Bernard Lagat

How will Bernard Lagat fare at World Speedgolf Championships?

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Bernard Lagat‘s season didn’t end with the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sunday.

No, the four-time Olympian has one more major international competition left — the World Speedgolf Championships.

Lagat and Fifth Avenue Mile winner Nick Willis, an Olympic silver medalist from New Zealand, are among the entrants at the Oct. 26-27 event in Bandon, Ore.

What is speedgolf?

Let speedgolfinternational.com explain:

Speedgolf is pretty much just what it sounds like; golf played at a very fast pace. Competitors play 9 or 18 holes and run between shots. Scores are calculated by adding the time taken to complete the round and the total strokes taken. For instance, if a competitor shoots a golf score of 80 and it takes 60 minutes to complete their round, their Speedgolf score (SGS) would be 140 (80 + 60).

Competitors generally carry 5-6 clubs in a small bag, wear athletic golf attire, put on their running shoes and they are ready to go.

The only real differences from traditional golf are the flagstick is left in when putting and lost balls are dropped anywhere on the line of flight of the previous shot with a one-shot penalty.

The 2012 world champion, Chris Walker, carded a 77 and a 76 in times of 53 minutes, 29 seconds and 56:59 for a total of 263:28 and an $18,000 grand prize.

Lagat doesn’t have a registered golf handicap, and his personal best is an 89 in five years of playing. Lagat will have to rely on his speed, which is, of course, world class. A course is usually about four miles long, and Lagat’s personal best in the 5,000 meters (3.12 miles) is 12:53.60.

“I’m just going to go there and enjoy it,” Lagat, 38, told Spikes magazine, adding that he’d like to see Michael Phelps give it a shot. “If I get a round of 90 and I run 40 mins I think I’ll be very competitive. The winners of these events are very good athletes, but they are also very good golfers who can hit 71 or 72 shots. To play that consistently and run that fast is unbelievable. For me, a very good day is to hit under 90.”

The world record 109:06, a round of 65 in 44:06 in 2005.

Willis, with a nine handicap, “could be a threat to win,” Speedgolf International executive director Tim Scott told the (Eugene, Ore.) Register-GuardJ.J. Killeen, who played 33 tournaments on the PGA Tour in 2012, is among the best golfers expected to compete.

This isn’t the first time a noted distance runner has ventured into speedgolf. Steve Scott, who ran a record 136 sub-4-minute miles in the 1970s and 1980s, played an 18-hole round in 29:33 in 1982, carding a 95.

Willis has said he learned about speedgolf from Scott’s Wikipedia page.

“Oxygen debt is a bit of an issue, so you have to run slightly within yourself,” Willis told Runner’s World. “The key is to be comfortable not taking long to set up your shot and swing. I have never been one to take practice swings anyway, so I haven’t had to alter my game too much.”

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Female runners with high testosterone face new restriction

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Female runners with high testosterone must reduce those levels or will not be allowed in international races between 400m and the mile, according to an IAAF rule starting Nov. 1.

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, who was gender tested in 2009, is expected to be affected, according to South Africa’s Olympic Committee.

“Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes,” IAAF president Seb Coe said in a press release. “The revised rules are not about cheating, no athlete with a DSD [difference of sexual development] has cheated, they are about leveling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition.”

The IAAF, after funding a study along with the World Anti-Doping Agency, said research showed the following natural testosterone levels:

Most women: .12-1.79 nanomoles per liter in blood
Normal men after puberty: 7.7-29.4 nmol/L

The IAAF rule forces all women who race the 400m through mile and who are androgen-sensitive to restrict their ratio to below five. It said women who have “a difference of sexual development” can have natural testosterone levels beyond the normal male range.

The IAAF and WADA-funded study found that women with high testosterone have up to a 4.5 percent advantage over their competition on the track.

Research showed 7.1 of every 1,000 elite female track and field athletes have elevated testosterone, most of which were runners in events between 400m and the mile.

“The treatment to reduce testosterone levels is a hormone supplement similar to the contraceptive pill taken by millions of women around the world,” an IAAF doctor said in the release. “No athlete will be forced to undergo surgery.”

The IAAF had gender-verification testing in place until 2011, when it was replaced with a test for abnormally high levels of natural testosterone. Under that rule, female athletes with a ratio of 10 nmol/L or higher could only compete against women if they had an operation or took hormones to reduce their testosterone level.

In July 2015, the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) suspended the IAAF’s regulation, ruling that it lacked sufficient scientific backing and was therefore unjustifiably discriminatory.

The gender-testing issue was raised in 2009, when Semenya won the world 800m title by nearly 2.5 seconds at age 18. Word leaked that track officials mandated she undergo sex testing.

Semenya was not cleared to run for 11 months and came back to earn silver at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, while the testosterone-limiting rule was in effect, behind Russian Maria Savinova, who has since been stripped of her golds for doping.

Semenya then had a lull in performance after the London Games while the testosterone-limiting rule was still in effect. After CAS suspended the rule in 2015, Semenya peaked again in 2016, going undefeated in 800m races, twice breaking the national record and comfortably winning Olympic gold.

Semenya has never spoken publicly in detail about her situation. It has never been publicly verified that Semenya’s body naturally produces abnormally high levels of testosterone or that she ever took hormone suppressants.

An image with the sentence, “How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged,” was posted on Semenya’s social media Wednesday after reports were first published about the new rule.

Her default position is generally to talk only about her running, but she spoke out against her critics in a speech after accepting South Africa’s Sportswoman of the Year in November 2016.

“They say she talks like a man, she walks like a man, she runs like a man,” Semenya said, before finishing off the series with an Afrikaans word that loosely translates to “Get lost.”

South Africa’s Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam said Thursday his organization was “disappointed by the IAAF ruling.”

“Especially given that Caster’s name is again being dragged through the publicity mill,” he said in a press release. “We are concerned that the decisions have been approved without taking into account all factors into consideration, as these factors have not been properly nor fully ventilated. We wish to place on record that Caster Semenya has never engaged in any performance-enhancing activities and any enhanced testosterone levels are due solely to her genetic make-up.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Olympic pairs champions take indefinite break

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Aljona Savchenko, the Olympic pairs champion with Bruno Massot, said they are taking an indefinite break from competition, according to German press agency DPA.

Savchenko and Massot will perform in ice shows next fall and winter, which could preclude them from competing in major events like the Grand Prix season (late October to early December) and the European Championships in January.

The German pair followed their title in PyeongChang with a world title last month, breaking a four-year-old world-record score and winning by the largest margin (20.31 points) in pairs at an Olympics or worlds since the 6.0 system was replaced 14 years ago.

Savchenko, 34 and a five-time Olympian, became the oldest Olympic pairs gold medalist. She then claimed her 11th world medal — tying the female record held by Norwegian singles legend Sonja Henie — and sixth world title — tying Soviet Alexander Zaitsev for second on the all-time pairs list, four behind Irina Rodnina.

The French-born Massot, 29, competed in his first Olympics in PyeongChang and earned his first world title. Savchenko’s previous five world titles came with now-retired Robin Szolkowy.

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