Switzerland’s Dario Cologna takes gold in men’s skiathlon

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No doubt about it – Dario Cologna is back.

The Swiss cross-country skier and 2010 Olympic champion in the 15km freestyle tore a ligament in his right ankle back in November, and observers had wondered if he would be competitive at the Sochi Olympics.

But in this morning’s men’s skiathlon, Cologna proved more than competitive. He was the best, charging late past Sweden’s Marcus Hellner and holding him off for gold by four-tenths of a second.

Bronze medalist Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway was 1.4 seconds back, narrowly beating Russia’s Maksim Vylegzhanin at the stripe for the last spot on the podium.

According to NBC Olympics’ Olivia Wittels, the Russians lodged a protest regarding Vylegzhanin’s finish that ultimately went nowhere.

Noah Hoffman of the U.S. rose into the Top 10 during the early stages of the race, but fell back to 35th at the finish after a series of mid-race problems that included a fall and a run-in with another competitor. It was still the top finish among the Americans.

Also fading, albeit more dramatically, was two-time Olympic gold medalist Petter Northug of Norway, who was running in the Top 5 with two kilometers to go but came home 17th.

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MEN’S SKIATHLON (15km Classic/15km Free)
1. Dario Cologna (SUI), 1:08:15.4
2. Marcus Hellner (SWE), +0.4 seconds
3. Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR), +1.4 seconds

35. Noah Hoffman (USA), +3:12.7
42. Erik Bjornsen (USA), +4:26.9
47. Brian Gregg (USA), +5:10.9
54. Kris Freeman (USA), +6:19.2

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon

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Watch the world’s best distance runners chase world records at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and commercial free on the NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” for subscribers on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon
NBCSN coverage — STREAM LINK
NBC Sports Gold commercial free — STREAM LINK

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
3:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
4:15 – Elite Women’s Race
5:00 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The men’s field features arguably the two greatest distance runners of all time — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Kipchoge, the Rio Olympic marathon champ, ran the fastest marathon ever recorded — 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour attempt last May in non-record-eligible conditions.

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history under legal conditions, having run six seconds shy of Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s world record of 2:02:57 from 2014.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, already the world-record holder in a women’s-only race, looks to take down Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers set in London 15 years ago. That time is 2:15:25.

Keitany is challenged by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the third-fastest female marathoner in history behind Keitany and Radcliffe.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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