Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary

Boston Marathon tribute, moment of silence held near finish line

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Survivors of last year’s Boston Marathon tragedy hailed courage, character and resilience in a solemn tribute Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of twin bombings that rocked the race.

“It’s difficult to believe it has only been one year,” said Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost her lower left leg in the bombings. “It feels like only a few weeks, and we have a long road yet to walk.”

Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu died from injuries suffered during the explosions near the finish line on Boylston Street. More than 260 others were injured. This year’s race will go on Monday, the traditional Patriots’ Day event and the 118th edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon.

Haslet-Davis and three more survivors spoke Tuesday along with Vice President Joe Biden, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other officials in front of more than 2,000 invited guests, those affected by the bombings, at Hynes Convention Center near the site of last year’s tragedy.

The two-hour ceremony, which included music from the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and vocalists, was followed by a walk outside, into light rain, for a moment of silence and flag-raising at the finish line.

“We are Boston. We are America. We respond. We endure. We overcome. We own the finish line,” said Biden, the final speaker of the indoor ceremony.

Biden also spoke at last year’s memorial service for Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, whom authorities say was shot and killed by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days after the brothers carried out the Boston Marathon bombings.

“I’ve never, never, never witnessed a tribute like I heard today,” Biden said. “You have survived, and you have soared.”

Haslet-Davis drew smiles with optimism.

“No milestone is too small to celebrate,” she said, “even walking into a non-handicapped bathroom stall for the first time doing a happy dance. It’s the little things.”

Patrick Downes also lost his lower left leg in the attack. So did his newlywed wife. He spoke of the sense of community that has enveloped the survivors.

“We should have never met this way,” Downes said, “but we are so grateful for each other.”

David Yepez, then 15, suffered a torn ear drum, second-degree arm burns, and had a 3-inch piece of shrapnel embedded 6 inches into his leg. He was a spectator, at the site of the second of two bombings in 12 seconds, feet away from Martin Richard, the 8-year-old who was killed.

He praised the first responders and medical helpers, many of whom were at the tribute.

“Thank you for your love, compassion and generosity,” Yepez said. “You have touched our hearts in a way that, many times, our gratitude could only be expressed through our tears of joy.”

David’s father, Luis Yepez, also spoke.

“On that toughest mile, just when we think we’ve hit a wall, there will be someone there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall,” Luis said.

Outside, the Irish tenor Ronan Tynan performed “God Bless America” before the moment of silence at 2:49 p.m., the time the first bomb exploded. The Old South Church bells tolled. An American flag was hoisted up and the national anthem was sung. Bagpipes were played below a crowd of umbrellas.

On Monday, the 118th Boston Marathon will include the second-largest field in race history. The group of some 36,000 runners — 9,000 more than 2013 — will accommodate about 5,000 who did not have the opportunity to cross the finish line last year. Only the Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 drew more runners (38,708 entrants).

The first athletes will start at 8:50 a.m. ET. The elite women go off at 9:32, the elite men at 10 and the final wave at 11:25.

It’s estimated more than one million well-wishers may line the route from Hopkinton to Boston, double the usual amount, with 3,500 police officers, more than double last year’s number.

Officials stress a simple theme among the staggering statistics — to preserve the traditional feel and character of the Boston Marathon.

“I’ve never heard anything so beautiful as what all of you just said,” Biden said in his speech. “You are the proof that America can never, never, never be defeated.”

Boston sports teams share same #BostonStrong tweet

Karen Chen breaks U.S. Champs scoring record; Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold trail

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KANSAS CITY — A skater broke the U.S. Championships women’s short program scoring record Thursday night, but it wasn’t Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold.

Karen Chen, a 17-year-old former junior star who struggled the last two years, tallied 72.82 points at the Sprint Center to lead going into Saturday’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, is second, .87 of a point behind.

That leaves Wagner and Gold, who combined to win the last five U.S. titles, in third and fifth, respectively.

This is concerning for Wagner (1.88 behind Chen) and Gold (7.97 behind) given U.S. Figure Skating can send three women to worlds in two months. That selection will be made this weekend, primarily — but not totally — based off U.S. Championships results.

Tessa Hong is in fourth place, but at 14 years old is too young for senior worlds.

Full results are here.

Though Wagner and Gold are usually higher placed, the biggest surprise was Chen.

“My body’s still trembling right now,” she said, two hours after her performance.

Chen skated a clean program Thursday, rare for her in the last couple of seasons. Chen burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little has been heard from Chen since.

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

“Everyone has doubts, and I certainly do as well,” said Chen, who choreographed her short program. “But I just kept pushing and telling myself that I’m gaining more experience, I’m learning about everything in the process and I’m just going to keep getting better.”

Wagner bounced back from her last outing — her worst Grand Prix finish in 25 career starts — with a decent program. She needed to save a double Axel near the end of her short. The 2016 World silver medalist was the pre-event favorite.

“People do not understand how difficult of a position I am in,” said Wagner, a 25-year-old bidding to become the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 90 years. “It might seem like I’m on top of the world, or second from being top of the world, but this is a very tough position to be in. It’s mentally been weighing on my shoulders all season. To be able to come out and show people I am a fighter, I’m really proud of that.”

Gold needed to show a fighting spirit given her well-publicized disaster of a fall season. And she did. Her only miss in the short program was doubling a planned triple flip.

“I can feel a huge improvement as a skater. I think everyone can see it,” Gold said. “I have made comebacks before. This doesn’t feel like a major comeback in some ways, because I felt pretty solid. … A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kind of feel like I’m due for a good one.”

If Gold doesn’t improve in the free skate, she could be left off the worlds team for the first time in her senior career. However, Gold believes her strong credentials in recent seasons merit consideration.

“We’ve seen different controversies where people aren’t on the [nationals] podium, and they’re still selected for events,” Gold said. “Michelle Kwan has not gone to nationals and been selected for an Olympic team [in 2006]. I believe that I deserve to be on the world team, but I’m not on the selection committee. Of course, every athlete feels like they should be on the world team.”

Earlier Thursday, the pairs short program produced surprise leaders.

The U.S. Championships continue Friday with the short dance and men’s short program. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss wants Russia out of PyeongChang

Women’s Short Program
1. Karen Chen — 72.82
2. Mirai Nagasu — 71.95
3. Ashley Wagner — 70.94
4. Tessa Hong — 65.02
5. Gracie Gold — 64.85

 

Gwen Jorgensen pregnant, to sit out 2017 triathlon season

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: USA's Gwen Jorgensen followed by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig Hug (L) compete in the running portion of the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.(Photo by Jeff Pachoud-Pool/Getty Images)
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Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.

“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.

Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.

In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.

The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.

MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened