Mo Farah comes to New York pursuing unfamiliar territory

Mo Farah

NEW YORK — A man with one million Twitter followers (twice as many as New York’s mayor), 119 Wikipedia footnotes and two Olympic gold medals went unrecognized in the Big Apple this week. Perhaps unsurprisingly so.

One group of New Yorkers made him feel welcome though. Mo Farah‘s grand arrival before Sunday’s NYC Half marathon came at P.S. 1 in lower Manhattan on Thursday.

Farah, the British distance great, the first man ever to sweep the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Olympics and World Championships in back-to-back years, jogged with about 50 elementary school students inside a gymnasium.

He’s not in London anymore. Heck, he’s not even in Portland, Ore., his training base in a state where so many U.S. runners are groomed.

At P.S. 1, Farah held a question-and-answer session with the kids. He spoke of smart choices, finding one’s talents and the epic 2000 Olympic 10,000m final between Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie and Kenyan Paul Tergat.

He then sat a table in the middle of the gym, dressed in Nike from head to toe (including a Mobot logo) and in front of posters the kids made for the occasion.

Farah answered questions from a few reporters in a row of chairs as the kids, sitting on the gym floor, looked on with varying attention spans.

What’s it like being in New York with your family?

“I can chill out,” said Farah, who could have been referencing the city’s sub-freezing, never-ending winter. “We can go to restaurants, we can push the kids, take some photos, Times Square, relax. Nobody recognizes you. If that was Piccadilly Circus in London, Leicester Square, I don’t think I could have done that.”

It’s a different experience for Farah, even from his previous visit for the 2011 NYC Half, which he won.

That victory was before he became double Olympic champion in London in 2012, repeated the feat at the 2013 World Championships and switched to marathon training this year.

Farah’s track-to-road conversion is set to be the biggest storyline in the sport before Usain Bolt and Co. herald the outdoor track season later this spring. Can the world’s greatest distance runner convert to a race four times longer than the 10,000m?

The NYC Half is a step toward Farah’s 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 13.

“From running 5K/10K to going to a marathon is completely different,” Farah said. “I”m here, on the weekend, to test myself.”

Farah, 30, trained the last two months in Kenya, home of six of the seven fastest marathoners of all time.

The training has been hard, but it’s gone well, Farah said. He’s worked not only on getting comfortable at a proper pace but also making sure he doesn’t miss drink stations — as he did in running half of last year’s London Marathon — and getting used to the specific drink he will take. Farah wouldn’t reveal its ingredients.

“When you’ve never done a marathon before, you don’t know what it’s like,” Farah said. “I don’t know what to expect.

“Am I going to be good at marathons as I was good at track? I guess we’re going to find out.”

What did he learn from training with Kenyans? That training is the hardest thing about marathon running. He’s also picked up a thing or two from his coach, the scrutinized, Havana-born Alberto Salazar. Salazar won the New York City Marathon three straight times from 1980-82.

“He’s been there, done it,” Farah said. “I believe in him. We are doing the right training. … I’m confident.”

Farah will face an accomplished field over 13.1 miles on Sunday, including two-time reigning New York City Marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai (of Kenya) and top American Meb Keflezighi.

He will confer with Salazar after Sunday’s race and make adjustments — small changes, if anything, he hopes — over the next month before London. The London Marathon is one of six World Marathon Majors and hasn’t been won by a British man in 21 years.

What’s his future after the London Marathon?

Farah won’t say for sure, but he’s already committed to one post-marathon track meet, a Diamond League competition in Glasgow, Scotland, on July 11-12. The Commonwealth Games are also in Glasgow later in the summer, but Farah hasn’t decided on that yet.

“See if I’ve lost any speed, lost any strength in terms of the track,” Farah said of entering the Diamond League meet. “It would have been a whole year I had not been on the track.”

What’s bigger is 2015, a World Championships year, and 2016, an Olympic year. Could he stick to marathon running?

“If I’m good in London, then I’ll do it a couple more times,” Farah said, according to the BBC. “If not, I’ll come back to the track.”

He seemed confident he will return to a shorter distance to race Usain Bolt, a topic that’s been talked about since the London Olympics as a possible charity event.

“It will happen at some point soon,” Farah said, narrowing the distance to 500m or 600m. “I don’t know where it’s going to happen. Probably one of the big cities, but, yeah, it will hopefully happen some point.”

100-year-old man entered in USA Masters Track Championships

Taylor Fritz becomes crowd enemy at French Open

Taylor Fritz French Open

The French Open crowd was not happy with American player Taylor Fritz after he beat one of their own — indeed, their last man in the bracket — so they booed and whistle relentlessly. Fritz’s response? He told them to shush. Over and over again.

Fritz, a 25-year-old from California who is seeded No. 9 at Roland Garros, got into a back-and-forth with the fans at Court Suzanne Lenglen after his 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 comeback victory over 78th-ranked Arthur Rinderknech in the second round on Thursday night.

Rinderknech attempted a lob that landed long on the last point, and Fritz, who had been running toward the baseline to chase the ball, immediately looked up into the stands and pressed his right index finger to his lips to say, essentially, “Hush!”

He held that pose for a bit as he headed back toward the net for a postmatch handshake, then spread his arms wide, wind-milled them a bit as if to egg on the rowdiness, and yelled: “Come on! I want to hear it!”

During the customary winner’s on-court interview that followed, more jeers rained down on Fritz, and 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli kept pausing her attempts to ask a question into her microphone.

So Fritz again said, “Shhhhh!” and put his finger toward his mouth, while Bartoli unsuccessfully tried to get the spectators to lower their decibel level.

More boos. More whistles.

And the awkwardness continued as both Bartoli and a stadium announcer kept saying, “S’il vous plaît” — “Please!” — to no avail, while Fritz stood there with his arms crossed.

A few U.S. supporters with signs and flags drew Fritz’s attention from the front row, and he looked over and said to them, “I love you guys.”

But the interview was still on hold.

Bartoli tried asking a question in English, which only served to draw more boos.

So Fritz told her he couldn’t hear her. Bartoli moved closer and finally got out a query — but it didn’t seem to matter what her words were.

Fritz, who has been featured on the Netflix docuseries about tennis called “Break Point,” had his hands on his hips and a message on his mind — one reminiscent of Daniil Medvedev’s contretemps with fans at the 2019 U.S. Open.

“I came out and the crowd was so great honestly. Like, the crowd was just so great,” Fritz said, as folks tried to drown out his voice. “They cheered so well for me, I wanted to make sure that I won. Thanks, guys.”

And with that, he exited the stage.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

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French Open: Coco Gauff to face younger opponent for first time at a Grand Slam

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff‘s first 49 Grand Slam main draw singles matches were all against older opponents. Her 50th will be against a younger one.

The sixth-seeded Gauff reached the French Open third round by beating 61st-ranked Austrian Julia Grabher 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday. Gauff, 19, next plays 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the round of 32 on Saturday.

“I don’t see age as a factor,” said Gauff, who has practiced with Andreeva. “When you step on the court, you just see your opponent, and you don’t really think about the personal side of things. You just see forehand, backhand, serve, and all the same.”

Gauff made her major debut at age 15 in 2019 by beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon. In her 15 majors, Gauff has usually been the youngest male or female singles player, including most recently at 2022 Wimbledon. She is still the lone teenager in the WTA top 49.

But that may soon change. Youngsters from the Czech Republic and Russia are on the rise. Such as Andreeva, who, at No. 143 in the world and climbing, is the highest-ranked player under the age of 18. And she doesn’t turn 17 until next April. Andreeva dropped just six games in her first two matches, fewest of any woman.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

But Gauff is still in a class of her own among her generation, having at last year’s French Open become the youngest major finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17. She somehow flew somewhat under the radar into Paris this year with a 4-4 record this spring and in between full-time coaches.

She has now won back-to-back matches for the first time since March, rallying past 71st-ranked Spaniard Rebeka Masarova in the first round and then dispatching an error-prone Grabher, a runner-up at a low-level clay event last week.

The other three seeds in Gauff’s section have all lost, so she would not play a seed until the quarterfinals. And that would be No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won all 12 sets they’ve played, including in last year’s French Open final.

“I lost that final, and like for like a week or two, I really thought it was the worst thing ever,” Gauff said. “There’s no point in me revisiting last year. It’s in the past. It was a great tournament, but I’m looking forward for more this week.”

While the men’s draw has been upended by 14-time champion Rafael Nadal‘s pre-event withdrawal and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev‘s loss in the first round, the top women have taken care of business.

The top four seeds — Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, American Jessica Pegula and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan — all reached the third round without dropping a set.

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