Yohan Blake

Carl Lewis, Jamaican sprinters trade more verbal jabs

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The friction between Carl Lewis and Jamaican sprinting reappeared in India and the Bahamas last week.

First, the nine-time Olympic champion Lewis was asked about Usain Bolt during a media tour in India last week. He was also asked about Jamaican sprinting’s recent doping issues.

In one interview, Lewis was reported as saying of Bolt, “He needs to back up now and maybe respect me a little bit more.” The question referred to Bolt saying in 2012 he “lost all respect” for Lewis after Lewis made comments such as this to Sports Illustrated after the Beijing Olympics:

I’m still working with the fact that [Bolt] dropped from 10-flat to 9.6 in one year [personal best of 10.03 in the 100m in 2007 to a world record 9.69 in 2008]. I think there are some issues. I’m proud of America right now because we have the best random and most comprehensive drug testing program. Countries like Jamaica do not have a random program, so they can go months without being tested. I’m not saying anyone is on anything, but everyone needs to be on a level playing field.

Lewis was also asked about Bolt and then Jamaica’s doping issues in a TV interview in India.

On Bolt: “A lot of the things that he does and is able to do, there is no way an American could do. An American could not say, ‘I am a legend.’ … We would get crucified. It’s a different era. You’re allowed to talk about yourself more now. It’s just something that we couldn’t have ever done.”

In August, the World Anti-Doping Agency said “serious issues” were raised in a report that Jamaica carried out one out-of-competition drug test in the five months leading up to the 2012 Olympics.

That report proved Lewis’ comments after Beijing somewhat prophetic, comments he referenced in the India TV interview.

“A couple of years ago, I was attacked, especially by the Jamaicans and Usain, about my comments,” Lewis said. “But all of a sudden when what I said was true, everyone went silent. I think their issue should be, let’s go back and ask them [Jamaica] to show that they’re doing what’s supposed to be done because I don’t know of any country that’s had as many positive tests in the last three or four years than their country.”

Several sprint stars failed drug tests last year, including Jamaicans Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, American Tyson Gay and Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste.

Campbell-Brown was cleared due to flaws in test collection procedures and possible contamination of her urine sample. Powell and Simpson were suspended 18 months but have reportedly appealed.

Jamaican sprinters at last weekend’s World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, responded to Lewis.

“He [Lewis] has been talking a lot of smack,” Olympic 100m and 200m silver medalist Yohan Blake said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. “Even the other day in India, he said some things about Bolt, but we know we are clean, and we know we are good for the sport. We feel like we always have something to prove. We are taking all his records. There is no more for him.”

Blake and the Jamaica 4x200m relay team at the World Relays broke a world record held by a group that included Lewis from 1994, wiping Lewis’ name from the outdoor track and field world-record book.

Bolt and Lewis will continue to be intertwined going to the 2016 Olympics, where Bolt could tie the record for career track and field golds. Lewis and Finnish distance legend Paavo Nurmi each have nine. Bolt has six.

Video: Track runners collide at World Relays

Brigid Kosgei, Eliud Kipchoge herald new era of fast marathons

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Eliud Kipchoge‘s success in breaking the two-hour mark (final time: 1:59:40) for the marathon on Saturday was expected. He had come close before, and like Alex Honnold‘s unprecedented climb of El Capitan documented in the film Free Solo, the feat required meticulous planning — the ideal mix of pace-setters, course conditions and weather — to steer a once-in-a-lifetime talent to a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

Brigid Kosgei‘s world record at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday was a far greater surprise. Kosgei had run fast times before, but her time of 2:14:04 took more than four minutes off her personal best earlier this year in London, which is typically a faster race than Chicago.

MORE: Chicago Marathon results

The two feats had some common threads. Both runners are Kenyan, no surprise in an event in which the top 100 men’s performances of all time are almost exclusively Kenyan and Ethiopian and the top of the women’s all-time list is similarly homogeneous aside from the presence of British runner Paula Radcliffe, whose time of 2:15:25 had stood as the world record for 16 1/2 years until Sunday. Radcliffe was present in Chicago to greet Kosgei when her record fell.

Kipchoge and Kosgei also wore the same shoes, Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, thanks to Kosgei’s last-minute decision to switch. Earlier versions of those shoes, like the high-tech swimsuits that were eventually banned from competition or golf equipment whose advertising revels in their alleged illegality,

Both marathoners also had pace-setters running with them. Kipchoge’s effort took the concept to an extreme, with an all-star cast running pieces of the course in front of him, and will not be considered an official world record because it didn’t happen under race conditions. (The Atlantic ran a piece on the Kipchoge run with the headline “The Greatest, Fakest World Record,” though the piece itself was more inquisitive than judgmental.)

MORE: Kipchoge shakes off nerves to break barrier

Kosgei was running in an actual race and has already had her time touted as a world record by the international organizer IAAF, but because she was running in a mixed-gender race, she was able to run behind two hired guns, Geoffrey Pyego and Daniel Limo. They were easily distinguished from men’s race contenders by the singlets with the word “PACE” written in the space where a number or name would usually go.

But in general, marathoners are simply getting faster and faster. Perhaps it’s scientific, with specifically engineered shoes, pace-setters and refined training methods, or perhaps all the tinkering and lab experiments are simply a sign of increased focus on the race that traces its history to the myth of the Greek soldier Pheidippides running such a great distance to herald a momentous military victory before falling over dead.

Of the top 20 women’s times on the IAAF list, only five were run before 2012 — one by Catherine Ndereba, four by Radcliffe. Three were run in 2017, then six in 2018 (three in Berlin) and four this year. All 20 of the fastest men’s times have been posted this decade, eight of them in 2019 alone. Kipchoge, in addition to his unofficial best from this weekend, has the official record of 2:01:39 from the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

The all-time list also reminds us that, for all the controversy over the context of Kipchoge’s run, marathons aren’t really standard, anyway. Some courses are more difficult than others. Some races, like the Boston Marathon, aren’t eligible for record consideration for a variety of technical reasons. (Boston’s hilly course doesn’t lend itself to fast times, anyway — the men’s course record of 2:03:02, set by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011, would rank seventh all-time, but no other time would crack the top 100. The women’s course record is nowhere near the best ever.) London, Berlin and Dubai are the places to go for assaults on the record book.

No matter where the race takes place or how it was run, fast times in the marathon capture the imagination.

Purists may cling to romantic notions of long-haired, bearded runners pounding the Boston or New York pavement in shoes that didn’t even have a basic level of air cushioning. But the modern marathon era is built for speed.

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Danielle Perkins is first U.S. boxer to win world title in 3 years

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Danielle Perkins became the U.S.’ first world champion boxer in this Olympic cycle, taking the heavyweight crown in Russia on Sunday.

Perkins, a 37-year-old who played college basketball at George Mason and St. John’s, improved from bronze in 2018 to earn her first world title, blanking defending world champion Yang Xiaoli of China 5-0 in Sunday’s final.

Video of the bout is here.

Perkins was slated to fight Yang in the 2018 World semifinals but withdrew due to medical reasons, according to USA Boxing.

The heavyweight division is 81+kg, but the heaviest Olympic weight division is capped at 75kg.

The last American to earn a world title was Claressa Shields in 2016, before she repeated as Olympic champion in Rio and moved to the professional ranks.

The Olympic trials are in December in Louisiana, after which winners will fight internationally in early 2020 in bids to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

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MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA