Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi

Ryan Hall, other U.S. runners wouldn’t help East Africans catch Meb Keflezighi

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Meb Keflezighi was an undoubted underdog going into the Boston Marathon. He needed plenty of things to go right to win. Taking nothing away from Keflezighi’s victory, his fellow top U.S. marathon runners played a small role.

LetsRun.com caught up with other top American finishers, who revealed how Keflezighi’s 2012 Olympic teammate, Ryan Hall, led the way in not taking charge in a chase group.

“Ryan Hall and I were running side by side, in front of the lead pack but not really pushing it, and Ryan just kept turning over to me, talking [to me and saying], ‘Hey don’t push the pace,'” said Nick Arciniaga, who finished seventh. “‘If they [non-American runners] want to let those guys go, they are going to have work to catch back up to them. We are not going to help them out with that at all.  If we want an American to win, this is how it’s going to be done.’”

Hall confirmed the story, according to LetsRun, and added a text message to Sports Illustrated.

“It’s true. First it was Nick Arciniaga, then different American guys would go to the front [of the chase pack, after Meb and Josephat Boit had pulled away] and start pushing. I kept telling them not to, that we needed to give Meb as much space as possible. If the African guys were going to try to catch him, we weren’t going to do the work to help them. It wasn’t my day to win, as much as I wanted to. Meb winning was the next best thing and what the US needed.” Hall said he hadn’t talked to Meb about the tactic after the race. “I haven’t seen him since the race. I flew home right after the race. I don’t want to take anything away from his victory.”

The favorites going into Monday’s race were from Ethiopia and Kenya, the two dominant nations in men’s marathon running. Kenyan Wilson Chebet was the closest pursuer of Keflezighi, closing the gap to single-digit seconds over the final few miles, but Keflezighi held him off to win by 11 seconds.

Hall and the other Americans’ tactic, to not take the lead of the chase group, is similar to what is often seen in cycling stage rages such as the Tour de France. If a rider is leading on a breakaway, his teammates will not take turns doing the work at the front of a chase group.

Cycling is a bit different than major marathon running, where there are no “teams,” but, as Hall said, having another American win was the next best thing for any U.S. runner if he was not able to cross the finish line first.

Hall is the fastest U.S. marathon runner of all time, though his time, 2:04:58 from the 2011 Boston Marathon, does not count as an American record due to the point-to-point, net downhill course.

He finished 20th in 2:17:50 on Monday, his first completed marathon in more than two years after withdrawing before the 2013 Boston Marathon and 2012 and 2013 New York City Marathons due to injuries.

Video: Keflezighi’s stunning Boston victory

Russia’s goal for 2018 Olympics to top medal standings

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07:  Bobsleigh racer Alexander Zubkov of the Russia Olympic team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
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Russia’s goal for the 2018 Olympics is to repeat its success from Sochi by topping the medal standings for a second straight Winter Games, the Russian Olympic Committee president reportedly said Thursday.

“Our team finished in the first place of the unofficial medals standings during the Olympics in Sochi,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said, according to Russian news agency TASS. “This is why the priority task for the national team is to maintain its leading position at the 2018 Games.”

Zhukov cautioned that there has been a recent decrease in potential medalists, plus no longer having the home-field advantage as it had in Sochi.

Zhukov’s comments came one day before the second part of a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report investigating Russian doping allegations is to be published.

In May, The New York Times reported that dozens of Russian athletes, including 15 Sochi medalists, were on a state-run doping program leading into the 2014 Winter Games.

So far, no Russian medalists have been found guilty of cheating for the Sochi Olympics.

In Sochi, Russia earned 33 medals and 13 golds. The next highest totals were 28 medals by the U.S. and 11 golds by Norway.

The last time the Winter Games were in East Asia, Russia placed third in total medals and golds behind Germany and Norway.

MORE: Russian Olympic champion to oversee RUSADA

Bob McKenzie: ‘It doesn’t look like the NHL is going to South Korea’

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If the status quo doesn’t change, the NHL will likely decide in January not to send players to the 2018 Olympics, insider Bob McKenzie said on NBCSN on Wednesday night.

The NHL Board of Governors is meeting in Florida on Thursday and Friday, and the Olympics are expected to be discussed, but no decision on NHL participation in Pyeongchang is expected.

“Absent some new X-factor that comes into the equation, something that changes up the minds of the governors or other people involved in this Olympic decision, it doesn’t look like the NHL is going to South Korea,” McKenzie said. “But that decision won’t be made until probably January.”

The International Ice Hockey Federation recently met with hockey federations, which asked about a Plan B should the NHL not participate in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.

“There was no real answer, don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” McKenzie said. “There are some federations who believe that it’s going to be absolute chaos. For the very simple reason that if you think the National Hockey League doesn’t want to shut down its league, neither do a lot of the European leagues, whether it be Sweden or Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, you name it.”

Earlier this fall, the world’s second-best league — the KHL in Russia — said it planned to take its usual break and release players for the Olympics like it has done for recent Winter Games. KHL rosters for its 29 teams include double-digit Canadians and double-digit Americans, some with NHL experience.

An official from Sweden’s top league said in October that it had not decided if it will take an Olympic break and was following the discussions between the NHL and IIHF.

Finland’s top league said in October that it was planning to take a break in its season to send players to the Olympics, but a final decision had not been made.

NCAA rules allow players to leave their programs for Olympic tryouts and the Games themselves. One active NCAA player competed in the 2014 Olympics — Bowling Green’s Ralfs Freibergs, who missed two college games that season to participate in Sochi for Latvia.

“If the NHLers aren’t going, it could be the wild, wild, west,” McKenzie said. “Try and find a player anywhere to represent your country.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups set