Meb Keflezighi’s rusty bib a reminder with Boston Marathon approaching

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NEW YORK — Meb Keflezighi says his bib from winning the 2014 Boston Marathon, the one with the four 2013 Boston Marathon bombings victims’ names written in black marker in the corners, is still pinned on his singlet from the race.

“Believe it or not,” the bib collector Keflezighi said, smiling. “The pins picked up water and stuff, got rusty.”

It hangs in a special closet in his Southern California home. It has company, too.

Also in there is his Athens 2004 Olympic uniform. He earned a silver medal 11 years ago.

And Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals baseball jerseys, reminders of the last 11 months — a nationwide tour that included ceremonial MLB first pitches, at least one call from President Obama and passing 22,780 runners in Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race 10K on July 4.

He received fan mail after his Boston triumph from students, teachers and cancer survivors. And Germans. Many, many Germans. Somebody made him a scarf.

Keflezighi has been everywhere since becoming the first U.S. man in 31 years to prevail in Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon, one year after that tragedy.

“Sometimes 11 p.m. is the only time I can take a shower,” he said.

Yet training hasn’t suffered, Keflezighi said. He feels healthy and competitive going into the NYC Half Marathon on Sunday, his tune-up race for Boston for a second straight year. He spoke Thursday after jogging laps with students in a P.S. 452 gymnasium on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

In 2014, Keflezighi’s goal at the NYC Half was not to win, but to emerge healthy after 13.1 miles. He suffered a “little hamstring issue” the week before that race, missed about five days of training and finished 10th.

This Sunday, Keflezighi’s competition includes countrymen Dathan Ritzenhein, top American in the 2008 Olympic marathon in ninth, and Abdi Abdirahman, a 2012 Olympic marathon teammate, and Kenyans 2012 Boston Marathon winner Wesley Korir and Stephen Sambu.

It lacks Keflezighi’s biggest perceived threats to come in Boston on April 20 — former marathon world record holder Kenyan Patrick Makau and 2013 Boston winner Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa — but will test the 39-year-old.

“Hopefully it will be a good indicator for Boston,” Keflezighi said.

In Boston, Keflezighi will likely not be able to employ the same tactic to win as he did last year.

Then, Keflezighi and occasional training partner Josphat Boit opened a 15-second lead over the East African favorites at the 10-mile mark. It grew. Keflezighi moved ahead of Boit at mile 16 and held off Kenyan Wilson Chebet to win by 11 seconds.

“I probably can’t do a similar thing, but they didn’t let me go [in 2014], I decided to go,” Keflezighi said. “They didn’t say, hey, Meb, run, we’ll let you have it. I made the decision to go for the win.”

Few considered Keflezighi a contender before that race. Now, he feels targeted.

“I’ll have more [of a chance] now than I did last year,” Keflezighi said, referring to expectations, “but I’m older.”

His goal is to finish in the top three or run a personal best. He did both last year.

“I’m relaxed,” he said, “but at the same time I’m a competitor.”

Keflezighi hopes to benefit from injury-free training, allowing more hill workouts than when his hamstring held him back one year ago.

Confident, he plans to race as an elite in at least four more marathons.

There will likely be a fall marathon, perhaps New York City on Nov. 1, followed by the Olympic trials in Los Angeles on Feb. 13 and (should he be top three at trials) the Rio Olympic marathon in August 2016. And then one, maybe two more, though he sees himself running half marathons, 10Ks, pacing races and doing clinics beyond that.

“To give back to the sport,” he said.

Keflezighi, who turns 41 in 2016, will try along with Bernard Lagat to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time, according to sports-reference.com. Keflezighi (UCLA) and Lagat (Washington State) competed against each other in college in the 1990s.

They still text.

“We inspire each other,” Keflezighi said. “[1996 Olympic champion] Allen Johnson, I remember in the 110-meter hurdles, I saw him doing it at 39, jumping over all of those things. I said, you know what, I’ve just got to maintain five-minute [mile] pace as long as I can.”

Keflezighi will be in Boston two days after the NYC Half, for more appearances and functions.

“Then head back to seclusion and train,” he said, “and disappear.”

In 2014, Keflezighi arrived in Boston three days before the race on a redeye from San Diego. He wants to keep a similar schedule this year but also acknowledged one pre-race difference on Thursday.

“I’m going to wear bib No. 1,” Keflezighi said of what will be pinned on the back of his singlet (his front bib will still read “MEB”). “That’s earned, not given.”

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

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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