Rio Olympics six months out: Must-see Olympic events

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A more detailed schedule is here, but one must-watch Rio Olympic event per day, starting with a spectacle six months from today (all times Eastern):

Friday, Aug. 5 — Opening Ceremony (7 p.m.)
The cauldron will be lit at the famed Maracanã, preceded by the usual Parade of Nations and artistic performances.

Saturday, Aug. 6 — Swimming women’s 4x100m freestyle relay (9 p.m. session)
This could be the Rio debut for Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky, who should be vying for several medals each in the first week of the Games. The U.S. hasn’t won this event since 2000 and finished third (without Ledecky) at the World Championships on Aug. 2.

Sunday, Aug. 7 — Swimming men’s 4x100m freestyle relay (9 p.m. session)
No swimming race has provided more consistent drama over the last four Olympics, and this year’s edition is dripping with potential storylines. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte could be part of the U.S. quartet looking to take the Olympic title back from the French. Host Brazil has a deep pool of young sprinters, plus one of its most recognizable athletes, Cesar Cielo. Australia and Russia may also factor in.

Monday, Aug. 8 — Rugby women’s medal matches (4:30 p.m.)
The first Olympic rugby medals since 1924 will be awarded, though it will be the first for women and the first for the sevens version. The previous Olympic rugby tournaments were 15 players per side.

Tuesday, Aug. 9 — Gymnastics women’s team final (3 p.m.)
The U.S. looks to repeat as Olympic women’s team champion for the first time. It should be heavily favored over China and Russia given easy wins at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships.

Wednesday, Aug. 10 — Gymnastics men’s all-around final (3 p.m.)
Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, the six-time reigning World champion, could become the first repeat Olympic champion in 44 years and further the argument that he’s the greatest gymnast of all time.

Thursday, Aug. 11 — Gymnastics women’s all-around final (3 p.m.)
Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas went one-two at the World Championships on Oct. 29. Biles is the three-time reigning World all-around champion. Douglas is the reigning Olympic all-around champion.

Friday, Aug. 12 — Swimming men’s 100m butterfly (9 p.m. session)
It’s been said before, but expect this to be Phelps’ last individual Olympic swim. He captured the 100m butterfly at the last three Olympics and posted the world’s fastest time for 2015. Franklin (200m backstroke) and Ledecky (800m free) may also race individually for the last time (in Rio, not overall) in events they won four years ago.

Saturday, Aug. 13 — Tennis women’s singles final
Serena Williams could become the first singles player to repeat as Olympic champion.

SIX MONTHS OUT: Burning Questions | Team USA Roster | Rio Schedule Highlights | Key Qualifying, Trials Dates | Records Watch | Brazil’s Preparations

Sunday, Aug. 14 — Track and field men’s 100m final (9:25 p.m.)
In what’s expected to be his final Olympics, Usain Bolt could try to become the first male runner to win the same individual Olympic event three straight times. The last man other than Bolt to win the event — 2004 champ Justin Gatlin — could be his biggest competition.

Monday, Aug. 15 — Track and field women’s 400m final (9:45 p.m.)
Allyson Felix could capture the first of a possible four gold medals in six days. She is the reigning Olympic 200m champion and World 400m champion and was part of gold medal-winning 4x100m and 4x400m relays in London.

Tuesday, Aug. 16 — Weightlifting men’s super heavyweight final (6 p.m.)
The world’s strongest man will be crowned. At the 2015 World Championships, Russian Aleksey Lovchev lifted a world-record combined 1,047 pounds in the snatch and clean and jerk for gold.

Wednesday, Aug. 17 — Beach volleyball women’s final (9 p.m. session)
Three-time U.S. Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and new partner April Ross could spoil the Brazilian party on Copacabana Beach in one of the nation’s most popular sports. However, the two best beach teams last season were Brazilian pairs.

Thursday, Aug. 18 — Track and field men’s 200m final (9:30 p.m.)
This could be Bolt’s final individual Olympic race, one that he has dominated, winning every Olympic and World title since 2008. Again, Gatlin may play spoiler.

Friday, Aug. 19 — Soccer women’s final (4:30 p.m.)
The U.S. women could be going for a third straight Olympic gold medal, while host Brazil may seek its first Olympic men’s or women’s soccer title at the Maracanã.

Saturday, Aug. 20 — Volleyball women’s final (9:15 p.m.)
Brazil defeated the U.S. in the last two Olympic finals. But the Americans, now with Karch Kiraly coaching, swept Brazil in the 2014 World Championship semifinals en route to gold.

Sunday, Aug. 21 — Basketball men’s final (2:45 p.m.)
The biggest challenge ahead for the U.S. men’s program could be which players to leave off its 12-man Olympic roster. Anything less than a third straight gold medal could be the shocker of the entire Games.

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

Kenenisa Bekele
Getty
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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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