Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon to move forward with traditional spectacle of a finish

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BOSTON — The Boston Marathon’s added significance this year also accentuates its traditions. That will be clear around lunchtime Monday, when the elite runners turn left off Hereford Street and onto Boylston Street.

“You make that turn, and there’s the finish line, so close, yet so far,” said Joan Benoit Samuelson, the 1979 and 1983 Boston Marathon champion. “We’re going to see a finish line like no other finish line.”

There will be 9,000 more runners than a year ago, and as many as double the spectators, perhaps one million along the 26.2-mile route through eight cities and towns.

They’ve come to participate in and watch the 118th edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon, one rocked by twin bombings last year. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two pressure cooker bombs exploded within about 12 seconds of each other near the revered Boylston Street finish line.

“Boylston Street is forever changed,” U.S. elite marathoner Ryan Hall said.

Boston Marathon Previews: Men | Women | TV, Race Schedules

The crowded sidewalks were a mix of remembrance and renewal on Good Friday.

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The shoes left at last year’s Boston Marathon represent three layers of meaning — running gear, good luck charms and eulogies.

The Boston Public Library’s Central Library takes up the south side of Boylston along the finish line. It houses, “Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial,” a free exhibit of displayed items brought inside from the outdoor makeshift memorials of last year.

There are four white crosses for the three who died from the attack — Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu — and for Sean Collier, the MIT police officer who investigators say was shot and killed by the bombing suspects days later.

There are a few hundred pairs of running shoes, which were left symbolically at bordering Copley Square by runners last year.

And there are supportive notes from a Sandy Hook, Conn., mom, Kashmiri Hindu refugees and a Yankees fan.

The Old South Church takes up the north side of Boylston just past the finish line. Senior women were swarmed by marathon entrants there Friday afternoon.

The women organized a giveaway of more than 7,000 blue and yellow scarves knitted and donated from around the world — Australia, Thailand, even 400 made by a group of women from New Hampshire. A hug accompanied each scarf, billed as “interwoven with love and courage.”

On the other side of the finish line, exact locations of the explosions were respectfully recognized.

Eight sets of yellow “Marathon Daffodils” lined in front of the Marathon Sports apparel shop at 671 Boylston, site of the first bomb.

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It wasn’t easy to notice the site of the second bomb while walking on crowded Boylston Street Friday.

More flowers, a runner’s medal hanging from a tree and a solitary shoe lay outside Forum restaurant at 755 Boylston, where the second bomb detonated.

The rest of Boylston’s sidewalks were a kaleidoscope — the blue and yellow apparel from the 2013 marathon, the orange jackets outfitted for this year’s race and the fluorescent green covering police officers at several stops.

In Copley Square, beyond the finish, John Singleton Copley‘s statue wore a blue and yellow scarf and race credential.

Just about every other storefront window advertised signs of encouragement, including a large odometer-type display of 858.5 feet to go outside Capital One bank’s cafe at 799 Boylston.

On Marathon Monday, the runners will use that atmosphere as final bits of fuel, passing the 26-mile mark.

It’s the crowd, most of all.

“You’re tapping into everything you can to get to the line,” said American Desiree Linden, who was two seconds shy of winning in 2011. “It’s like calling you home.

“That’s why you get up in the morning when it’s negative 30 [degrees] and head out the door [to train]. You think about that and how you could break that tape.”

And not just for the dozens of elite runners.

“They almost will you not to quit,” said Boston Fire Lt. Paul J. McCarthy, who is running his 16th marathon unofficially (he may have entered a few as an unregistered “bandit” runner on dares). “They just bring you home. It’s like a ride that they bring you on.”

Officials are expecting Boylston Street to be so popular that they’ve requested spectators instead watch at other course points.

Security will be staggering, about double the police presence as last year. The surveillance cameras, barricades and National Guard mark another reminder of the development of this race.

The two-time Olympian Hall has read books, studied and watched YouTube videos of landmark moments of the world’s oldest annual marathon.

“The thing that makes it the most unique is the history behind the race,” Hall said. “Now I get to take my turn in the history books.”

Inspired by the first modern Olympics in 1896, the Inaugural Boston Athletic Association Road Race in 1897 covered 24.5 miles, with 18 entrants, 15 starters and 10 finishers.

In 1968, Amby Burfoot of Connecticut won it literally running through the crowd in downtown Boston.

“It was like Moses and the Red Sea,” said Burfoot, now 67, who is checking off his 20th Boston Marathon this year. “They opened, they let me go, and they closed in back of me. And I had a guy [another competitor, behind me] on my shoulder. I was looking back for him, and all I could see was the crowd closing in back of me.”

Samuelson’s vivid Boylston memories are audible, listening to finish-line announcer Tom Grilk call her name over public address on course-record-setting victories in 1979 and 1983.

She heard nothing at the finish in 2013, when she clocked 2 hours, 50 minutes, 29 seconds, before the attack. Grilk, now the Boston Athletic Association executive director, saw his shift end near her 2:50 mark, and there was a bit of silent period before the new caller took over.

Samuelson, 56, is running again this year. She wouldn’t miss it.

“It’s a moment to remember, to appreciate and to respect,” Samuelson said. “At the same time, it’s a moment to move forward.”

Four-time Olympic medalist returns to run Boston Marathon again

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

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