Louis Zamperini

World War II hero, Olympian Louis Zamperini to be Rose Parade grand marshal (video)

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Louis Zamperini, the 1936 Olympian and World War II prisoner of war, will be the grand marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day 2015, the Tournament of Roses said Friday.

“It is such an honor to be the grand marshal of the 126th Rose Parade,” Zamperini, 97, said in a press release. “Growing up in Torrance, the parade route on Colorado Boulevard is one I have been familiar with my whole life. I look forward to sharing the experience with my family and all the fans of the Rose Parade who will be watching.”

Zamperini placed eighth in the 5000m at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1943, as an Army bombardier, he survived 47 days in the Pacific Ocean with two other men after their military plane crashed and then two years at a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

His story is the subject of the best-selling book, “Unbroken,” which is being made into a film directed by Angelina Jolie that was scheduled to be released later this year.

“I made a new friend — Angelina Jolie,” Zamperini, wearing a red USC Trojans cap and navy blue U.S. Olympic Team jacket, said Friday. “The gal really loves me. She hugs me and kisses me ’til I can’t complain.”

Past Rose Parade grand marshals include Olympic champions Carl Lewis and Shannon Miller in 1997.

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WATCH LIVE: London Marathon

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Watch the world’s best distance runners chase world records at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and commercial free on the NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” for subscribers on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon
NBCSN coverage — STREAM LINK
NBC Sports Gold commercial free — STREAM LINK

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
3:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
4:15 – Elite Women’s Race
5:00 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The men’s field features arguably the two greatest distance runners of all time — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Kipchoge, the Rio Olympic marathon champ, ran the fastest marathon ever recorded — 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour attempt last May in non-record-eligible conditions.

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history under legal conditions, having run six seconds shy of Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s world record of 2:02:57 from 2014.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, already the world-record holder in a women’s-only race, looks to take down Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers set in London 15 years ago. That time is 2:15:25.

Keitany is challenged by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the third-fastest female marathoner in history behind Keitany and Radcliffe.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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