Nick Symmonds, Duane Solomon look to end U.S. drought in 800 meters

Nick Symmonds
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In London, the U.S. came thisclose to winning a medal in the men’s 800 meters at the Olympics for the first time since 1992.

Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds ran personal bests in the 2012 Olympic final and finished fourth and fifth, respectively. It was one of the greatest overall Olympic races ever run — from first place all the way down to eighth. Kenya’s David Rudisha won in a world record, and seven of the eight men set personal bests.

“Duane and I were literally tenths of seconds off a medal,” Symmonds said in a phone interview from Moscow. “We both kind of still feel the sting of that. Even though we ran fast. It certainly haunts me a little bit that I didn’t bring a medal home last year. The only thing that picked me up from that disappointment was Moscow was a year away and that I could redeem myself. ”

The end of a 16-year drought is on the line in Moscow, a fact Symmonds is well aware of. The U.S. hasn’t grabbed a medal in the men’s 800 at a World Championships since Rich Kenah‘s bronze in 1997, and it’s never won a silver or a gold in the two-lap race.

That will likely change Tuesday, when Solomon and Symmonds run in the final in Moscow (1:10 p.m. Eastern time, Universal Sports). Yes, Solomon and Symmonds are running well this year, but the bigger factor is who won’t be competing at Luzhniki Stadium.

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Rudisha and Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana are out with injuries, and Kenyan bronze medalist Timothy Kitum simply wasn’t good enough to make the worlds team this year. Solomon and Symmonds are the top returnees from London in the eight-man final field.

Not only are medals there for the taking, but the gold is also totally up for grabs. The oustpoken Symmonds, who dated Paris Hilton and run a beer mile, says making the Moscow podium will not feel watered-down despite who’s missing.

“This sport is about so many more things than just running fast times and being defending champion,” Symmonds said. “It’s also about durability. Rudisha’s an incredible talent, and I may never come close to his world record, but in this case maybe I’m a bit more durable than he is.”

The U.S. champion Solomon, 28, owns the fastest time in the world this year (1 minute, 43.27 seconds). Symmonds, 29, is the fourth fastest man this year (1:43.67).

The Americans could be considered clear gold-silver favorites if not for the presence of Ethiopian Mohammed Aman, who placed sixth at the Olympics and owns the second- and third-fastest times of 2013.

Any medal would represent a landmark for Solomon and Symmonds, who both failed to advance out of the first round in their world championship debuts in 2007. Symmonds went on to make the worlds final in 2009 and 2011, finishing sixth then fifth. A greater leap may be in order this year.

“Some years when you have a guy like Rudisha, you say we’re kind of fighting for silver and bronze,” Symmonds said. “This year, everybody’s got their eye on the gold.”

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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