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

Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

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Nathan Chen called into his media teleconference from the rink last week, still on his winter break between his freshman semesters at Yale University.

The signal wasn’t great inside, he said, and it momentarily spared him from answering a direct question about his GPA his first semester as a college student.

Back on the call, the reigning world champion admitted, “I’m not gonna say the exact number, but there are some A’s and B’s sprinkled in.

“Really no complaints. I got pretty good grades. I’m pretty happy with that.”

His skating report card from the fall reads equally as impressively. Chen won the title at Skate America to open the season, followed by a come-from-behind win at Grand Prix France. To cap it all off, he won a second-consecutive Grand Prix Final title.

All this while the 2018 Olympic team event bronze medalist is across the country from his longtime coach Rafael Arutunian and trying out telecoaching for the first time.

Back in California between semesters, Chen said Raf has asked him to stay full-time.

“Since the past two weeks that I’ve been here, literally every day he’s been like, ‘you gotta come back! You gotta come back! There’s so much that you can learn at the rink. I respect what your decision is at Yale but it’s been so great having you here.’ He really wishes that I could stay here full time but at the same time, I already started this path and I don’t really want to pull out just yet.”

As for his second semester in college, Chen is signed up for about 10 courses and will have about two weeks at the beginning of term to add and drop courses. He’ll be in classes – he’s not exactly sure which, though – for a week before attempting to notch his third-straight U.S. national title.

“I selected a bunch of courses, probably selected like 10 different courses. I’ll go in and the first week I will see which courses I like, which courses I don’t like.”

Competing during the spring semester might be harder. February’s Four Continents Championships, this year to be held in Anaheim, Calif., aren’t during a scheduled academic break. Conveniently, world championships are scheduled during Yale’s spring break.

“I’m not sure yet [if he’ll compete there if named to the team],” he said. “That’s still TBD. I would love to since it’s in California, and it’s a great event. We’ll see.”

But for now, competing well in Detroit is the next step.

“I have to skate as well as I can and regardless of the external things,” he said when asked if coming in as the reigning world champion or as the favorite affects him. “Just focus on all the things that I can do right now in training to make sure that I do the best I can in competition.”

The men’s short program is Jan. 26 followed by the free skate on Jan. 27.

MORE: Adam Rippon’s new year’s resolutions

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins Kronplatz giant slalom for her 10th win of the season

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Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s giant slalom at the World Cup stop in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday, marking her 10th victory of the 2018-19 season and 53rd World Cup win of her career. Shiffrin, the 2018 Olympic giant slalom gold medalist, led France’s Tessa Worley by 1.39 seconds after the first run. Although Worley outpaced Shiffrin in the second run, Shiffrin’s massive first-run margin allowed her to win the two-run event by 1.21 seconds. Italy’s Marta Bassino placed third. Full results are here. 

Shiffrin entered Kronplatz ranked third in the World Cup giant slalom standings, but moves into first place with the win. The 23-year-old also leads the overall World Cup leader board, as well as the slalom and super-G discipline standings. Shiffrin has won seven World Cup globes in her career (two overall, five slalom).

Shiffrin has already broken multiple records this season, including becoming the youngest skier to win 50 World Cup races, and there are still more records within striking distance. Shiffrin could break the record for most World Cup wins in a single seasons; the current record (14) was set by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider in 1988-89.

The next stop for the women’s World Cup is this weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, with two downhills scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and a super-G slated for Sunday. Shiffrin plans to skip the downhills, but enter the super-G. Lindsey Vonn, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury, is expected to make her return to competition in Friday’s downhill.