Nick Symmonds

Nick Symmonds, Duane Solomon look to end U.S. drought in 800 meters

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In London, the U.S. came thisclose to winning a medal in the men’s 800 meters at the Olympics for the first time since 1992.

Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds ran personal bests in the 2012 Olympic final and finished fourth and fifth, respectively. It was one of the greatest overall Olympic races ever run — from first place all the way down to eighth. Kenya’s David Rudisha won in a world record, and seven of the eight men set personal bests.

“Duane and I were literally tenths of seconds off a medal,” Symmonds said in a phone interview from Moscow. “We both kind of still feel the sting of that. Even though we ran fast. It certainly haunts me a little bit that I didn’t bring a medal home last year. The only thing that picked me up from that disappointment was Moscow was a year away and that I could redeem myself. ”

The end of a 16-year drought is on the line in Moscow, a fact Symmonds is well aware of. The U.S. hasn’t grabbed a medal in the men’s 800 at a World Championships since Rich Kenah‘s bronze in 1997, and it’s never won a silver or a gold in the two-lap race.

That will likely change Tuesday, when Solomon and Symmonds run in the final in Moscow (1:10 p.m. Eastern time, Universal Sports). Yes, Solomon and Symmonds are running well this year, but the bigger factor is who won’t be competing at Luzhniki Stadium.

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Rudisha and Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana are out with injuries, and Kenyan bronze medalist Timothy Kitum simply wasn’t good enough to make the worlds team this year. Solomon and Symmonds are the top returnees from London in the eight-man final field.

Not only are medals there for the taking, but the gold is also totally up for grabs. The oustpoken Symmonds, who dated Paris Hilton and run a beer mile, says making the Moscow podium will not feel watered-down despite who’s missing.

“This sport is about so many more things than just running fast times and being defending champion,” Symmonds said. “It’s also about durability. Rudisha’s an incredible talent, and I may never come close to his world record, but in this case maybe I’m a bit more durable than he is.”

The U.S. champion Solomon, 28, owns the fastest time in the world this year (1 minute, 43.27 seconds). Symmonds, 29, is the fourth fastest man this year (1:43.67).

The Americans could be considered clear gold-silver favorites if not for the presence of Ethiopian Mohammed Aman, who placed sixth at the Olympics and owns the second- and third-fastest times of 2013.

Any medal would represent a landmark for Solomon and Symmonds, who both failed to advance out of the first round in their world championship debuts in 2007. Symmonds went on to make the worlds final in 2009 and 2011, finishing sixth then fifth. A greater leap may be in order this year.

“Some years when you have a guy like Rudisha, you say we’re kind of fighting for silver and bronze,” Symmonds said. “This year, everybody’s got their eye on the gold.”

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Adam Rippon has quads, Boston, special T-shirt in sight

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NEW YORK — Adam Rippon hopes to bring more quadruple jumps and a special T-shirt to the World Figure Skating Championships in Boston next month.

Rippon, who won his first U.S. title two weeks ago, pulled out of the Four Continents Championships in two weeks, a Worlds tune-up event, in part to bolster the option in training of making major changes to his programs.

He will possibly add a quadruple toe loop and a quadruple Salchow to his quadruple Lutz, the hardest four-revolution jump being attempted.

“I’d be adding one [quad] to the short [program] and, ideally, I would love to add another one or two to the free skate,” Rippon said at the Winter Carnival at Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park in Manhattan on Friday night. “I have eight weeks, so I’ll see what I can get done.”

In his two Grand Prix series starts and the U.S. Championships this season, Rippon attempted a combined four quadruple jumps over six programs, all Lutzes, and fell each time. Three times, judges downgraded the jump. Once, at Nationals, it was under-rotated.

Rippon captured his first Nationals crown in his eighth attempt on the strength of his spins, footwork and overall performance.

But, as is the case in skating these days, focus centered on the jumps. Rippon attempted one quad over two programs at Nationals, a free skate quad Lutz, while second-place Max Aaron landed three quads overall and third-place Nathan Chen put down six.

Afterward, an emotional Rippon told NBC’s Andrea Joyce, “I’m like a witch, and you can’t kill me.”

His costume designer gave Rippon a T-shirt with the phrase printed on the front, and the skater plans to bring it to Worlds in Boston next month.

Rippon, the only man to win two World Junior titles (in 2008 and 2009), finished sixth, 13th and eighth in his three previous senior Worlds appearances.

“My goal is to skate my best, and I feel that if I skate my best, a good result will follow,” Rippon said. “I can’t control the results.”

Rippon, along with Aaron and U.S. fourth-place finisher Grant Hochstein, will hope to skate well enough to keep three spots for the U.S. men at the 2017 World Championships.

To do that, the placements of the top two Americans must add up to no more than 13 (such as Jason Brown‘s fourth and Rippon’s eighth last year).

The 2014 U.S. champion Brown and 16-year-old phenom Chen are out with injuries, putting onus on Rippon to lead the way.

“I’m confident that I can pull my own weight and do my own share,” he said.

In Boston, Rippon will return to the scene of the worst U.S. Championships performance of his career — in 2014, when Rippon entered with a shot of making the two-man Sochi Olympic team, finished eighth and considered quitting at age 24.

He recently spoke with two champion U.S. skaters about competing at Worlds on home ice — Evan Lysacek, gold medalist in Los Angeles in 2009, and Michelle Kwan, gold medalist in Minneapolis in 1998 and Washington, D.C., in 2003.

“I’m ready to go back to the TD Garden and rip it up,” Rippon said.

MORE: Nathan Chen to miss Worlds after exhibition injury

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Lindsey Vonn wins No. 76 in biggest rout of comeback

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Lindsey Vonn gapped the field like never before during her comeback, and never before away from her favorite course in Canada, running away with a World Cup downhill by 1.51 seconds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday.

Vonn notched her 76th World Cup victory, moving 10 behind the record held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

“Every win for me is more special than the last,” Vonn said.

She’s won by larger margins three times in her World Cup career — by 1.95, 1.73 and 1.68 seconds, all at her favorite downhill course in Lake Louise, Alberta, and all before her February 2013 World Championships crash and two major right knee surgeries that kept her from defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.

Swiss Fabienne Suter was second Saturday, followed by German Viktoria Rebensburg. Full results are here.

Swiss Lara Gut placed 14th, which meant Vonn increased her lead from 45 points to 127 points in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest prize in the sport this season with no World Championships or Olympics.

That race will likely not be decided until the World Cup Finals in a little more than one month.

Vonn won her ninth World Cup race this season, matching her total from 2008-09, the campaign that set her up to be the Alpine skiing star of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic season. Her best total was 12 from the 2011-12 season.

Vonn has won 11 of her last 12 World Cup starts in speed races (downhill and super-G) and can clinch her eighth World Cup downhill season title in the next downhill in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Saturday.

That would break her tie with Austrian legend Annemarie Moser-Pröll for most titles in one discipline by a female skier. It would match the record for all skiers with Stenmark, who took eight giant slalom and eight slalom titles.

But first Vonn will try to inch closer to Stenmark’s wins record in a Garmisch-Partenkirchen super-G on Sunday (4:45 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).

MORE: U.S. Olympian podiums in first race on 2018 Olympic course