Evan Lysacek

Evan Lysacek will not compete at Sochi Olympics (video)

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Evan Lysacek will not defend his Olympic figure skating title.

Lysacek, 28, was unable to recover fast enough from a torn labrum in his left hip to qualify for the Sochi Olympics, he said on TODAY on Tuesday morning. The Chicago Tribune first reported the news overnight, saying Lysacek would not compete at all this season.

“It’s very difficult for me to say that, but my road to Sochi ends here,” he said. “A lot of what played into that decision was my doctor warned me that if I continued to train, with 100 percent certainty, the injury would get worse. The pain would get worse every single day, and I could be doing permanent and severe damage.

“This has been my whole life, so it’s a difficult decision for sure,” said Lysacek, who got choked up in interviews with TODAY and The Associated Press. He told the AP the pain was “like you’re being electrocuted.”

Lysacek is not retiring. He will refrain from skating until the injury is completely healed, which could be several months, according to U.S. Figure Skating. Surgery is an option, according to the AP.

“Right now my focus has to shift from training, preparing for Sochi, to getting healthy and trying to heal this injury once and for all,” Lysacek said. “The last several weeks have been so painful for me that I don’t want those to be my last moments on the ice after such a great career. I love to represent my country, and I’m determined to be healthy and skate again and really be the one that decides when it’s over.”

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Since he hadn’t competed since winning gold in 2010, Lysacek needed to enter an international figure skating event before the U.S. Championships in Boston from Jan. 10-12 in order to be eligible to compete in Sochi in February.

Lysacek, his agent and U.S. Figure Skating said for two months that they were working to find a competition to enter in November or December.

All of the entry deadlines for those events had passed by Nov. 15. The final event, the Ukrainian Open, said last week it would accept an entry as late as Tuesday for its Dec. 18-21 competition. But Lysacek was unable to get fit in time, even for the extended deadline.

Lysacek’s career through the years

The announcement capped a run of injuries, illnesses and absences between Olympics. In 2010, Lysacek became the first U.S. man to win Olympic figure skating gold since Brian Boitano in 1988.

He took the 2010-11 season off after finishing second on “Dancing with the Stars.” He began training for 2011-12 but pulled out of Grand Prix assignments due to a disagreement with U.S. Figure Skating.

He was set to return at Skate America in 2012, only to withdraw with a groin injury. He had sports hernia surgery in November 2012, which caused him to miss the U.S. Championships in January.

On Sept. 30, Lysacek revealed at the U.S. Olympic Media Summit he suffered a torn labrum in his left hip falling on a quadruple toe loop at Champs Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Aug. 21.

Lysacek said he was skating better than he had been at the 2010 Olympics before the injuries.

“From the beginning, I was very clear with my doctors as to what my goals were, to be 100 percent healthy and prepared for Sochi, and before that to compete in December in a qualification event,” Lysacek said. “My doctors took an aggressive course of action with treatment and physical therapy. We all remained very optimistic. In fact, I had no doubt that I would overcome this, just like I had the other injuries that I had throughout my career.”

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On Oct. 28, Lysacek said he was doing triple jumps in practice, but apparently he was not able to get back to full strength in time for a qualifying event.

“As the training intensified, so did the pain,” he said. “It’s become, in recent weeks, unmanageable.”

Lysacek was bidding to become the first man since American Dick Button to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles. Button did so in 1948 and 1952.

Lysacek’s announcement comes two months after the retirement of his longtime U.S. rival, Johnny Weir. His international rival, Russian Yevgeny Plushenko, is expected to compete in Sochi.

But the Olympic gold-medal favorites are Canadian Patrick Chan, who took silver behind Lysacek at the 2009 World Championships, and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who beat Chan at the Grand Prix Final last week.

The two-man U.S. Olympic Team will be named after the U.S. Championships. Contenders include reigning U.S. champion Max Aaron, world junior silver medalist Jason Brown, two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon and 2010 Olympian Jeremy Abbott.

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Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi lead U.S. Olympic marathon team

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Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi shared nothing in marathon running before the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday, but the two men from vastly different backgrounds were together, alone, leading the race with five miles left.

Rupp, 29, pulled away to win in 2:11:12 on the streets of Los Angeles. The former Oregon Catholic high school prodigy became the first American to make an Olympic marathon team in his 26.2-mile debut since 1968.

Keflezighi, a 40-year-old born in war-torn Eritrea who moved to the U.S. in 1987, crossed the finish line 68 seconds later in second place. He will become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time in Rio in August.

Rupp and Keflezighi, the only U.S. men to make an Olympic podium in distances longer than 1500m since 1984, were so close to each other in their three-mile leading stretch that their Olympic silver medals could have clanked against each other had they been wearing them.

Keflezighi, in his 23rd marathon and in front of Rupp at the time, didn’t take kindly to the six-inches-taller marathon rookie breathing on him. He let Rupp know about it on the streets of LA.

“It’s not a track, the road is open,” Keflezighi recalled in a press conference, shortly before exchanging a laughter-inducing glance with Rupp, who fittingly walked in to sit on a stool to Keflezighi’s immediate right mid-answer. “It was not a very friendly conversation.”

Now Rupp and Keflezighi are U.S. Olympic marathon teammates. Along with Jared Ward, who finished third Saturday, 1:47 behind Rupp, to make his first Olympics.

Full results are here.

In the women’s race, Amy CraggDesi Linden and Shalane Flanagan were the top three, all returning to the Olympics, with Flanagan collapsing at the finish line. Full recap here.

Rupp and Keflezighi broke away on their own around the 20th mile. Rupp then dropped Keflezighi in the 23rd mile. The reigning Olympic 10,000m silver medalist fist pumped crossing the finish line.

“It was a bit of a change running the marathon, but there’s no bigger honor than being able to represent your country at the Olympics,” Rupp then told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Dathan Ritzenhein, a three-time Olympian and a pre-race favorite with Keflezighi and Rupp, dropped out of the race around mile 20 in the hottest U.S. Olympic marathon trials of all time. The temperature at the men’s start at 10:06 a.m. local time was 66 degrees.

The Rio Olympic men’s marathon will be on Aug. 21, the final day of the Games. Keflezighi’s 2004 silver is the only U.S. men’s marathon medal since Frank Shorter took gold in 1972 and silver in 1976.

Rupp has said he prefers the 10,000m and might not race the marathon at the Olympics. If he doesn’t, the fourth-place trials finisher, Luke Puskedra, will move onto the team.

“I think [Rupp] is a 2:05 [marathon] guy, someday,” Rupp’s coach, three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar, told media after Saturday’s race. (The fastest American marathoner of all time, Ryan Hall, clocked a best of 2:04:58 at the 2011 Boston Marathon.)

Rupp could contest two races in Rio, the 10,000m (Aug. 13 final) and the marathon, or the 10,000m and the 5000m (Aug. 20). Rupp finished seventh in the 5000m in London.

“I would say that the 10k is still my primary focus,” said Rupp, who would have to make the Olympic track team at those trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10, in a USATF interview published Jan. 28. “Really, it just comes down to what I think I have a better chance in as a second event, whether that’s the 5k or the marathon.”

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Amy Cragg wins marathon trials; Shalane Flanagan collapses at finish

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No doubt Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan bonded as training partners en route to the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, escaping a black bear the clearest example.

They couldn’t have been closer after finishing first and third to make the Olympic team Saturday.

Flanagan collapsed in Cragg’s arms two strides after the finish line at the hottest U.S. Olympic marathon trials ever in Los Angeles. She was then helped into a wheelchair.

Cragg won the race in 2:28:20, redeeming after she finished fourth to miss the team by one spot at the 2012 trials. Flanagan came in third Saturday to make her fourth Olympic team, 25 seconds behind second-place Desi Linden and 58 seconds behind Cragg.

Full results are here.

Cragg, 32, waited for Flanagan at the finish line, holding an American flag, hugging Flanagan and then, suddenly, keeping the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist from falling onto the pavement.

Flanagan, the 2012 trials winner and a pre-race favorite, said there was a point in the 26.2 miles where she thought she was “done.”

Cragg talked her through it. They spent most of the final half of the race alone in the lead.

“Sweet baby Jesus, I’m so thankful for [Cragg],” Flanagan, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner ever, said minutes after finishing, with an ice pack over her shoulders, clutching a water bottle in her right hand and holding onto Cragg’s right shoulder with her left hand.

Cragg held up Flanagan during the interview and then helped her back into the wheelchair.

The temperature at the start of the men’s race at 10:06 a.m. local time was 66 degrees, hottest ever at a marathon trials (the first trials were in 1968). The women began 16 minutes later.

Cragg finished fourth at the 2012 marathon trials, then made that Olympic team in the 10,000m on the track and finished 11th in London in her Olympic debut. She moved from Providence, R.I., to Portland, Ore., in the fall to join Flanagan’s training group.

“Finishing fourth, looking back on it now, was so good for me,” Cragg told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “It made me more determined than ever as an athlete. I’ve worked really hard the last four years, basically, to move up one spot.

“I just knew, training with Shalane, would give me all the confidence I need.”

Cragg dropped Flanagan in the final two miles. Before that, she said she asked Flanagan if she was OK. Flanagan replied, no, I’m not.

“She seemed like she was even struggling a little bit just to say that,” Cragg said. “Before the last water stop, I kind of looked at her, and she was turning bright red. I knew the heat was getting to her. I told her, I’m going to get you a water bottle, dump the whole thing on your head.”

Linden, arguably the pre-race co-favorite with Flanagan, repeated her 2012 trials finish of second place, surging in the final mile past Flanagan.

At the London Olympics, Linden pulled out 2.2 miles into the race with right hip pain, what would later be diagnosed as a femoral stress fracture.

“It’s been this Sisyphean task where I get to the top, and then the rock crumbles down,” Linden said Saturday. “I want to do it better this time.”

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher was fourth. She plans to compete at the track trials in July in Eugene, Ore., to go for Rio.

Goucher finished 65 seconds behind Flanagan, her former training partner, and said she missed workouts last week while sick. The 37-year-old said she may have picked up an illness from her 5-year-old son, Colt.

“I kept asking myself if I was doing all that I could, and I was,” Goucher told media, in tears. “They were just better. … I didn’t fight this hard to just fold right now, so yeah, I’ll be trying to make the 10k team [at track trials in July].”

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