Mark Cavendish warms to Rio bid: ‘Olympic medal is the only thing I’m missing’

Mark Cavendish
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Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish, a 26-time Tour de France stage winner, seems intent to pursuing the Rio 2016 Olympics, after casting major doubt in January.

“It has got to the point that even if it’s in synchronized swimming … an Olympic medal is the only thing I’m missing,” the two-time Olympian said earlier this month, according to the Telegraph.

Cavendish, 30, had medal hopes evaporate at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics.

In 2008, Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins finished ninth in track cycling’s madison after winning the World Championship five months earlier. Cavendish was the only British track cycling team member not to win a medal in Beijing.

In 2012, Cavendish was the hope to win Great Britain’s first gold medal of the London Games in the road race. He finished 29th.

In January, Cavendish said he wanted to try for a third Olympics, but it would be hard.

“I can’t do it on the road [the Rio road race course doesn’t suit his sprinting prowess], can’t do it in the time trial, and on the track there’s just no way to qualify without quitting the road,” he said then, according to the BBC.

But Cavendish returned to track cycling in August with a plan on competing in the omnium, a six-race event, to be eligible to qualify for the Olympic team if that’s the route he wanted to take in the next year.

“It’d be nice to have an Olympic medal, just to stop people banging on about it,” Cavendish said in August, according to British media.

An Olympic qualification attempt would be just that — an attempt with no certain spot available. Cavendish’s 2008 event, the madison, is no longer part of the Olympic program.

Great Britain selectors can only send one man to the Olympics in Cavendish’s new preferred event, the omnium. Cavendish may have to earn that spot over the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, Ed Clancy, who was also part of the nation’s gold medal-winning team pursuit squad in 2008 and 2012.

“I’ve got to be totally honest,” Great Britain team technical director Shane Sutton said in August, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It’s not going to be easy for [Cavendish].”

Cavendish is believed to narrow any gap to Clancy thanks to a tweak in the omnium format to favor his abilities, but British reports say the Olympic omnium man would also have to be part of the team pursuit squad, at least as a reserve rider. Cavendish’s team pursuit experience is limited.

“Look if it was the old omnium, as it was at the last Olympics, Ed would be going, 100 percent,” Cavendish said, according to the Telegraph.

Clancy prevailed in Cavendish’s return to the track in August.

“The preferred option is Ed Clancy as he is also the strongest guy in the team pursuit,” British cycling endurance coach Heiko Salzwedel said in an August Telegraph report. “The team pursuit is still our priority event. There are too many uncontrollables in the omnium. The team pursuit is controllable, and we will not make any sacrifices.”

MORE CYCLING: Can Tour de France stars contend for medals at 2016 Olympics?

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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