Lelisa Desisa

Boston Marathon men’s preview

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No U.S. man has won the Boston Marathon since 1983, more than twice the previous longest drought in the race’s history dating to 1897. That skid will likely stay intact this year, even though the two preeminent Americans of the last several years are in the field.

Another streak is also expected to extend with Monday’s race. A Kenyan or Ethiopian has won the last 12 Boston Marathons and all but one since 1991.

Marathons can be fickle, but two men appear to be the class of the elite field of 21 — defending champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Dennis Kimetto of Kenya.

Desisa, 24, has run three marathons in his life, all in 2013. He won Dubai that January, debuting in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 45 seconds. He won Boston in April. He finished second at the World Championships in Moscow in August.

Kimetto, 30, is perhaps best known for finishing one second behind fellow Kenyan and training partner Geoffrey Mutai at the 2012 Berlin Marathon, which caused controversy. But he would surprise nobody by winning Monday.

Like Desisa, the former full-time farmer Kimetto has also run three career marathons, winning two. He broke course records in Chicago and Tokyo in 2013 after setting the fastest marathon debut ever in Berlin in 2012. Kimetto’s personal best, from Chicago, is one minute faster than Desisa’s best.

There are more East Africans who can contend, but let’s shift to the American stars.

Ryan Hall is the fastest American-born marathoner of all time, but he hasn’t completed a 26.2-mile race since the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Hall, 31, failed to finish the London Olympic marathon due to a hamstring injury and then signed up for and pulled out of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the last two New York City Marathons (nixing 2012 before Hurricane Sandy canceled it).

He was a late addition to this year’s Boston Marathon field, on March 3, suggesting he’s confidently overcome the injury struggles. He finished third, fourth and fourth in Boston from 2009-11, but given his lengthy absence it’s hard to gauge exactly what he’s capable of Monday.

Meb Keflezighi, 38, is one of only two in the elite field born in the 1970s and is the oldest by three years. The Eritrean-born American notched résumé builders every few years, from 2004 Olympic silver to winning New York in 2009 to fourth at the 2012 Olympics after setting a personal best at trials.

In 2013, he pulled out of Boston 10 days before the race due to a calf injury. He clocked a disappointing 2:23:47 for 23rd place in New York seven months later, though a muscle tear in his leg hampered preparation.

Keflezighi could use a strong performance Monday to fend off questions about his age and future.

Boston Marathon TV, race schedules | Women’s Preview: American hope

Full men’s elite field:

Name Personal Best Time Country
Dennis Kimetto 2:03:45 (Chicago 2013) CR Kenya
Lelisa Desisa 2:04:45 (Dubai, 2013) Ethiopia
Gebre Gebremariam 2:04:53 (Boston, 2011) Ethiopia
Markos Geneti 2:04:54 (Dubai, 2012) Ethiopia
Ryan Hall 2:04:58 (Boston, 2011) U.S.
Wilson Chebet 2:05:27 (Rotterdam, 2011) Kenya
Tilahun Regassa 2:05:27 (Chicago, 2012) Ethiopia
Frankline Chepkwony 2:06:11 (Eindhoven, 2012) Kenya
Micah Kogo 2:06:56 (Chicago, 2013) Kenya
Adil Annani 2:07:43 (London, 2012) Morocco
Paul Lonyangata 2:07:44 (Xiamen, 2013) Kenya
Joel Kimurer 2:07:48 (Gongju, 2013) Kenya
Lusapho April 2:08:32 (Hannover, 2013) CR South Africa
Abdi Abdirahman 2:08:56 (Chicago, 2006) U.S.
Meb Keflezighi 2:09:08 (Houston, 2012) U.S.
Brett Gotcher 2:10:36 (Houston, 2010) U.S.
Mathew Bowen 2:10:57 (Rennes, 2013) Kenya
Jason Hartmann 2:11:06 (Chicago 2010) U.S.
Nicholas Arciniaga 2:11:30 (Houston, 2011) U.S.
Vitaliy Shafar 2:11:52 (Frankfurt, 2013) Ukraine
Jeffrey Eggleston 2:12:03 (Chicago, 2012) U.S.

Four-time Olympic medalist returns to run Boston Marathon again

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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Andre De Grasse’s return headlines Drake Relays on NBC Sports

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Andre De Grasse believes he could have entered the Drake Relays as the world champion in the 100m and 200m. Instead, he watched those finals last August. One from his hotel room. The other on replay on social media.

De Grasse, the Rio Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, will race for the first time in nine months at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday as part of NBC Sports’ weekend track and field coverage.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold will air live coverage of the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

Friday
Penn Relays: 5-6 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday
Penn Relays: 12:30-3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold
Drake Relays: 3-5 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

The Canadian De Grasse is the Drake Relays headliner, racing for the first time since suffering a grade 2 right hamstring strain four days before last year’s worlds in London.

De Grasse faces a Drake field that includes six other men who have broken 10 seconds, but of them only U.S. Olympian Mike Rodgers (9.85) has a better personal best than De Grasse’s 9.91 from the Rio Olympic final.

Rodgers, a decade older than De Grasse, hasn’t broken 10 seconds in his last 28 wind-legal races, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The field is not of much concern for De Grasse.

“I’m not looking for a specific time or anything,” he said Monday. “Just looking to get my legs under me, get the rust off, see what I can do and go from there.”

De Grasse said in a recent CBC interview that he’s been training for five months since the injury. He remembers the thoughts as he watched the world championships, starting with Usain Bolt‘s relegation to bronze in his last individual race won by Justin Gatlin‘s late surge.

“I knew that it could have been anybody’s race; [silver medalist Christian] Coleman could have won, Bolt could have won or Gatlin,” De Grasse said Monday. “When I watched it, I was surprised because usually Bolt would usually catch [up to win]. Coleman was out in front. You couldn’t really see where Gatlin was. Usually, Bolt would come back at the end. It looked like, for sure, that would happen. It looked like from my view that Coleman won. When I saw the replay, Gatlin kind of just snuck in there. … I was definitely surprised of the outcome. … I wish I could have been in it, but there’s going to be more opportunities for me.”

(De Grasse said he has not recently spoken with Bolt or “anybody in track in a while.” Last July, De Grasse’s coach was quoted saying that his sprinter was “booted out” of a race per Bolt’s wishes, which De Grasse later denied in a report, calling Bolt a legend.)

Gatlin’s winning time was 9.92 seconds into a .8 meters/second headwind. De Grasse failed to break 10 seconds in all five of his wind-legal 100m races last season, but he did run 9.69 with a mammoth 4.8 meters/second tailwind a month and a half before worlds.

Then came the world 200m final five days later. De Grasse said he had never heard of surprise winner Ramil Guliyev of Turkey. Guliyev won in 20.09, the slowest Olympic or world gold-medal time since 2003.

“I ran against all of those guys before and felt like I was capable of winning a race like that if I wasn’t injured,” De Grasse said. “To be honest, I had never heard of most of those guys in the 200m final except for I think a couple of guys, Wayde van Niekerk and [Nethaneel] Mitchell-Blake from Great Britain.”

De Grasse’s goals this season include breaking the Canadian 100m record of 9.84 (shared by Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey, the latter’s time a then-world record at the 1996 Olympics). He would like to lower his 200m personal best of 19.80 from Rio.

He wants to win a Diamond League trophy for being the best man over 100m or 200m through the season. The 100m remains his preferred distance (“That’s the glory event.”).

De Grasse said he plans to race most of the Diamond League schedule, starting with the first two meets in Doha and Shanghai the next two weeks. De Grasse and Coleman are slated for a head-to-head at a Diamond League meet in London in July.

No matter what De Grasse does this season, he does not believe he can wrestle the mantle of world’s fastest man from Gatlin or Coleman.

“You can’t say off this year that you’re the fastest man in the world,” De Grasse said, noting it’s the only year in the quadrennium without a global championships. “You’ve got to wait until next year to do that.”

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