Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge, Rio gold medalist, training to break two-hour marathon mark in 2017

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The reigning Olympic marathon champion has teamed with Nike for Breaking2, an attempt to run 26.2 miles in under two hours.

In the official press release, Nike referred to the project as “an innovation moonshot designed to unlock human potential.”

Over the past two years, WIRED and Runner’s World reports, Nike has dedicated a team of scientists, coaches, designers and statisticians to breaking the two-hour marathon barrier. According to WIRED, the Breaking2 team is “working to address every single factor that might slow the runners down. They’re looking at the aerodynamic properties of running apparel; pacing strategies of world-class runners as well as what they eat and how they train; the look, size, and feel of racing shoes; even the environment and shape of the track.”

Nike has recruited three top athletes for the project: Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, a three-time Olympic medalist who won gold in the men’s marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics; Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese, who holds the half marathon world record and also won a bronze medal in the 10,000m at the Athens Olympics; and Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa, a two-time Boston Marathon winner.

Tadese told Runner’s World, “I know one day [two hours] will be broken. I want to be part of it.”

The current world record, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at the Berlin Marathon in Sept. 2014, is 2:02:57.

Kipchoge’s personal best time is 2:03:05, notched at the 2015 London Marathon. His winning time in Rio was 2:09:54.

It’s expected that the Breaking2 team will not attempt to break the two-hour mark during a traditional marathon. Instead, Kipchoge, Tadese and Desisa will likely race on a specially-designed course that’s closed to the public.

The special marathon is reportedly planned for spring 2017, with the exact date and location yet to be announced.

Nike hasn’t addressed whether their attempt at breaking the world record will be sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federation.

“At the end of the day, we just want to show it can be done,” Nike’s VP of Footwear Innovation, Tony Bignall, told Runner’s World. “We want to show that it’s within the capability of human physiology.”

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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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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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