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

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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