Javier Fernandez overtakes Yuzuru Hanyu for repeat World title

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How did Spain’s Javier Fernandez repeat as World champion?

He only put down the best program of his career to erase the largest Olympic or Worlds lead ever and overtake the greatest skater of all time in Boston on Friday night. And he did it after being unable to skate the day before due to a heel injury.

Fernandez landed three quadruple jumps over a clean free skate, 13 minutes after training partner, Olympic champion and world-record holder Yuzuru Hanyu finished a shockingly error-filled performance.

Fernandez scored 216.41 points in the free skate, the second-highest since this system was implemented in 2005 behind Hanyu’s record 219.48 at the Grand Prix Final in December. Fernandez’s overall total: 314.93.

“I knew to have a chance to beat Yuzu, I need to do the best program of my life,” Fernandez said.

Hanyu was well off his best, scoring 184.61 in the free skate after flawed jump landings that included putting his hands down, turning out and even falling. His total: 295.17.

“I want to do it over,” Hanyu said after falling to silver behind Fernandez at Worlds for a second straight year.

And with that, Fernandez easily overcame a 12.04-point deficit after Wednesday’s short program. Hanyu’s lead going into the free skate was the largest-ever for any man, woman, pair or ice dance couple at an Olympics or Worlds under the 12-year-old system.

Jin Boyang took bronze, China’s first men’s medal at an Olympics or Worlds, after being in fifth place after the short program. The quadruple-jump prince is 18 years old and made his Worlds debut.

Three-time World champion Patrick Chan of Canada fell into the TD Garden boards and from third to fifth.

The U.S. trio of Adam RipponMax Aaron and Grant Hochstein all recorded personal-best free skates in international competition, finishing sixth, eighth and 10th, respectively, to thunderous standing ovations.

“I’ve never been to an Olympic Games, but if this is anything like the Olympic Games, I can’t tell you how much fun I would have out there if I can make it,” Aaron said.

It’s the first time three U.S. men finished in the top 10 at Worlds since 2005, but it wasn’t enough to keep the U.S. at three men’s spots for 2017 Worlds. The top two U.S. men’s finishes needed to add up to 13 or fewer to keep three spots. Rippon and Aaron added up to 14.

Back to the champion.

Last year, Fernandez said he believed Spain had nine ice rinks, not including the Madrid sheet on which he learned to skate, which became the site of a restaurant.

Now, Fernandez is a two-time World champion and four-time European champion. His first World crown last year knocked soccer off the Spanish sports newspaper Marca front page. He has become a hope for a nation with two Winter Olympic medals, both in Alpine skiing and the last in 1992.

“It’s out of your mind,” said Fernandez, who finished an agonizing fourth at the Sochi Olympics and felt like he let Spain down.

The World Championships conclude Saturday with coverage of the pairs and women’s free skates on NBCSN, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra beginning at 2 p.m. ET. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: Kimmie Meissner ready for U.S. to end women’s medal drought

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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