Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon finish line security visibility increased after backpack incident

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Security visibility will increase near the finish of the Boston Marathon after a man carrying a backpack with a rice cooker was arrested there Tuesday night.

“We are going to increase visibility over the next couple days because of that incident,” Boston police commissioner William Evans said Wednesday. “We’ll have bike patrols down there. Nobody should be afraid to come to Copley Square, and nobody should be afraid to run the 118th Boston Marathon.”

The race Monday was already scheduled to have more than double the security presence of last year, when two pressure cooker bombs in backpacks exploded near the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 260.

The man who walked barefoot down Boylston Street in pouring rain Tuesday night was stopped by an officer who saw him acting suspiciously and taken to a local hotel for questioning. He dropped the backpack on the street and told the officer it contained a rice cooker. A bomb squad blew up the backpack.

Evans said that incident was not a breach of security because Boylston Street was open, as it will remain all week. A second unattended backpack was found Tuesday, belonging to a media member.

“That [arrested] individual, like anyone, had the right to basically walk up the street,” Evans said. “He had a backpack, and within that minute, our officers were on him, and we had the backpack back down on the ground. Based on what he said and what was in the bag, that’s why we went to the precautions that we did. You can never be too safe nowadays.”

Officials expressed confidence in the “comprehensive” race security plan Wednesday.

“Unfortunately last night we had an incident that you can see what the anxiety level goes out when an unattended backpack is left on the street,” Evans said. “I think it really set the tone last night how important it is to ask you not to bring those type of items.”

Backpacks are not forbidden, but spectators — some one million expected — are asked not to bring them and to place items in clear plastic bags if they must.

Evans also said there will be a limit on crowds near the finish on Boylston Street on Monday and that they will be subject to possible searches getting into the area. Once security’s movement is impeded, they will ask people to move to another location.

“Don’t everyone flock to Boylston Street,” Evans said. “The less we have on Boylston Street, the better.”

Security statistics include over 3,000 uniformed police officers and National Guard soldiers deployed along the course, up to 500 plain clothes officers in the crowd and over 100 video cameras along the eight cities and towns that will all have emergency operation centers.

Officials re-emphasized their goal among those staggering statistics — to maintain the traditional character of the Patriots’ Day event, the world’s oldest annual marathon.

“We’re not going to scare people,” Evans said. “Runners should be very confident coming to this race that it’s going to be safe and secure. … I don’t want everybody’s anxiety to be put up. That’s what troubles me about what happened last night.”

Boston Marathon tribute, moment of silence held near finish line

New generation of male figure skaters owns spotlight at worlds; preview

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Nobody in the men’s field at figure skating worlds owns an Olympic or world title for the first time since 1985. This could lead to the best U.S. men’s results in years.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan combined to win every gold medal since 2011, but all of them ended their seasons at the Olympics.

This week in Milan, the four leading men, who just competed in their first Olympics, are all 20 years or younger. And that includes two Americans.

Nathan Chen can become the first world singles champion from the U.S. since Evan Lysacek in 2009. Chen and Vincent Zhou could be the first U.S. men to finish in the top five together since Lysacek and Johnny Weir in 2005. Chen, Zhou and Max Aaron could make up the best U.S. trio at a worlds in more than 20 years.

Start with Chen. The 18-year-old said he planned to compete this week regardless of what happened at the Olympics, but after his struggles in the team event and individual short programs, the quad master nailed his free skate, came home to California and said he took maybe one day off of training before this event.

Chen is one of three men in the gold-medal hunt, along with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China. While Chen largely struggled at the 2017 Worlds and in PyeongChang, Uno and Jin each made the podium at both events. And each can come close to or equal Chen in quad numbers.

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Zhou, 17, has a chance to become the youngest man to earn a world medal since Hanyu in 2012. Or the first man to win the world junior title one season and make the world senior podium the next since Yevgeny Plushenko in 1997-98.

Zhou is riding momentum. He struggled in the fall and entered nationals in January ranked fifth among Americans for the season. He placed third to make the Olympic team and then landed three clean quads in his Olympic free skate to jump from 12th to sixth.

“I did better there than a lot of people thought I would,” Zhou told NBC Sports research last week. “I knew I was capable of that all season.

“I want to reach my ultimate goal of being Olympic champion, and my best chance is in 2022 … because by 2026 I will probably be old and creaky with four prosthetic limbs.”

Aaron made it to Milan after Olympian Adam Rippon gave up his spot, and the top two alternates (Jason Brown and Ross Miner) both declined. Still, Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, is seeded seventh in the men’s field based on top scores this season.

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Carolina Kostner the sentimental favorite at figure skating worlds

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is without question the favorite at this week’s world figure skating championships, especially after the sprightly Russian’s training partner and rival Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrew because of injury.

She won’t be the sentimental favorite, though.

That would be Carolina Kostner, the ageless Italian star who could be competing at worlds for the last time on home soil. The 2012 champion and six-time world medalist seemed to indicate that retirement could be looming after she finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, where she was chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Kostner will have a huge home crowd behind her when the event begins Wednesday in Milan.

“Decisions like that should never be taken in a hot moment. It will come naturally,” said Kostner, who no longer can compete with the sport’s high-fliers when it comes to technical marks, but whose elegant artistry and presentation often make up the difference.

“She is an example of perseverance, of a long-lasting athlete,” Medvedeva said. “I have trouble imagining how someone can stay in that shape for a very long time. When you see people like Carolina, you understand that if she can do something, then that something is possible. If you love what you do, you put all of yourself into it, like Carolina Kostner.”

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When asked about retirement, Kostner brought up her cousin, Isolde Kostner, who won three Olympic Alpine skiing medals before deciding to step away from competition.

“She stopped skiing shortly before the (2006) Olympics in Italy,” Caroline Kostner said. “Many did not understand why she wouldn’t pull through because it was her home country, and she said, ‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop.’ And I haven’t felt it yet.”

The biggest story at the world championships in an Olympic year tends to be who is missing rather than who shows up. The grind of competing for an entire season builds toward the quadrennial event, and athletes who medal or intend to retire rarely press on to worlds. Then there are the injuries, which accumulate during the year.

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