Rita Jeptoo

Rita Jeptoo repeats as Boston Marathon winner in course record

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BOSTON — Kenyan Rita Jeptoo won her second straight Boston Marathon and third overall in course-record time.

Jeptoo completed the 26.2-mile course in a 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. She shattered the course record of 2:20.43. Second place Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia also beat the previous course record, clocking 2:19:59.

“I was not expecting to run fast like that,” Jeptoo said. “Starting this race, my body did not respond well.”

Jeptoo took over after Massachusetts native Shalane Flanagan led early in a bid to become the first U.S. woman to win the race since 1985. Flanagan finished seventh, unofficially in a personal best of 2:22:01 and the fastest time ever by a U.S. woman at the Boston Marathon.

“I love Boston so much,” said an emotional Flanagan in a TV interview. “I really wanted to do it for my city.”

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Flanagan was spurred on by what was expected to be a record crowd along the course, one year after she finished fourth in her Boston Marathon debut.

“My ears were screaming,” said an emotional Flanagan in a TV interview. “I couldn’t even hear myself think. It was insane. It’s the most enjoyable race I’ve run in my life. I tried to treasure every step of it because these opportunities only come once in a lifetime.

“I’ve never seen Boston so special.”

Jeptoo, 33, became the first woman since 2005 to repeat as Boston Marathon champion. She grabbed the lead alone after 20 miles and buried the field with a blistering last few miles, much like she did last year. Jeptoo won $150,000 for the victory and another $25,000 for the course record.

Jeptoo went seven years between major marathon victories from 2006 to 2013 but claimed not only Boston but also Chicago (in a personal best time) last year. She was the fastest women’s marathoner in 2013.

Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist, will run in Boston again.

“I’ll be back to run here until I win it,” she said.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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