Meb Keflezighi
AP

Meb Keflezighi: I didn’t want to put all my eggs in Olympic trials basket

Leave a comment

Meb Keflezighi never questioned whether to race a fall marathon before February’s Olympic trials, despite the short turnaround between 26.2-mile races.

“The only question that was on the table was should I do New York, or Chicago to give me more recovery time [for the Olympic trials]?” Keflezighi said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Things didn’t work out with Chicago. I have a great relationship with New York.”

Keflezighi, 40, will run his 10th New York City Marathon on Nov. 1, which is 104 days before he plans to run the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Los Angeles on Feb. 13.

If Keflezighi had chosen to race the Chicago Marathon last Sunday instead of New York, he would have gained three weeks of recovery time for the Olympic trials. Most of the other U.S. Olympic marathon hopefuls are not racing fall marathons.

“It would’ve been nice to have that recovery [from racing Chicago],” Keflezighi said. “But for me, my record speaks pretty well for my recovery. Yeah I’m 40, but I also have 100,000 miles under my belt. I’m not starting from zero, and I didn’t want to put all my eggs in the Olympic trials basket.

“If I get sick or I get food poisoning or all that stuff [at the Olympic trials], you’d be like, you should’ve done a fall marathon.”

The turnaround from New York to the Olympic trials would be Keflezighi’s third shortest span between competitive marathons, according to the track and field statistics website Tilastopaja.

In 69 days, Keflezighi finished sixth in the 2011 New York City Marathon and won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Houston.

In 70 days, Keflezighi finished second in both the Athens 2004 Olympic marathon and the 2004 New York City Marathon.

Keflezighi is arguably the favorite going into the Olympic marathon trials, given his consistent record and that he ran the second fastest U.S. marathon since the 2012 Olympics in winning Boston in 2014. Only Dathan Ritzenhein, who was fourth at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials won by Keflezighi, has been faster in the last three years.

If three men beat Keflezighi at the marathon trials, he does not expect to enter the Olympic track and field trials 10,000m in Eugene, Ore., in a last-gasp Olympic bid in July.

For Beijing 2008, Keflezighi finished eighth at the Olympic marathon trials and did enter the track and field trials 10,000m, placing 13th and missing the Olympic team.

“If I was in my 20s or 30s … I would consider it,” said Keflezighi, who in 2016 will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic runner, according to sports-reference.com. “As of right now, if you ask me, absolutely not, but only time will tell.”

The biggest marathon news this fall came in Berlin on Sept. 27, when Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge prevailed in a time 63 seconds slower than the world record despite traversing most of the 26.2 miles with his insoles flopping out from the back of his shoes.

The incident brought to mind other famous shoe malfunctions, such as when Keflezighi left his nasal strip in his left shoe before the 2011 New York City Marathon, finished sixth as it rubbed against the foot and developed an infection that cost him three weeks of training ahead of the 2012 Olympic trials 69 days later, which he won in a then-personal-best time.

“To this day, even though four years later, there’s a scar still there,” Keflezighi said. “I still have to watch it.”

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Fall marathons lack U.S. Olympic women’s contenders, too

Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

Steven Bradbury
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

 

 

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

Brandon Frazier
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!