Meb Keflezighi

Meb Keflezighi in familiar spot as New York City Marathon underdog

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NEW YORK — Two elite marathoners are targeting the New York City Marathon course record Sunday. Meb Keflezighi, the inspirational Boston Marathon winner, is not one of them.

And he’s OK with that.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, but my career has been solidified as 110 percent complete,” Keflezighi said Thursday.

Keflezighi became the most recognizable U.S. marathoner when he triumphed in Boston on April 21, one year after twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race. He became the first American man to win Boston in 31 years.

It was an incredible upset in a race where the winner almost always comes from a small number of pre-race favorites. Like with Boston, Keflezighi is not part of that tiny group going into Sunday. The group may be as small as two.

Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai and Wilson Kipsang said three weeks ago they intend to break the course record of 2:05:06, set by Mutai in 2011. Mutai is trying to win his third straight New York City Marathon, something no man has done in 32 years. Kipsang held the marathon world record up until September, a mark of 2:03:27.

“If they’re going for 2:04, 2:05, I cannot do that,” Keflezighi said.

Keflezighi, who has run the New York City Marathon eight times before and won it in 2009, owns a fastest marathon time of 2:08:37, his clocking in Boston six months ago. It’s hard to expect much better at age 39 in New York, where his best time is 2:09:13. No man that old has won the New York City Marathon.

Of course, Mutai and Kipsang could be too confident, go out at a record pace and falter in the second half of the race. Or, the Kenyans might not have it in their legs come Sunday, like the Boston favorites who couldn’t catch Keflezighi’s break on April 21.

If Keflezighi finds himself with a chance to win, he could join exclusive company. He would be the second man in the last 12 years to win Boston and New York in the same year. The other was Mutai in 2011. The last U.S. man to pull off the double was Alberto Salazar in 1982.

Keflezighi finished so far back at last year’s New York City Marathon, 23rd in 2:23:47, that it sparked retirement questions.

There is no talk of quitting now.

Keflezighi hopes to compete at his fourth Olympics in Rio in 2016, should he make the team at the Olympic Trials. He would be the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time, according to sports-reference.com.

“Whether I win [New York], awesome, if I don’t win, I’m still going to be Meb,” he said.

Caroline Wozniacki has nervous dreams ahead of NYC Marathon

Coco Gauff delivers speech, demands change, promises to use platform

Coco Gauff
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Coco Gauff, the 16-year-old tennis star, delivered a speech at a peaceful protest in her hometown on Wednesday, demanding change and promising to use her platform to spread vital information.

“I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement,” Gauff told a crowd, holding an affixed microphone atop a lectern in front of Delray Beach City Hall in Florida, after her grandmother spoke. “You need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.'”

Earlier this week, Gauff posted links on her social media accounts — with more than 800,000 combined followers — to register to vote and a petition for justice for the death of George Floyd. On Wednesday, she shared video of her participating in a march, saying her hometown police chief was part of the group.

Click here for NBC News’ coverage of Floyd’s death and protests in Minneapolis and around the country.

Last summer, Gauff, then 15, became the youngest player to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991. She followed that with third- and fourth-round runs at the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, sandwiched between her first WTA Tour title.

The full text of the beginning of her speech, which she shared on social media:

“Hello everyone. My name is Coco, and who just spoke was my grandma. I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that she did 50-plus years ago. So I’m here to tell you guys this: that we must, first, love each other no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with my friends. I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement. Second, we need to take action. Yes, we’re all out here protesting, and I’m not of age to vote, but it’s in your hands to vote for my future, for my brother’s future and for your future. So that’s one way to make change. Third, you need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.’ So, you need to not be silent, because if you are choosing silence, you’re choosing the side of the oppressor. So, I’ve heard many things this past week. One of the things I’ve heard is, well, it’s not my problem. This is why I have to tell you this. If you listen to black music. If you like black culture. If you have black friends. Then this is your fight, too. It’s not your job. It’s not your duty to open your mouth to say, ‘Lil Uzi Vert‘s my favorite artist, but I don’t care what happened to George Floyd.’ Now how does that make sense? So, I demand change now. It’s sad that it takes another black man’s life to be lost for all of this to happen, but we have to understand that this has been going on for years. This is not just about George Floyd. This is about Trayvon Martin. This is about Eric Garner. This is about Breonna Taylor. This is about stuff that’s been happening. I was 8 years old when Trayvon Martin was killed. So why am I here at 16 still demanding change? And it breaks my heart because I’m fighting for the future for my brothers. I’m fighting for the future for my future kids. I’m fighting for the future for my future grandchildren. So, we must change now, and I promise to always use my platform to spread vital information.”

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MORE: Olympic tennis: Key questions for Tokyo Games in 2021

Hayato Sakamoto, Japanese baseball MVP, tests positive for coronavirus

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Hayato Sakamoto, an MVP of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, is one of two players from the Yomiuri Giants to test positive for the coronavirus, according to several Japanese media reports.

Sakamoto, a 31-year-old shortstop, and catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive ahead of the NPB’s planned June 19 start to the season that had been delayed to the coronavirus.

The tests showed traces of the coronavirus, according to Kyodo News.

The Giants canceled Wednesday’s practice game with the Seibu Lions to limit the spread of the virus.

Sakamoto is the reigning Central League MVP. He has been called the Derek Jeter of Japan for playing the same position as the Yankee great and being the veteran captain of Japan’s equivalent club, the Giants, which own a record 22 Japan Series titles.

Sakamoto, who played in the last two World Baseball Classics, has been considered a lock for Japan’s baseball team at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as the most well known active player who hasn’t left for Major League Baseball. MLB is not expected to allow its top players to participate in the Olympics, which would keep the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka off the Olympic roster.

The sport returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, though it is not on the 2024 Olympic program nor guaranteed a place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Japan reached the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments when the sport was previously on the medal program but never took gold.

In a 2018 survey, Sakamoto was ranked as Japan’s eighth-most popular athlete across all sports, foreign or domestic, active or retired.