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

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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