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Ghirmay Ghebreslassie youngest man to win NYC Marathon; U.S. ends drought

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NEW YORK — Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, a 20-year-old from Eritrea, became the youngest man to win the New York City Marathon, while Americans made both the men’s and women’s podiums for the first time since 1994.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany became the first runner in 30 years to win three straight New York City Marathons.

U.S. Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Molly Huddle each finished third on Sunday.

New York City Marathon results are here. A record 52,049 people started the 46th running of the five-borough race.

Ghebreslassie won in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 51 seconds, adding to a résumé that includes the 2015 World title and a fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics just 11 weeks earlier.

He beat Kenyan Lucas Rotich by 1:02, becoming the first Eritrean to win a World Marathon Major title and the first non-Kenyan man or woman to win New York City since 2011.

Ghebreslassie, Rotich and Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa broke away in the 14th mile. Desisa dropped back six miles later (and eventually dropped out of the race altogether, along with defending champion Stanley Biwott and top pre-race American hope Dathan Ritzenhein).

Ghebreslassie inched away from Rotich over the final six miles in sunny, upper-50s weather, finishing comfortably enough to turn around, run back and high-five Rotich before the Kenyan crossed.

After, Ghebreslassie exuded self-assurance rather than any sense of astonishment when told of the history he made. When asked about his short turnaround from the Olympics. And when pressed about difficulties faced before or during the race.

“Only the wind,” said Ghebreslassie, the second-oldest of eight children who took a short break from training one month ago to get married. “If you lose your confidence means you are hopeless. If you lose your hope, you can’t do anything.”

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Many had lost hope in Abdirahman long before Sunday’s race.

The four-time Olympian had finished just one marathon since the 2012 Olympic Trials (an unimpressive 2:16:06 at Boston 2014) and turns 40 years old on New Year’s Day. He pulled out before the Olympic Trials marathon in February with a calf injury.

“I didn’t run the Olympic trials, so I told my manager, this is going to be my Olympic trials,” Abdirahman said.

At the 19-mile mark, Abdirahman and five relatively unaccomplished men were 2 minutes, 20 seconds behind the three-man lead group.

When Desisa dropped out in the 22nd mile, Abdirahman suddenly was in the podium mix.

“I thought I might finish fifth, sixth, or seventh,” said Abdirahman, Somalian born and nicknamed the Black Cactus. “When I passed Lelisa, that’s when my eyes just — I don’t know what hit me, but I just get another wind.”

Abdirahman became the first U.S. man to make the New York City podium since Meb Keflezighi won in 2009, a simply stunning result. Keflezighi announced his final marathon Sunday.

“I was telling these guys I was in the Olympics in 2000, and they were looking at me, really?” Abdirahman said. “And I say yes.”

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Keitany, a mother of two and the second-fastest female marathoner ever, crossed the Central Park finish line in 2:24:26. Her margin of victory over countrywoman Sally Kipyego, 3:34, was the largest since 1984.

The last runner to win three straight New York City titles was Norwegian Grete Waitz, who won five of her nine total from 1982 through 1986.

Huddle, a two-time U.S. Olympian on the track making her marathon debut, was third, the best finish by a U.S. women’s runner since Shalane Flanagan was second in 2010.

Gwen Jorgensen, the Olympic triathlon champion in her marathon debut, finished 14th in 2:41:01.

Earlier, Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, completed her fourth straight sweep of the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City Marathons.

McFadden, born in Russia paralyzed from the waist down and adopted from a St. Petersburg orphanage at age 6 by an American, completed her New York City four-peat on Sunday in 1 hour, 47 minutes, 43 seconds. She won by more than one minute after 26.2 miles.

The 27-year-old became the first women’s wheelchair racer to win four straight New York City Marathons, taking her fifth overall crown. She has won 20 combined World Marathon Major titles.

She’s the only marathoner, able-bodied or wheelchair, to sweep Boston, Chicago, London and New York City in one year, let alone four.

McFadden shockingly lost the Rio Paralympic marathon in a photo finish (video here). The woman who beat McFadden there, China’s Zou Lihong, made her New York City Marathon debut Sunday.

McFadden went to Rio with a shot at seven gold medals in September. She won the 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m and earned silver in the 100m and the marathon. She and the U.S. were disqualified from the 4x400m relay.

Also Sunday, Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the New York City Marathon men’s wheelchair race in a photo finish over Australian Kurt Fearnley. Hug swept the Berlin, Boston and Chicago Marathons this year, plus the Paralympics.

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Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

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Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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