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Kenenisa Bekele eyes world record at London Marathon

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Ethiopian icon Kenenisa Bekele takes his second crack at the 26.2-mile world record this year at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

Bekele, an Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 5000m and 10,000m, leads a field that includes Rio Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia and 2016 New York City Marathon winner Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea.

The women’s race on Sunday is even more decorated:

Mary Keitany: Five combined London and NYC Marathon wins
Vivian Cheruiyot: Rio Olympic 5000m champ in marathon debut
Tirunesh Dibaba: Eight combined Olympic/world titles at 5000m/10,000m
Mare Dibaba: 2015 World marathon champion
Tigist Tufa: 2015 London Marathon winner
Florence Kiplagat: Two Berlin Marathon titles

If one runner is the focus Sunday, it’s Bekele.

In his last finished marathon, Bekele missed the world record of 2:02:57 by six seconds in September.

He’s already arguably the greatest runner of all time, by virtue of his eight combined Olympic and world 5000m and 10,000m gold medals and enduring world records in both distances.

Bekele, now 34, set the 5000m mark in 2004. Nobody has been within nine seconds since. He broke the 10,000m record in 2004 and 2005. Nobody has been within 18 seconds in the last 12 years.

Bekele moved up to the marathon in 2014 and had decent results but was not a world-beater.

Until Sept. 25. Bekele won the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 3 seconds, the second-fastest time ever on a record-eligible course. He was disappointed that he did not break Dennis Kimetto‘s world record from 2014.

London will mark Bekele’s third marathon in the last seven months. He was trampled at the start of the Dubai Marathon on Jan. 20 and then dropped out of the race halfway through, citing a calf injury from the fall.

Bekele says he is fit.

“I am in just as good shape as I was in Berlin last year,” he said, according to London organizers. “I think I can improve my personal best.”

Don’t be so sure.

Berlin is unquestionably the best course for world-record chasing. Six of the seven fastest marathon times in history came in Berlin in the last six years (on record-eligible courses).

Bekele also benefited in Berlin last year from having Wilson Kipsang, the former world-record holder, to push him to a faster time in the final miles.

The London field includes neither Kipsang nor Eliud Kipchoge, considered the world’s best marathoner. Kipchoge is preparing for Nike’s special attempt to break two hours in the marathon on an Italian race track in two weeks. That Nike attempt is reportedly not for an officially sanctioned world record, though.

Bekele is one of eight active runners who have broken 2:04. None of the other seven are in the London field.

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Jessica-Ennis Hill gives birth to second child

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Great Britain’s two-time Olympic medalist, heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, announced the birth of her second child on Instagram inviting her family, friends and fans to welcome Olivia Ennis-Hill to the world.

In her Instagram post, Olivia is holding Ennis-Hill’s three year old son Reggie’s finger as the two siblings meet for the first time.

Reggie meeting his beautiful baby sister 😊 Olivia Ennis-Hill, she was born Saturday night. We are all so in love with her 💕

A post shared by Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill (@jessicaennishill) on

After winning heptathlon gold at the 2012 London Olympics and a silver in the same event in Rio in 2016, Ennis-Hill announced her retirement from competition in October of last year.

About that title of Dame, in April at a ceremony held in Buckingham Palace, the Duke of Cambridge (aka Prince William) bestowed damehood upon Ennis-Hill.

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The Ennis-Hill family are darlings of the English press, so expect to see more photos in the future of the now two-time Olympic mom.

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Slovakia’s Sagan first to win three-straight road race world titles

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In a dramatic photo finish, Slovakia’s Peter Sagan became the first man ever to win three consecutive men’s world championship road race titles when he crossed the finish line in Bergen, Norway.

Norway’s Alexander Kristoff rounded the final turn toward home with a slight lead, churning for the finish, but Sagan sprinted up his right side to edge the Norwegian on the final extension at the finish.

An estimated 100,000 spectators watched the riders repeatedly try to establish a lead pack throughout the race which ended with 12 loops through the streets of Bergen, but no one could find a way to make a clean break. Sagan would bide his time in the peloton for much of the race.

Adding even more drama to an already thrilling road race, with 3km left France’s Julian Alaphilippe began pulling away from a bunched peloton, which kicked off the final lap en masse. With Alaphilippe appearing in control, the cameras shooting from the lead pack motorcycle lost power.

Television commentators and everyone watching on TV or online were left in the dark, waiting to catch a glimpse of the lead riders. Tension mounted while viewers were stuck looking at a road void of cyclists near one of the final turns toward the finish.

“Where are the riders at the front of this race!” lamented NBC’s Paul Sherwen.

When the riders finally came into view, Alaphilippe was no longer in the lead, and 25-30 riders were jockeying for position as they rushed to the finish, but it was Sagan who would cross first in the end.

“For the last five kilometers, I said to myself, it’s already done. But it’s unbelievable. This is something special. You saw in the climb, we were in pieces. And at the finish, it all happened in seconds,” Sagan said after the race according to The Guardian.

“I want to dedicate this win to Michele Scarponi, it would have been his birthday tomorrow. And I want to dedicate this victory to my wife. We are expecting a baby.”

Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi was killed after being hit by a van while training near his home in Filottrano back in April. The loss was one that was felt across the entirety of the cycling world.

Michael Matthews of Australia finished the race in third.

Full results can be found here.

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