Meb Keflezighi

Boston Marathon preview: Can Meb Keflezighi repeat?

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On paper, an American has a decent shot at the top three in the Boston Marathon on Monday. Perhaps even a win.

That’s Shalane Flanagan, who has the fifth-fastest personal best over 26.2 miles among the women’s field — behind four Ethiopians.

As for defending men’s champion Meb Keflezighi? He’s got the 13th-fastest personal best in the men’s field, which includes a former world record holder and the 2013 Boston Marathon winner.

He’s actually ranked higher on the men’s elite start list than last year (when he had the 15th-fastest personal best). Keflezighi is the only man in the top 15 born in the 1970s. He was born in 1975.

“Last year, nobody had good chances for me to win,” Keflezighi told reporters in Boston on Friday. “I think the chances are higher, at least according to others, this year than it was last year.”

Keflezighi will line up in Hopkinton on Monday morning with a chance to become the first U.S. man to repeat as Boston champ since Bill Rodgers won three straight from 1978-80 (Universal Sports, 8:30 a.m. ET, elite women at 9:32, elite men at 10).

The 2004 Olympic silver medalist has said his goal is to finish in the top three or run a personal best. He did both last year, though Boston times don’t count toward official personal bests due to the net downhill, point-to-point course.

Keflezighi can race with no pressure, given he’s already won this race and is not expected to prevail Monday.

But he also has factors working against him. He’s one year older, to turn 40 in May. And the top East Africans likely won’t let him get away with last year’s strategy, breaking around the eight-mile mark. They’ll stay with him this time.

So, Keflezighi will likely relinquish his title as reigning Boston champion on Monday.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa is favored to take the crown, given he’s finished first or second in every major race he’s finished the last two years, including winning Boston in 2013.

The very best Kenyans — world record holder Dennis Kimetto, No. 2 all time Emmanuel Mutai and New York City Marathon winner Wilson Kipsang — are not in the field.

“I don’t want the year to be over,” Keflezighi said with a laugh in Boston on Friday. “The greatest of all the marathons.”

An Ethiopian will also likely win the women’s race. The four fastest elites are from that nation, led by Mare Dibaba and Buzunesh Deba, runners-up to Kenyan Rita Jeptoo at the 2014 Chicago Marathon and 2014 Boston Marathon, respectively.

Jeptoo, the 2013 and 2014 Boston winner, is not going for a threepeat Monday because she tested positive for EPO in September and was suspended for two years.

Flanagan, 33 and the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist, finished seventh in Boston last year in 2:22:02, which was 3:36 faster than her personal best going in.

Flanagan went another 48 seconds faster at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 28, placing third. Now, her personal best is within 1:22 of the top-ranked woman in the field, Dibaba.

A U.S. woman hasn’t won Boston in 30 years.

“I feel really optimistic and excited about this year, just because we don’t have [Jeptoo] in the race,” Flanagan told media in Boston on Friday. “That makes me feel like the possibilities are open and endless for anyone. It’s not like decided before the race who’s going to win.”

St. Louis Marathon disqualifies woman who crossed finish line first

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
AP
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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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