Galen Rupp talks training with Mo Farah, marathons, weird drug test story

Galen Rupp
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Galen Rupp likes to say he pretended the 80,000 deafening cheers were for him while running the London Olympic 10,000m final, and not just for Britain’s Mo Farah, his training partner in Oregon.

Perhaps the illusion didn’t vanish immediately after Rupp eclipsed the finish line in second place, a half-second behind Farah. Rupp had become the first American man in 48 years to earn an Olympic medal in the East African-dominated event.

Thirty seconds later, the noise had not diminished.

Rupp hunched over lane nine, hands covering bloodied kneecaps, and pulled the 127-pound Farah up from the curved track upon which Rupp had just spit.

Then Rupp looked out into Olympic Stadium, raised his right hand and extended the index finger. No. 1. Rupp’s eyes shifted, and, less than a second later, he extended a second finger. No. 2, actually.

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Less than two years before the Olympics, Rupp had questioned coach Alberto Salazar‘s plan to add Farah to their training group, leery of a rival gaining from Salazar’s finely tuned programs and Nike’s resources.

As the race turned out, the only athlete that stood between Rupp and Olympic gold was that training partner, a Somalian-born Londoner with similar interests (soccer, not just running). It’s not uncommon in Olympic sports.

Sydney Olympic 100m gold medalist Maurice Greene was the best man at silver medalist Ato Boldon‘s wedding. Just in Sochi, the Olympic gold and silver medalists in women’s bobsled were training partners from different nations.

It was about four years ago that Farah decided to move to Oregon, and the trek toward the London one-two began. Now, Rupp, at 28, knows his best shot at Olympic gold may come in Rio de Janeiro (he remembers talking with Salazar while in high school about his prime Games years being 2012 and 2016).

Rupp spoke with OlympicTalk in New York on Friday, about 16 hours after he worked out at the Armory, where he was approached over and over again by other runners and fans for pictures (here and here and here and here and here). Rupp will compete in the Armory Track Invitational on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra (4:30-6:30 p.m. ET) on Saturday.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

OlympicTalk: You’re an Oregon guy. Were you stunned by Doha getting the 2019 World Championships over Eugene?

Rupp: I wouldn’t say I was stunned. I think Doha was always the front-runner going in. But I was disappointed. I was involved with it. It would have been a dream for me to be able to compete on home soil, basically my hometown.

(Interestingly, Rupp enjoyed an Oregon football tailgate with Qatar’s biggest track star, high jumper Mutaz Barshim, clad in Oregon green one month before the IAAF chose Doha over Eugene and Barcelona.)

OlympicTalk: How is it going to be different racing at a World Championships in Doha versus Eugene?

Rupp: Obviously, the weather is going to be a huge factor. Eugene is perfect at that time of year. Occasionally, you get some rain. For me, it just feels like fans are so great in Eugene. They get behind everything so much. It’s just a special place to run. They know everything about every athlete competing.

OlympicTalk: Mo Farah has been training in Africa, when was the last time you trained with him?

Rupp: November/December. He’s always gone over there. I think he just doesn’t want to change anything. It’s obviously worked for him in the past. I’m sure we’ll get back together and train, hopefully, in the spring.

OlympicTalk: I know you’ve got a family now, and kids, but have you thought about going with him over there?

Rupp: That’s too far for me. I’ve never been over there, so I guess it would be cool to see once. But I don’t really have any desire to go over there. I’m plenty content training in Portland in the winter, or for me to go to altitude, there are plenty of good places in the U.S. as well.

OlympicTalk: You’ve talked about moving up to the marathon at some point. Did watching Mo’s adversity in trying a marathon last year affect you?

Rupp: Nah. In all honesty, I’m really excited for whenever it is that I choose to move up. Right now, my focus is on the track through the Olympics. After 2016, I’ll be able to start looking at when a marathon might fit in. It was a good reminder how tough it is [seeing Farah]. A lot of times, you just think about something going really, really well. It’s a big jump. It’s a big change. It’s so different training from 10K to a marathon. I’ll be the beneficiary from him, learning what worked and what didn’t, advice he might have for whenever I choose to move up. But I’m still excited for it. The marathon, there’s something special about it. That, the mile and the 100 meters are the three biggest events.

OlympicTalk: Did you wake up early to watch Mo run the London Marathon?

Rupp: I watched the last little bit of it. But I didn’t watch the whole thing.

source: Getty Images
Galen Rupp broke the American record in the 10,000m at the Prefontaine Classic on May 30. (Getty Images)

OlympicTalk: Does it put a little bit more pressure on you thinking that 2016, given your age, might be your best shot at an Olympic gold medal?

Rupp: It does a little bit, yeah. Now that we’re here, there’s definitely a little bit more of a sense of urgency. But, to be honest, as far as pressure, the Olympics are enough pressure in itself. They only come every four years. You never know, an injury tomorrow and you can never run again.

OlympicTalk: Can you sense being closer to Mo in training? Where do you see yourself in comparison with him?

Rupp: I’m not so much just concentrated on him. Obviously, he’s been the best. But there’s a ton of good guys. It seems like every year, there’s another few of them that pop up that are going to be right up there. He’s a few years older than me, so I’ve got that working for me (smiles). We’ve always been really close in training. It’s never been like we just try to beat the hell out of each other. We’re never competing like that at the end of stuff. We’ve always been really close. That’s been one of the great things about being able to train with him, that we’re able to get so much more out of each other when we’re running together. I was pretty close in London.

OlympicTalk: What was going through your mind during the Olympic 10,000m medal ceremony? What’s the silver medalist’s mentality?

Rupp: Silver was such a blessing. I was so happy to get it. A lot of people will say, well, are you disappointed you didn’t get gold? My response is usually more like I was thrilled to get the silver medal. Then afterwards it hit me that I’m really close right now. I know I can make that step. I was thisfar away. I really wanted to take some time to enjoy what I did there. Definitely, the day after, it was, what do I have to do to get better. Weaknesses that I have, areas that I need to address. I’ve got four years to get it right. Ever since then, that’s been my total focus.

OlympicTalk: Do you still have the “Stop Rupp” T-shirt from the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials?

Rupp: My mom definitely has one. I think I still have it somewhere in a box. I’m terrible with all that stuff.

(Rupp’s avatar on the Twitter account he hasn’t posted from since 2012 is of him wearing the shirt. Mysteriously, Rupp follows Alan Webb on Twitter. Webb didn’t join Twitter until 2014.)

OlympicTalk: You get drug tested more than anybody else. What’s the weirdest setting you’ve been called on for an out-of-competition test?

Rupp: One time in college, I was driving back from Portland, something like that. I got a call. You’ve got to be tested. I met them at a truck stop off the side of the highway. I went in there, and of course, they have to watch you go to the bathroom and stuff. Of course, we got a lot of weird looks from truckers walking along, wondering what the heck is going on. Then we put everything in the bottles and the paperwork on a picnic table outside.

Russian Olympic, World track and field champions get doping bans

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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