Elana Meyers Taylor
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Bobsled, skeleton world championships broadcast schedule, preview

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Elana Meyers Taylor says she’s starting to become herself again. Good timing, since the world championships start this weekend.

Meyers Taylor is the top U.S. gold-medal hope at bobsled and skeleton worlds in Koenigssee, Germany. Races will stream live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, beginning with first two women’s bobsled runs Friday at 8:15 a.m. ET.

The two-time Olympic medalist Meyers Taylor is riding a four-race winning streak on the World Cup, but it’s taken plenty of physical and mental pain to get here. She suffered a concussion in a race crash in Koenigssee on Jan. 26, 2015, with the after-effects lasting into the 2015-16 season, causing her to miss four races.

This season, Meyers Taylor has competed from the start. But she crashed in the season-opening race in Whistler, B.C., and dealt with back pain for most of the last three months. On top of everything, she struggled with the death of one of her grandfathers in early January.

Meyers Taylor teams this weekend with second-year push athlete Kehri Jones, who ejected out of the back of the sled in that Whistler crash.

Worlds were moved from Sochi, Russia, to Koenigssee two months ago amid the Russian doping scandal. Meyers Taylor showed her Koenigssee crash from two years ago was behind her when she won a World Cup race on the track in January.

“I’m confident on this track,” she said earlier this week. “The last time I was here, I was having trouble in the same spot where I had my crash. A little bit of hesitation, a little bit of problems there. Now, everything seems to be clicking down there.”

Meyers Taylor’s goal every season (outside of the Olympics, which she has yet to win) is to sweep the World Cup and world championships titles. That’s exactly what she did in 2015, but Meyers Taylor was third at worlds last season and missed half of the World Cup races due to that concussion.

She attributes recent success to a change in philosophy given the past two years.

“I’ve gotten a different perspective on bobsled,” Meyers Taylor said. “Every day I go out there, I’m just happy to be there and happy to be sliding. I’ve really taken the approach this year to focus on my driving and not worry about winning or losing races. Wins will come if I drive well.”

Her biggest challengers at worlds will come from her longtime top rivals, Canadian Kaillie Humphries and American Jamie Greubel Poser, who joined Meyers Taylor on the Sochi podium. Meyers Taylor led after the first three of four runs at the Olympics before falling behind Humphries in the finale.

The Olympics and worlds are the only events with a four-run format. Humphries leads this season’s World Cup standings through seven of eight races, but Meyers Taylor still believes she’s the woman to beat in Koenigssee.

“I’d be stupid if I didn’t say myself,” she said.

After Koenigssee, the world’s top sliders head to PyeongChang for training on the Olympic track plus the final World Cup of the season. Meyers Taylor, 32, expects to compete beyond 2018, “until the wheels fall off,” but also wants to start a family with her husband.

All but one of the push athletes on the national team were recruited to the sport by Meyers Taylor, making her perhaps the most valuable person in the entire American program.

“It’s called desperation,” she said. “I know that world championships and PyeongChang is going to come down to hundredths of a second. I needed every hundredth of a second I could from a brakeman standpoint. I make it a point to go out there and find my own athletes. If I want something to happen, I’ve got to make sure to do it myself. I can’t leave it up to somebody randomly finding bobsled.”

Jones, whom Meyers Taylor calls her “spark plug,” came over in 2015 after sprinting at Baylor University.

Meyers Taylor was talking with Baylor’s strength-and-conditioning and track-and-field coaches about potential bobsled converts when Jones’ name came up in an email. Jones’ diminutive size (5 feet, 130 pounds) made her valuable in bobsled, where sled weight maximums have been reduced in the last two years.

A look at the other disciplines at worlds:

Men’s Bobsled
German sleds have won 12 of the last 14 two- or four-man world titles on German tracks. The host nation has three drivers capable of taking gold this year — Francesco Friedrich, Johannes Lochner and Nico Walther.

In the two-man, Friedrich is favored to join Italian legend Eugenio Monti as the only drivers to win four straight world titles in any event. He has won four of the seven World Cup races this season after coming back to beat Lochner for his third straight world title last year.

In the four-man, Lochner has won three of the seven races this season, his first full-time on the World Cup circuit. At the race in Koenigssee last month, Lochner and Walther went one-two.

If anybody is to upset the Germans, it may be 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb. The American tied Friedrich for second at the World Cup two-man in Koenigssee last month — behind Lochner — and was fourth in the four-man. He also finished third and sixth in the races at the 2011 Worlds in Koenigssee. These are expected to be the final worlds for the 36-year-old Holcomb.

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Men’s Skeleton
Russian Aleksandr Tretiyakov and Latvian Martins Dukurs enter as co-favorites, having alternated World Cup wins in Koenigssee the last four years and put up strong seasons to date. Tretiyakov topped Dukurs for the Olympic title in Sochi, while Dukurs relegated Tretiyakov to silver at the last two worlds.

Tretiyakov was banned for nine days in December and January after being implicated in the McLaren report on Russian doping leading up to and during Sochi, but the sanction was lifted due to a lack of evidence.

South Korean Yun Sung-Bin, a 2016 World Championships and World Cup runner-up (sharing silver at the former with Tretiyakov), has said he will skip worlds to get more training on the 2018 Olympic track in PyeongChang. That increases the medal chances for Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine, but the American placed seventh, 10th and 15th in his last three Koenigssee outings.

Women’s Skeleton
Despite its sliding-sports dominance, Germany has never won an Olympic skeleton title. That could change next year. Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann have been the two best women’s sliders over the past two years. At ages 22 and 24, they have succeeded Anja Huber and Marion Thees in the German program.

Loelling leads the World Cup standings and won the race in Koenigssee last month. Last season, Hermann swept the World Cup and World Championships titles, plus won both races in Koenigssee.

Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain returned this season after a one-year break but has one podium finish in six World Cup starts. Likewise, the U.S. women have combined for one World Cup podium, a disappointment after Annie O’Shea finished fourth in last season’s World Cup standings.

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Date Time (ET) Event Network
Friday, 2/17 8:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 10 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/17 3 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 9:15 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 10:45 a.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/18 4 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/18 5 p.m. Women’s Bobsled Run 3-4 Universal HD
Sunday, 2/19 4:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 6 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 9 a.m. Team Event Streaming
Sunday, 2/19 5 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday, 2/19 8:30 p.m. Team Event Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 7 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 9 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 11 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 2 Streaming
Friday, 2/24 4 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Friday, 2/24 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 1-2 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 2:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 4:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 2 Streaming
Saturday, 2/25 5 p.m. Women’s Skeleton Run 3-4 Universal HD
Saturday, 2/25 6 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 1-2 Universal HD
Sunday 2/26 2:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 4:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 7:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 9:15 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 4 Streaming
Sunday 2/26 3:30 p.m. Men’s Skeleton Run 3-4 NBCSN
Sunday 2/26 4:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled Run 3-4 NBCSN

London Marathon preview; runners to watch

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World records are under threat from male and female runners at the London Marathon on Sunday (3:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

The forecast calls for the warmest London Marathon in its 38-year history (a high Sunday in the low 70s, though likely cooler for the morning start times).

The elite fields, stronger than for last Monday’s Boston Marathon, include the greatest marathoners of this generation — Eliud Kipchoge and Mary Keitany — plus arguably each Kenyan’s top rival at the moment.

Five runners to watch in each field …

Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya
2016 Olympic champ
2015, 2016 London Marathon winner
Ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour marathon attempt last May

In Kipchoge’s last start in London, he missed countryman Dennis Kimetto‘s world record by eight seconds, prevailing in 2:03:05 in 2016. Since, Kipchoge won the Olympic title, had what he deemed his greatest performance in the sub-two-hour (non-record-eligible) event and extended his marathon win streak to seven races over four years in rainy, humid Berlin last September. The 33-year-old has refused to get into world-record talk, telling media he just wants to run “a beautiful race” Sunday.

Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia
Second-fastest marathoner of all time (Berlin 2016, 2:03:03)
World-record holder in 5000m, 10,000m
Eight Olympic/world titles in 5000m, 10,000m

Credentials from 5000m to marathon make a strong case that Bekele is the greatest runner of all time, ahead of Usain Bolt and Kipchoge. He really started taking aim at the world record after that 2016 Berlin breakthrough. Bekele was runner-up with foot blisters in London last year, nearly three minutes slower than in Germany, and failed to finish his other two marathons in 2017. “To have the records for 5000m to marathon would be something – no one else has done that. I feel like that would make me the greatest ever,” Bekele said, according to marathon organizers.

Mo Farah, Great Britain
2012, 2016 Olympic champ in 5000m/10,000m
Second marathon
8th at 2014 London Marathon

Farah’s primary goal Sunday is modest in comparison to Kipchoge and Bekele — break the British marathon record of 2:07:13. Farah, repeating in a press conference Tuesday that he is ranked 27th in the world in the distance, said he still intends to go out with the leaders even if they start on world-record pace. It’s his first marathon since switching full-time to road running after last season and his second overall after his 2:08:21 in London four years ago.

Guye Adola, Ethiopia
Second to Kipchoge at 2017 Berlin Marathon in 26.2-mile debut

Adola came out of nowhere to finish 14 seconds behind Kipchoge in Berlin on Sept. 24 in the fastest-ever marathon debut on a record-eligible course, sticking with Kipchoge until the last mile. Afterward, we learned Adola didn’t know he was running until four days before the race and wasn’t meant to start with the elite group. The 27-year-old was second and fifth in half marathons in January and February, not particularly impressive.

Daniel Wanjiru, Kenya
2017 London Marathon winner

Wanjiru won his major marathon debut last year, then returned to London for the world championships on Aug. 6 and was eighth. Neither of those fields was as strong as Sunday’s is shaping up to be. Just 25, Wanjiru will be tested like never before.

Mary Keitany, Kenya
2011, 2012, 2017 London Marathon winner
Ran fastest marathon by a woman without male pacers
2014, 2015, 2016 New York City Marathon winner

The 5-foot-2 mother of two smashed Paula Radcliffe‘s women-only world record by 41 seconds in London last year, clocking 2:17:01. She’ll run with male pacers Sunday in a bid to break Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25 from the 2003 London Marathon (the first time since 2003 London has male pacers for the women’s race). Keitany was stunned by Shalane Flanagan at her last marathon in New York City in November but came back in February to lower her half marathon personal best. “I’ve had Paula’s record in mind since I started my career,” the 36-year-old Keitany said.

Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia
2017 Chicago Marathon winner
2017 London Marathon runner-up
Third-fastest female marathoner of all time
Eight Olympic/world titles in 5000m/10,000m

The Baby-Faced Destroyer is the only woman in the field whose personal best is within two minutes of Keitany’s. There’s reason to believe she can be closer to Keitany than last year (55 seconds behind, and that’s after stopping briefly with two miles left with stomach problems). Dibaba is four years younger than Keitany, with a decorated track background and just one year into her full-time marathon career.

Gladys Cherono, Kenya
2015, 2017 Berlin Marathon winner

The woman with the third-fastest personal best in the field has never raced London and was fifth in her only major marathon outside of Berlin. She was eighth in a half marathon in February, more than two minutes behind Keitany.

Rose Chelimo, Bahrain
2017 World champion
2017 Boston Marathon runner-up

Impressive second year as a marathoner in 2017. Chelimo, 28, was born in Kenya but switched to Bahrain in 2015. Though this is her London Marathon debut, her world title came in London in August. She did not impress at the world half marathon championships last month, finishing 14th overall and fifth among runners from Bahrain.

Vivian Cheruiyot, Kenya
Fourth at 2017 London Marathon in 26.2-mile debut
Four Olympic medals in 5000m/10,000m
Four world championships in 5000m/10,000m

Credentials similar to but not quite as impressive as Dibaba in terms of track medals, early marathon experience and age (34 to Dibaba’s 32). Cheruiyot finished more than five minutes behind Keitany and Dibaba in her 26.2-mile debut in London last year. She dropped out of the New York City Half Marathon on March 18 with a breathing problem in the cold weather but insisted she’s healthy for Sunday.

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Lance Armstrong settles $100 million lawsuit with U.S. government

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong has reached a $5 million settlement with the federal government in a whistleblower lawsuit that could have sought $100 million in damages from the cyclist who was stripped of his record seven Tour de France victories after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career.

The deal announced Thursday came as the two sides prepared for a trial that was scheduled to start May 7 in Washington. Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis filed the original lawsuit in 2010 and is eligible for up to 25 percent of the settlement.

Seeking millions spent sponsoring Armstrong’s powerhouse teams, the government joined the lawsuit against Armstrong in 2013 after his televised confession to using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs and methods. Armstrong had already retired, but the confession shattered the legacy of one of the most popular sports figures in the world.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he’s happy to have “made peace with the Postal Service.”

“While I believe that their lawsuit against me was meritless and unfair, and while I am spending a lot of money to resolve it, I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes and inappropriate conduct, and make amends wherever possible,” he said. “I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”

The settlement clears the 46-year-old Armstrong of the most damaging legal issues still facing the cyclist since his downfall. He had already taken huge hits financially, losing all his major sponsors and being forced to pay more than $20 million in damages and settlements in a series of lawsuits. The government’s lawsuit would have been the biggest by far.

Armstrong is still believed to be worth millions based on a vast investment portfolio and homes in Austin, Texas, and Aspen, Colo. He also owns a pair of bicycle shops in Austin and WeDu, an endurance events company. He also hosts a regular podcast in which he interviews other sports figures and celebrities and has provided running commentary on the Tour de France.

Armstrong had built a worldwide following during his career winning races and fighting cancer.

His personal story of recovering from testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, while forcefully denying persistent rumors of doping, had built his Lance Armstrong Foundation cancer charity into a $500 million global brand and turned him into a celebrity. The foundation, which removed him from its board and renamed itself Livestrong, has seen donations and revenue plummet since Armstrong’s confession.

Armstrong’s team was already under the Postal Service sponsorship when he won his first Tour de France in 1999. The media frenzy that followed pushed the agency to sign the team for another five years. Armstrong and his teams dominated cycling’s marquee event, winning every year from 1999-2005.

Armstrong’s cheating was finally uncovered in 2012 when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, armed with sworn testimony from Landis and other former teammates, moved to strip Armstrong of his titles.

One of Armstrong’s fiercest critics was frustrated by the settlement. Betsy Andreu, whose husband Frankie was a former Armstrong teammate, was the first to testify under oath about his performance-enhancing drug use in a 2005 civil lawsuit.

“It’s utterly shocking that the government settled for so little,” Andreu said.

Andreu and her husband were close with Armstrong when the men were teammates before Andreu retired in 2000. Armstrong later strenuously denied Betsy’s claims of drug use and tried to publicly discredit her, which succeeded for years. She wanted the case to go to trial.

“I would have liked to have been questioned under oath. That’s my goal. And whether or not the jury would have convicted him would have been a different story, but it would have been nice to have my say under oath. He tried to destroy me.,” Andreu said.

Landis, himself a former doping cheat who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, sued Armstrong under the federal False Claims Act, alleging Armstrong and his team committed fraud against the government when they cheated while riding under the Postal Service banner. According to court records, the contract paid the team, which was operated by Tailwind Sports Corp., about $32 million from 2000 to 2004. Armstrong got nearly $13.5 million.

Under the lawsuit, the government could have pursued “treble” damages, which could have reached the $100 million range. As the person who filed the original lawsuit, Landis is eligible for up to 25 percent of the settlement, which will include an additional $1.65 million paid to Landis’ attorneys.

Armstrong had claimed he didn’t owe the Postal Service anything because the agency made far more off the sponsorship than it paid; Armstrong’s lawyers introduced internal studies for the agency that calculated benefits in media exposure topping $100 million. The government countered that Armstrong had been “unjustly enriched” through the sponsorship and that the negative fallout from the doping scandal tainted the agency’s reputation.

Armstrong had been the target of a federal criminal grand jury, but that case was closed without charges in February 2012. Armstrong had previously tried to settle the Landis whistleblower lawsuit, but those talks broke down before the government announced its intention to join the case.

“I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life,” Armstrong said. “I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life — my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”

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