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Mary Keitany, Tatyana McFadden to defend NYC Marathon titles

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NEW YORK — Kenyan Mary Keitany, the world’s preeminent female road runner, will go for her fourth straight New York City Marathon title on Nov. 5.

Keitany chose to race New York’s challenging course for a sixth time rather than debut on the flatter roads of Berlin or Chicago, where she could try to lower her women-only world record.

“I want to continue to be in the history books,” Keitany reasoned, emphasizing trying to extend her New York City streak rather than chasing times. Keitany spoke from a Midtown Manhattan hotel as she prepares to race the New York Road Runners Mini 10km on Saturday.

Keitany could be one-upped in the Nov. 5 five-borough race by another woman. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, eyes her fifth straight NYC Marathon wheelchair title and sixth overall.

Keitany and McFadden are the second and third headline commitments to this year’s NYC Marathon, the world’s largest 26.2-miler with 50,000 yearly finishers. They follow Meb Keflezighi, the only U.S. runner to win here since 1982, who says New York will mark his 26th and final marathon as an elite racer.

Keitany, 35, has torn up the pavement since Kenya’s track and field federation dumbfoundingly left her off its three-woman Rio Olympic marathon team.

Last Nov. 6, the mother of two became the first runner to win three straight New York City titles since Norwegian Grete Waitz won five of her record nine from 1981 through 1986. She did so with the largest winning margin since 1984.

Keitany followed that with a half-marathon personal best in February. Then on April 23, she broke Paula Radcliffe‘s women-only world record in winning her third London Marathon crown in 2:17:01.

Keitany’s fastest time in five New York appearances is 2:23:38. She is not focusing on the women’s course record of 2:22:31.

“I try to run according to my feelings,” she said.

Keitany finished fourth in her only Olympic appearance in 2012, four months after winning the London Marathon. She estimated she will race another three or four years.

The 2016 NYC Marathon runner-up, Kenyan Sally Kipyego, is expecting a baby in July. The third-place finisher, American Molly Huddle, is focusing on the track at least through the world championships in August.

In a contrast from Keitany, McFadden’s dominance has weakened in the last year. After sweeping the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City Marathons in 2013, 2014 and 2015, she was beaten at the Rio Paralympics in September.

Then in February, McFadden was again diagnosed with blood clots in her legs, requiring an operation. She was hospitalized again in early spring and then finished fourth in the Boston Marathon on April 17.

“I have a great team, and they acted so quickly on it, just to even get into my chair in Boston two weeks after surgery was crazy and insane,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t have done it.”

McFadden said last month she hopes to race on the track at the IPC World Championships in July in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m. She swept all those races, plus the 100m, at her last worlds appearance in 2013.

McFadden said her commitment to New York City will not necessarily preclude her from trying to compete in her second straight Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang in March. She earned a cross-country skiing silver medal at Sochi 2014.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” McFadden said of the winter sport. “I just want to see the direction of my health and make sure I take care of that first.”

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced four months pregnant in 110-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

In a Wonder Woman top, she gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative for people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. … I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

In the men’s 800m, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

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Lilly King to be less vocal on Yuliya Efimova topic this summer

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Expect to see Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova resume their breaststroke rivalry at the world championships next month.

It will look very different than in Rio, when King became a vocal opponent of doping and directed some of her words at the formerly suspended Russian Efimova.

“This summer, I’m not going to talk about everything that happened last summer,” King said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “I spoke my piece. I’ve said everything I need to say.”

Her focus needs to stay in the pool, where she must finish first or second at the USA Swimming National Championships next week to make it to worlds (broadcast schedule here).

King said in May her goal is to break world records at worlds in Budapest in July.

She may need to in order to defeat Efimova like in Rio.

Efimova has the fastest 100m breast time in the world this year, a 1:04.82 set on Sunday. The national record put her No. 3 on the all-time list (and .09 faster than King’s winning time in Rio).

King is in third place this year at 1:06.20, though she spent all winter focusing on NCAA competition in 25-yard pools.

In Rio, King said Efimova shouldn’t have been allowed to compete given her doping history.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1, 2016, and was absolved along with other athletes.

King memorably finger-wagged at an image of Efimova on a TV in the ready room before her 100m breast semifinal and relegated the Russian to silver the following the night.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last November, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

King struggled with her newfound fame after she returned home last summer, sobbing in a winter meeting with her University of Indiana coach, Ray Looze, according to the Indianapolis Star:

It was so hard to do normal activities in her hometown – go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant – that she considered wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her likeness was on a bingo card at a fall festival, so people purposely looked for her. When in Evansville now, she said, she looks at the ground so no one will recognize her. After an initial wave of attention on IU’s campus, she can walk around without interruption.

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