The king misses … (but Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s record pursuit isn’t over)

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — The pursuit continues for Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.

In agonizingly close fashion, the man they call the Biathlon King failed to break the record for most career Winter Olympic medals on Monday night.

His performance, though, was every bit what you’ve come to expect from one of history’s greatest Olympians.

Bjoerndalen, 40, finished fourth for the first time in 23 career Olympic races in the 12.5km pursuit won by flamboyant Frenchman Martin Fourcade. Bjoerndalen missed capturing his 13th career Olympic medal by 1.7 seconds, also the closest margin from which he’s missed an Olympic podium.

It was a heartbreaking result for the flag-waving Norwegian throng that trekked to the Laura Biathlon Stadium hoping to witness history.

Bjoerndalen shrugged.

“Fourth place is OK,” he said amid drips of drizzle afterward.

Bjoerndalen spoke with the patience of a man who knows more medals are on the way in relays next week. Two nights earlier, Bjoerndalen stunned by winning the opening 10km sprint for his 12th career medal and seventh gold.

He entered Sochi a contender for silvers or bronzes individually but was no longer Norway’s best biathlete, let alone the world’s. It was thought he would have to wait until next week’s relays to become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time. The record is held by his friend, 1990s Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie, who won 12 medals and eight golds.

Bjoerndalen’s sprint victory Saturday, witnessed in person by Daehlie, gave him a head start in the pursuit Monday. Biathletes begin the pursuit staggered based on their finish in the sprint.

Bjoerndalen won the sprint by one second over Austrian Dominik Landertinger, so he wore the No. 1 bib and skied out of the start in front of the field under the lights. Landertinger followed one second later, and so on and so on. First man to the finish wins.

The 12.5km pursuit consists of five 2.5km loops and four bouts of shooting, the first two prone and the last two standing. Clean shooting is a must, hitting all five circular targets from 50m away per shooting station. The targets are just shy of 2 inches wide for prone and 4.5 inches for standing. Each miss costs a skier 20 to 30 seconds in a 150m penalty loop over a 34-minute race.

Biathletes ski mostly outside view of the main stadium stands. The crowd watches on a jumbo screen next to the shooting range and cheers wildly when the biathletes ski into the stadium for their shooting. That’s when the in-race standings become clear.

On Monday, heart-pounding instrumental music, such as Two Steps from Hell’s “Black Blade,” played throughout the half-hour. Biathlon is bigger in Russia than Norway, so more cheers were directed toward native son Anton Shipulin than Bjoerndalen, despite the shot at history.

Bjoerndalen entered the stadium for the first round of shooting in the lead group and shot clean. But he would miss once in each of the next three rounds, costing him more than one minute of time in penalty loops.

Nobody else who finished in the top seven had more than one miss. That Bjoerndalen stayed in the medal hunt despite poor shooting was a testament to his incredible skiing, even at age 40.

Fourcade missed once but went clean in the final round to clinch his gold, pumping his arms toward the crowd and eventually blowing a kiss as he crossed the finish line for his first Olympic gold. Czech Ondrej Moravec came in 14 seconds later. He went 20 for 20 shooting after starting 15 seconds behind Bjoerndalen due to their results from Saturday.

The battle was for bronze. It came down to France’s Jean Guillame Beatrix and Bjoerndalen.

Beatrix started 39 seconds after Bjoerndalen but had moved 9.6 seconds ahead with 1.6km of skiing left (or one mile). Beatrix, 25, is in his first Olympics.

“I was aware of the situation thanks to the big screen in the stadium,” Beatrix said. “I had the situation under control.”

Still, Bjoerndalen spent the next three minutes reeling in the youngster and entered the stadium one final time seemingly within striking distance.

But the King missed.

It was apparent on the final straightaway he wouldn’t have enough to pass the Frenchman. Bjoerndalen crossed the finish and collapsed to the snow in exhaustion, customary in biathlon and cross-country skiing. Bjoerndalen said he thought he could catch Beatrix, but that he started his final kick too late. Even the greats make mistakes.

“I’m really sad about that,” Bjoerndalen said.

The shooting was what cost him.

“One miss too much,” Bjoerndalen said. “You need to hit almost everything if you want to win.”

Bjoerndalen didn’t dwell on spending another night tied with Daehlie in total medals and one behind in golds. He said he doesn’t feel pressure this close to the solo records.

“Medals is one part of the Olympics,” said Bjoerndalen, who is in the running for a spot on the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission to be voted on by athletes competing at these Games.

Nor did he use his age as an excuse. He has two more individual events left in addition to the relays. The next is Thursday.

“When I won gold two days ago my age wasn’t a problem,” he said. “I was fighting [Monday], and that was most important.”

Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final