Bernard Lagat cancels farewell tour with Rio in mind

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As far back as 2010, Bernard Lagat couldn’t imagine going for a fifth Olympic track berth in 2016.

“2012 will not be the end of competition for me, but the end of my track competitions almost for sure,” Lagat told Universal Sports in September 2010. “If I was to go back in 2013, it would be like a farewell tour, just having fun going through places like London and Berlin and waving to the crowds that have blessed me with their support in my career.”

Yet the two-time Olympic medalist (last in 2004) and six-time World Championships medalist (last in 2011) still races. Lagat will continue as long as he’s competitive.

He placed fourth in the London Olympic 5000m final, after tripping around the final turn. He won the U.S. 5000m title in 2013 and was the fourth-fastest American man overall last year.

Now 40, his sights are on breaking 40-and-over masters records (which he accomplished in the 3000m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Feb. 7 and the mile at the NYRR Millrose Games on Feb. 14.)

Lagat said before the Millrose Games that he has the talent to win a medal at the World Championships in Beijing in August and make the 2016 U.S. Olympic team at 41. Lagat and Meb Keflezighi are trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runners of all time, according to sports-reference.com.

He felt people doubted him early in the 2014 outdoor season. Lagat was 14th at the Prefontaine Classic in 13:31.23 on May 31 and 12th at the Glasgow Diamond League meet in 13:27.08 on July 11. In between, Lagat captured his seventh U.S. 5000m title, albeit slowly in 13:31.41 against a field that didn’t include Galen Rupp.

Lagat was headed toward being outside the 50 fastest men worldwide last year until his out-of-nowhere 13:06.68 in Berlin on Aug. 31. That, plus finishing within .14 of Ethiopian Olympic 5000m silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel at the New Balance Indoor 3000m three weeks ago gave him confidence.

“Would I really slow down that much that I wouldn’t make the team?” Lagat recently said of his chances for Rio. “I don’t think so.”

Lagat splits time training and helping raise his two children in Tucson, Ariz., where he’s seen Kenyan NCAA 5000m champion Lawi Lalang emerge to surpass him in workouts. Lalang, who finished his NCAA career at Arizona last season, is 17 years younger than Lagat.

Lagat is the same age as Hicham El Guerrouj, the 1500m and mile world record holder who retired after the Athens 2004 Olympics. El Guerrouj, who relegated the then-Kenyan Lagat to 2004 Olympic 1500m silver, joined the IAAF Hall of Fame last year.

Lagat’s son, Miika, was born in 2006 and is old enough to start giving Lagat strategy tips.

“I feel no pressure,” Lagat said. “Why do I have to cut it short why I still enjoy it?”

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
Getty
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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