Meb Keflezighi hopes to be an example for Ryan Hall as Olympic trials approach

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Meb Keflezighi felt just as confident he can make the 2016 Olympic team two days after finishing eighth overall and second among Americans at the Boston Marathon as he did before Boston.

“I was saving my energy for the last mile and a half [in Boston],” Keflezighi said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance. I feel confident going to the trials.”

Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston Marathon winner, was in the lead pack around the 22-mile mark on Monday when he said he stopped for the first of five times, throwing up because he had trouble getting a drink down.

He finished in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 42 seconds, in damp, windy conditions. Keflezighi’s winning time in better weather last year was 2:08:37, when he spent much of the race on his own while others chased.

On Monday, Keflezighi finished behind one countryman, fellow three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein. Ritzenhein placed ninth at the 2008 Olympic marathon and fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, where the top three made the London Olympic team.

Ritzenhein is seven and a half years younger than Keflezighi and owns a faster personal best of 2:07:47 from the 2012 Chicago Marathon. He ran Boston for the first time Monday, finishing seventh (1:22 faster than Keflezighi) in his first marathon since 2013.

“Dathan is getting his confidence back to his normal competitive drive,” Keflezighi said, adding of the Olympic trials, “It depends who you ask who the favorite is individually.”

Keflezighi may still be the favorite. He was the only U.S. man to run a sub-2:10 marathon last year, if including Boston, a downhill, point-to-point course that doesn’t count for record purposes. Only Ritzenhein has been faster so far in 2015.

The trials are Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, site of Ryan Hall‘s dropout around the halfway point of the Los Angeles Marathon on March 15.

Hall, 32 like Ritzenhein, was the only man to make each of the last two U.S. Olympic marathon teams. But he has finished just one marathon since taking second to Keflezighi at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. And in that one, he clocked 2:17:50.

It will likely take at least five minutes faster to finish in the top three at trials and make the 2016 Olympic team. Four U.S. men other than Keflezighi and Ritzenhein clocked sub-2:12 in 2014.

Keflezighi said he received text messages from Hall before and after the Boston Marathon.

“[Hall said] I’m always inspired by your performance, well done,” he said.

Keflezighi, a man motivated when others count him out, still believes the oft-injured Hall can be a factor at the trials.

“The talent is there,” Keflezighi said. “If he really wants it, it’s there. I’m not in Ryan’s head, but we know what he is capable of doing. That never leaves your body. I hope I am an example. I got injured, a pelvic stress fracture or ruptured quads. You come back. If you come back, do the work, I would not be surprised if he’s on the [Olympic] team. You have to go back to what worked for him.”

Runner finishes Boston Marathon on Tuesday morning

Chad le Clos seeks Sun Yang’s Olympic gold medal for doping case

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NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Chad le Clos believes he has a claim on Sun Yang’s gold medal from the Rio Olympics, with a verdict imminent on the Chinese swimmer’s latest doping case.

“He should be banned. It’s as simple as that,” Le Clos said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “Anyone who tests positive should be banned. I should get my gold medal back from Rio.

“Not for the moment. I lost that. I don’t really care about that,” Le Clos added on Wednesday. “It’s just for my record. If I break my leg and I can’t swim again I want my record to say, ‘Two individual golds, two individual silvers.’ Because that’s what it should be.”

Le Clos’ Olympic record currently contains one gold medal and three silvers — including a second-place finish to Sun in the Rio Olympic 200m free

Odds are, though, that Sun won’t lose any Olympic titles when the Court of Arbitration for Sport issues its ruling over his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard used a hammer to smash a container holding Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed after swimming federation FINA merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

A three-time Olympic champion, Sun could be banished from the sport for up to eight years but any ban likely won’t be backdated before September 2018 — meaning all of his Olympic medals seem safe.

But there’s also the fact that international swimming authorities worked to protect Sun from being banned, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

“I just hope the system and whatever we have is really accurate,” said Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, who won three golds in Rio. “I just hope the decisions they are making is fair and is for the sport and not for other reasons.”

The medals that Sun risks losing most are the two golds that he won at last year’s world championships in the 200m and 400m frees. At the event in Gwangju, South Korea, fellow medalists Mack Horton of Australia and Duncan Scott of Britain refused to stand with him on the podium.

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him from competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“I have nothing against anybody. It’s not personal,” Le Clos said. “It’s just how the world should be. If you cheat or if you do something wrong, like if you false start, you get disqualified. It’s simple as that.”

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U.S. Olympic luger Emily Sweeney looks forward from depression bout

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Luge’s World Cup campaign ends this weekend in Germany, where most of the best 100 sliders in the sport will be looking to close their international seasons on a high note.

Emily Sweeney won’t be among them.

Her season ended a couple weeks ago, on her terms.

The U.S. veteran is officially two years into her recovery from a crash at the PyeongChang Olympics that she walked away from — even with a broken neck and broken back — and two years away, she hopes, from being a medal contender at the Beijing Games.

She decided to listen to her body and step away from the frantic end of the season, heading home instead to meet her sister’s new baby and formulate a plan for her offseason.

Here’s what she has learned: Fractures heal, but everything else takes time. So while her body still betrays her from time to time on the track, an additional focus on the mental game is what Sweeney hopes will get her to the medal podium in Beijing in 2022.

“I am very comfortable about thinking about my weaknesses because I failed so much early on,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t make two Olympic teams right in a row. I constantly had to look at myself and say ‘What’s wrong? What am I not like?’ I had to be creative with my training and with the whole process. And so, I think I’m pretty comfortable with challenges.”

That’s why, this season, when she felt like her body couldn’t do it anymore she simply went home. The decision was not easy: Her team is still competing, she has plenty of friends on the circuit and her longtime boyfriend — Italian star Dominik Fischnaller — is a serious contender to win the men’s World Cup overall title.

But a setback right now could throw a serious wrench into her Olympic plans. The problem was pressure, not in the sense of what’s comes with the prospects of winning or losing in competition, but the massive gravitational force that sliders feel and fight through when they are on the ice at speeds often topping 80mph. It takes tremendous strength, and Sweeney’s neck still isn’t always up to the challenge. So, with wear and tear of the season taking a toll, she headed home.

“It’s not a question of if I’m good enough,” said Sweeney, who won a medal at last season’s world championships — cementing her status as one of the fastest women on ice. “I see it in my splits. I would have first-place splits, then get to the pressure and I ended up 15th. I just couldn’t keep going through this cycle of pushing it, pushing it, pushing it and then losing all my speed as soon as I can’t hold my head up anymore.”

So she’s working on her body and her mind.

Sweeney is one of the most-upbeat sliders on the luge circuit; always smiling, always happy, and most of the time her good mood is genuine. After the crash, however, the good mood wasn’t always there, and it took Sweeney some time to realize that there was more wrong than just the fractures in her neck and back.

“I went into a depression,” Sweeney said. “It’s weird saying that. But it feels foreign to me to say I broke my neck and my back two years ago. And it feels dramatic to say, which I guess I need to just get more comfortable with that. But I think that just the way I was raised was like, ‘All right, brush it off and move on.’ And that’s why I think I appear a lot of times like it’s just sunshine and rainbows, but this one forced me to stop. But you have to. And the alternative is to stay at that low and that just becomes miserable.”

From therapy came a plan: Do one thing a day to feel better toward the ultimate goal of medaling in 2022.

Most days, she succeeds. When Sweeney is right, especially in sprint events, few women in the world have a chance of catching her. Her sliding career is peaking. Her mental game, she thinks, is catching up.

And now she’s got two years to put the whole package together.

“Being an Olympian was my dream since I was 7 years old,” Sweeney said. “And then I became an Olympian, and I said, ‘Well, that’s not enough. I want a medal.’”

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