Hannah Kearney

Preview: Canada could provide bumpy competition in moguls

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EVENT SCHEDULE

Thursday – Women’s qualification 9 a.m. ET

Saturday – Women’s qualification 9 a.m. ET; women’s gold medal round 1 p.m. ET

Feb. 10 – Men’s qualification 9 a.m. ET; men’s final round 1 p.m. ET

TV SCHEDULE

Thursday – Women’s qualification, 8 p.m. ET, NBC-TV

Saturday – Women’s gold medal final, 2 p.m. ET, NBC-TV

Feb. 10 – Men’s gold medal final, 8 p.m. ET, NBC-TV

MORE: 14 facts you didn’t know about moguls

FORMAT CHANGE

NBC’s Jason Stahl succinctly breaks down the changes from Vancouver to Sochi:

The format in Vancouver included two runs. There was a qualification run, your scores cleared, then you had a finals run. That was the medal round. Heading into Sochi, there’s now two separate days for moguls – for both men and women. There’s going to be a qualification day and if you move on to a second day of competition with three more rounds, knockout-style, that culiminates in the final round, also known as the “super final.” Scores do not carry over and the athlete with the top score from this one run wins.

U.S. skier Heather McPhie seems thrilled about the changes, for one.

“It’s very different,” McPhie said. “It adds an endurance component to our sport that’s not common in singles. For me, it’s great. I workout a lot and I’ve been really preparing for that format.”

If that wasn’t enough, NBCOlympics.com passes along word that there have been some issues with the moguls course in Sochi. There could be some variables at play during these events.

U.S. OUTLOOK

Kearney is the big name in the women’s event, as she defends her gold from 2010 and hopes to become the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals in the process. She’s been dominant since winning it all in Vancouver, as her 16 consecutive World Cup victories set a new record.

Growing up Hannah Kearney

Other American women include McPhie, Heidi Kloser and Eliza Outtrim.

The U.S. boasts two men’s moguls competitors in Patrick Deneen and Bradley Wilson. Deneen, 26, came in second at the 2013 World Championships, edging Mikael Kingsbury. Wilson, 21, hopes to match his brother Byron (who won a bronze in 2010).

Model Olympian: Patrick Daneen

INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK

Canada may provide the greatest competition in both the men’s and women’s formats.

Alex Bilodeau became the first Canadian to win it all on home soil when he won men’s moguls gold in Vancouver. He’ll hope to back up that performance with consecutive gold medals, with fellow Canadian Mikael Kingsbury ranking among his best competition. Depending upon whom you ask, Kingsbury may very well be the favorite instead of Bilodeau.

Canada also boasts Marc-Antoine Gagnon and Torino gold medalist Dale Begg-Smith (coming out of retirement), while Russia’s Aleksandr Smyshlyayev is being trained by former Canadian coach Stephen Fearing.

Alex Bilodeau takes it ‘slo’ training in Chile

On the women’s side, a trio of Canadian sisters could give Kearing a run for her money. Maxime, Chloe and Justin Dufour-Lapointe bring in varied levels of hype and hope to build off their experiences from Vancouver. Justine, 19 and the youngest, might be the most formidable of the three.

Japan’s Miki Ito and Aiko Uemura join Kazakhstan’s Yulia Galysheva, Australia’s Britteny Cox and the Czech Republic’s Nikola Sudova are other names to watch.

Tale of the Tape: Hannah Kearney vs. Justine Dufoir-Lapointe

Emily Sisson a U.S. Olympic marathon trials favorite, thanks to Ireland

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Emily Sisson didn’t think she would become a professional runner until her last year of college. Now, at 28, she goes into the U.S. Olympic marathon trials as a contender for one of three Tokyo spots, if not the overall favorite.

“I’ve only done one marathon, so I definitely don’t feel like I’m an experienced marathoner,” Sisson said by phone last week from her Arizona base. “That’s the one question mark I’ve had all build-up.”

Predicting a marathon can be a crapshoot, but a Podiumrunner.com experts panel pegged Sisson to win. She is younger than any female U.S. Olympic marathoner since Anne Marie Lauck in 1996 (though fellow contender Jordan Hasay is a month younger).

Confidence stems from last April 28. Sisson clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow. She finished sixth — behind five East Africans. She crossed 3:25 ahead of sometimes training partner and mentor Molly Huddle, also a headliner at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (12 p.m. ET, NBC).

“We wanted to run faster,” Sisson said that day in London. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Sisson later mentioned a pre-race scare on the “Keeping Track” podcast. She tripped over a carpet jogging back from a bathroom, banged both knees 15 minutes before the start and got checked out physically by a chiropractor and mentally by her husband, who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Sisson then covered the final half of that marathon alone, a foreign feeling for the longtime track runner. At one point, she thought about having never before run more than 23 miles.

Her mind could have also wandered to sports memories that led her to the world’s strongest marathon: Attending a 1999 Women’s World Cup match and seeing her hero, Mia Hamm. As a soccer-playing teenager, being asked by a friend to join a track relay team. Or being told during a record-breaking high school career that she was reminiscent of 2004 Olympic marathoner Jen Rhines.

Sisson, whose dad ran and mom did gymnastics at the University of Wisconsin, transferred after one year in Madison to Providence. She had a best NCAA Championships finish of fourth going into her last year. Before that final season, Sisson was prepared to leave competitive running once her NCAA eligibility exhausted in pursuit of an MBA.

“I had been going through a bit of a funk with running,” she said. “I was getting a little tired.”

Things changed the summer before her senior year. She vacationed with then-boyfriend/now-husband Shane Quinn, a fellow Providence runner, in Quinn’s native Ireland. At one point, they altered training, ditching tempo runs for local road races. Sisson never before competed on the roads. She doesn’t remember the distances being exact. She does remember winning.

“That was a new, fun thing that kept the sport kind of fresh for me,” she said. “You finish, and you go into a local pub and have sandwiches.”

Providence coach Ray Treacy put Sisson in more road races that fall. The opportunity was right. She had no cross-country eligibility left while she readied for the winter and spring track seasons. She went on to win the 2015 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 5000m, a springboard to the pros (while still going after the MBA).

Sisson was set back by injury in 2016 and placed 10th in the Olympic trials 10,000m. She kept training under Treacy, and perhaps just as important, with Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m. Huddle, seven years older than Sisson, made her marathon debut after the Rio Olympics.

“Emily really looks up to her and is inspired by her,” Treacy said. “Molly has helped her out in numerous ways in training. … Making sure she’s not going overboard with the training, not running too fast. She kind of keeps her under control.”

Sisson made the last two world championships teams in the 10,000m, but Treacy thought marathon since 2015. They signed her up for the 2019 London Marathon, in part because Huddle was going to race it as her third career 26.2-miler. And in part to get Sisson ready for the Olympic trials in 10 months’ time.

The build-up was better than ideal. Sisson ran the second-fastest half marathon in U.S. history (on a record-eligible course) in January. She became the third-fastest U.S. woman all-time at 10,000m in March.

Come April, Treacy was impressed again just by watching Sisson after she crossed the London finish line in what would be the second-fastest marathon for a U.S. woman in 2019.

“It didn’t look like it took anything out of her,” Treacy said. “She recovered really fast. Within minutes, she was feeling pretty good. That was a good sign.”

Sisson returned home to Quinn and their golden retriever, Desmond, who has 1,400 Instagram followers. She skipped a fall marathon to compete in the 10,000m at track worlds in Doha, placing a respectable 10th.

The recent marathon build-up for trials went just as well, if not better, than the training for London.

“I’m definitely putting a bit of pressure on myself with this one,” Sisson said. “But at the same time, I don’t get caught up in so much what other people say. I don’t really read the articles about who’s the favorite or what chance you have of making the team.”

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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic trials

Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic trials