Mao Asada, Javier Fernandez headline Cup of China; schedule

Mao Asada
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Mao Asada will skate in a Grand Prix event for the first time since December 2013, and Javier Fernandez will do so for the first time since he became World champion, at the Cup of China in Beijing this weekend.

Asada, 25, looks to add to her 14 career Grand Prix titles, most among active skaters. She’s already a winner this year, topping the free skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 3 against a field that included World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova and top Americans Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold.

Asada, known for her triple Axel, won her last Grand Prix competition, the 2013 Grand Prix Final. Then she finished a disappointing sixth in Sochi in February 2014, won her third World title one month later and took the 2014-15 season off from competition.

At Cup of China, Asada’s biggest competition could be Yelena Radionova, the World bronze medalist, European silver medalist and Russian national champion. Radionova missed a scheduled appearance at the smaller Finlandia Trophy in October, withdrawing due to health reasons.

Americans in the China field include Karen Chen, the U.S. bronze medalist who was too young for last season’s senior World Championships. Chen, 16, finished fifth at Skate America two weeks ago.

On the men’s side, the World champion Fernandez is coming off a second-place showing at the Japan Open, topped by 17-year-old Shoma Uno.

Uno went on to finish second to American Max Aaron at Skate America. However, Fernandez beat three-time World champion Patrick Chan by 17.1 points at the Japan Open. And Chan last week won Skate Canada by 11.6 over Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who didn’t skate at the Japan Open.

Fernandez faces little accomplished competition this week. Nobody else in the men’s field has earned an Olympic or Worlds medal. China’s Yan Han is the only other skater to win a Grand Prix event, and that was two years ago.

Icenetwork.com will stream for subscribers live coverage of men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance short programs and free skates. NBC will have coverage Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET.

Women’s short program — Friday, 4 a.m. ET (Asada at 4:54 a.m.)
Men’s short program — Friday, 6 a.m. ET (Fernandez at 7:26 a.m.)
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 3:35 a.m. ET
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 5:45 a.m. ET

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Full season broadcast schedule

Top Grand Prix season scores
WOMEN
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 206.01 (Skate America)
2. Gracie Gold (USA) — 202.80 (Skate America)
3. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 202.52 (Skate Canada)
4. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 188.99 (Skate Canada)
5. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 188.07 (Skate America)

MEN
1. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 271.14 (Skate Canada)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 259.54 (Skate Canada)
3. Max Aaron (USA) — 258.95 (Skate America)
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 257.43 (Skate America)
5. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 252.25 (Skate Canada)
6. Adam Rippon (USA) — 239.69 (Skate Canada)
7. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 238.82 (Skate Canada)
8. Jason Brown (USA) — 238.47 (Skate America)

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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