote two per cent of annual economic output to military expenditure and reverse years of decline.

Outgoing NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said a new “spearhead” force, comprising several thousand troops who would be ready to deploy in a few days, so that the alliance could “deal swiftly and firmly with any threat”.

“This decision sends a clear message — NATO protects all allies at all times” and any “potential aggressor” should bear that in mind, he said.

NATO has a larger Response Force but it has never been deployed in action and analysts believe it would take weeks to put in the field, way too long to be a credible deterrent in the face of fast changing threats.

Russian tactics in Ukraine — its use of social media and new technologies to sway public opinion and catch opponents off-guard, coupled with its traditional military strengths — have all surprised NATO and challenged its accepted thinking, analysts say.

The summit also adopted a broad Readiness Action Plan to strengthen overall collective defence, aiming to reassure allies spooked by the Ukraine crisis, Islamic extremist gains in the Middle East and instability in North Africa.

The summit was billed as the most important since the end of the Cold War, with allies seeking a response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in what Rasmussen described as “turbulent times”.

NATO agreed to “maintain a continuous presence in the air, on land and at sea in eastern parts of the alliance on a rotational basis,” he said.

NATO would pre-position command facilities, equipment and supplies in the region to speed up its response times, Rasmussen added.

Up to now, NATO has rotated troops and aircraft through newer members such as Poland and the Baltic states, which were once ruled from Moscow and have called for help in the face of a more assertive Russia.

NATO’s relations with Russia are based on the 1997 Founding Act which fixed Eastern Europe’s post-Cold War borders and prohibited both parties from stationing their troops there permanently.

It also said those borders could not be changed by force.

On that count, Rasmussen has repeatedly charged that Russia’s alleged intervention in Ukraine breaches the Founding Act which the alliance, in contrast, continues to honour.

Moscow has in turn accused NATO of ignoring the Founding Act and stoking a new Cold War by expanding into former Soviet-held territory.

Former Danish premier Rasmussen will be replaced at the end of this month by Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister who told the summit he would build on his predecessor’s work in preparing NATO for the challenges of a fast changing world.

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Duff beer discontinued after complaint

Woolworths Liquor Group will no longer sell “Duff” beer, which sports similar branding to the fictional lager in The Simpsons, after it was found to have breached the voluntary alcohol industry advertising code.

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Noting the popularity of the long-running cartoon television series with children, the Alcohol Policy Coalition complained about the product to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) adjudication panel in June, which upheld the complaint this week.

“The Simpsons series is well known and very popular with children and adolescents,” the panel wrote in its decision.

“The association of The Simpsons with the product name and packaging is so strongly entrenched in Australian popular culture that the name and packaging will draw the attention of under 18 year olds.”

The panel also noted that in 1995, the South Australian Brewing Company and Lion Nathan Australia launched and promoted a beer within Australia under the name Duff that was not sanctioned or licensed by the owners of the intellectual property in The Simpsons, 20th Century Fox.

The entertainment giant took Federal Court legal action to have the product removed from the marketplace, which proved successful.

The remaining merchandise became collectors’ items, with cartons selling for thousands of dollars in online auctions.

In its decision handed down on Tuesday, the ABAC panel said the appeal of the branding to youngsters was supported by both the Federal Court decision and the evidence before it from Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, who said an actual beer named Duff “might encourage children to drink alcohol”.

A Woolworths Liquor Group spokeswoman said it had in March received ABAC pre-vetter approval for Duff advertisements.

The beer, which is brewed in the US to the specifications of Woolworths Liquor Group’s exclusive brands division Pinnacle Liquor Group and is officially licensed by 20th Century Fox, was launched in May.

“We respect the panel’s adjudication and will discontinue the stock,” the spokeswoman said.

“We note that the ABAC adjudication panel states in its decision: `The panel accepts that the supplier (Woolworths Liquor Group) is committed to the standards of good alcohol beverage marketing contained in ABAC’.”

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Williams zooms into finals of U.S. Open

Williams, winner of the last two U.

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S. Opens, came out firing, striking the ball with ferocious force and dazzling accuracy and needed only 60 minutes to advance against the 17th seeded Russian.

The top seed’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be 10th-seeded former world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who advanced in abrupt fashion when China’s Peng Shuai was forced to retire due to heat illness trailing 7-6(1) 4-3 after two hours four minutes on the court.

Williams, who failed to reach the quarter-finals in any of the year’s previous three slams, is aiming for her sixth U.S. title and an 18th slam singles crown that would tie her with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for fourth on the all-time list.

“It feels so good. I am so happy, you have no idea,” Williams, 32, told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd after reaching the final.

Williams won 58 points to 33 for left-hander Makarova, who was playing in her first grand slam singles semi-final and had no answers for the brute power of the winner.

Makarova held her first serve in the opening set and lost the next nine games before holding serve to trail 1-4 in the second set.

With Williams serving for the match at 5-2, the Russian broke serve, but the top seed returned the favour in the next game to clinch victory.

The hard-hitting American blasted 24 winners, including five aces, while Makarova managed six.

“I know she’s such an aggressive player,” Williams said, “so I was just really focussed.

“I’m just so happy to be here in New York, in another final. I’m really excited.”

Williams said she and her friend Wozniacki had hoped for this match-up in the final before the tournament began.

“She obviously wants to win and go for her first grand slam, and I want to win and try to make a little history,” said Williams.

“But regardless, I’m going to be happy with the outcome.

“She’s such a great person and a great girl. We really looked forward to this since the draw came out, so we really hope we can have a lot of fun and enjoy it.”

(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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