Mary Cain set to run, drive, walk, then fly away

Mary Cain

NEW YORK — Mary Cain is bringing Hemingway, an altitude tent and Puddles to the University of Portland.

There are just a few more tasks here in her home state before the self-professed science nerd hailed and cautioned last year as the next U.S. middle-distance prodigy begins her freshman year of college.

First, the Adidas Grand Prix on Saturday.

Cain, born three months before Michael Johnson‘s 200m-400m double at the Atlanta Olympics, will run for 2 minutes in front of loved ones at Randall’s Island, between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Queens. She’s a high school senior (for seven more days) a half-hour north of Icahn Stadium.

The distance, 800m, is the shortest of her gaggle of high school records (up to 5000m) plucked before she turned professional in November, hired Usain Bolt‘s agent and joined the Nike Oregon Project.

Cain, who eats pancakes before races and Starburst after, was the youngest American to make a World Championships team last summer and youngest athlete from any nation to make a 1500m final. She finished 10th.

“Next year will be more of a jump because all of a sudden I’ll be in college and in a new city and everything, but the literal idea and concept of actually going professional, it hasn’t changed anything for me,” the joke-cracking and swoosh-wearing Cain said sitting at a Grand Central Terminal hotel mezzanine floor table, to a dozen or so reporters Thursday. “I wanted it to be how it has been.

“I don’t really know what to expect these next few years. I kind of like that. I kind of like it being just a little bit of a mystery, for me and for everybody.”

Adidas Grand Prix schedule, broadcast information, key events

Cain is the youngest woman in Saturday’s 800m field, but only by 25 days. In May, she turned 18, took AP exams in literature, economics and Latin, enjoyed the Bronxville High School prom and somehow had enough energy to open her outdoor season 3,000 miles away at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., finishing eighth in an 800m.

“It was a struggle,” Cain said specifically of taking the AP Latin test in a room with the school crowd she runs with, other high honors students. “There were a lot of people I saw who were drawing very nice pictures.”

Does she feel Saturday’s meet is her last fling as a high school kid?

“Not really,” she said, pausing to build up a joke. “I still have the whole summer.”

More tests are coming. She’s interested in competing at the U.S. Junior Championships and World Junior Championships in July, both in Eugene. After that, more Diamond League races.

But the one that’s causing consternation, even two days before she runs at Adidas, is her driver’s exam. That’s next Friday.

“I can drive,” she said, reassuring reporters and herself. “I’ve driven on highways. I know what I’m doing, but it’s just a matter of passing the test. I can parallel park, but what if I don’t?”

The day after that she will walk at graduation at Bronxville High School, which Cain said does not do class rankings that typically determine which students give speeches.

“We’re a little too competitive for that,” she said.

Cain will leave Bronxville and miss the handwritten, advice-seeking letters teenage runners mail her. Also her family, especially her old white poodle, Albus Dumbledore (named after the silver-haired “Harry Potter” headmaster).

“I’ll be Snapchatting him,” she joked.

She will spend the summer keeping tabs on the World Cup (she has Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina in the top four places in her bracket) and gradually moving her life to Portland.

“I probably won’t have a roommate,” Cain said when asked about her dorm situation, “because I do sleep in an altitude tent.”

This is not an unusual setup for Olympic sports athletes. One of Cain’s early sports heroes when she was a young swimmer, Michael Phelps, has done the same to boost oxygen production. It was the idea of her famed coach, three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar, who also guides Olympic medalists Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.

“My parents probably hate it, but hey,” Cain said. “My parents at first were just like, ‘You have to have a tent in your room?’ I was like, ‘It’s the new thing. Everybody’s doing it.’”

She will also bring less cumbersome but just as valuable essentials, such as Puddles, the fuzzy yellow duck she carried during interviews at last year’s U.S. Championships.

And the thoughts of Ernest Hemingway. Cain was recently discussing books with Salazar — “Some people in the Oregon Project are like, we don’t read books. I’m like, oh, OK, this is awkward,” Cain says — and her coach suggested “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” inspired by Hemingway’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War.

Hemingway opted to write for the Kansas City Star rather than attend college after graduating from Oak Park and River Forest High School in suburban Chicago.

Cain couldn’t tell you where and what distance she might be running next week, but she’s mapped out studying chemistry and taking 18 credits in the fall, the maximum number of class hours at some major universities.

On the track, there are times she feels her age.

“A lot of people are always like, ‘Oh, you’re only 18,'” said Cain, who gets recognized in airports now. “The thing is this, there are 17- and 18-year-olds who dominate swimming, gymnastics, tennis.”

Facts she was reminded of watching 17- and 19-year-olds win Olympic figure skating gold medals in Sochi on TV.

“Just because I’m 17 and, yeah, maybe I’m not at my peak for a runner, it still doesn’t mean I can’t compete internationally,” she said. “Whenever I’m having my poor Mary, I’m only a little kid moments, I kind of remember that. I remember Missy Franklin.”

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South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun

Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei

World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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