Lemi Bayle, Atsede Baysa
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Boston Marathon winners not assured Olympic spots

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BOSTON (AP) — The 2016 Boston Marathon was a coronation for Ethiopia, which collected its first-ever sweep of the men’s and women’s titles.

That doesn’t mean the winners of the world’s most prestigious marathon will get a spot on the Ethiopian Olympic team.

Lemi Berhanu Hayle won the 120th edition of the Boston Marathon on Monday, and fellow Ethiopian Atsede Baysa took the women’s crown. But some of their countrymen are running in the London Marathon next week, and have a chance for faster times than the wind-slowed marks posted in Boston.

Unlike the United States, which held trials to select its Olympic team, the national federations in Ethiopia and other countries pick their teams.

“This is a major marathon,” Baysa said through an interpreter. “We don’t know what they are thinking, but we are confident they will select me.”

Hayle finished in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 45 seconds to beat defending champion Lelisa Desisa by 47 seconds. Yemane Tsegay was an additional 30 seconds back to round out an all-Ethiopian top three.

Baysa finished 44 seconds ahead of fellow Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye. Kenyan Joyce Chepkirui‘s third-place finish was the only thing that denied Ethiopia a sweep in both races. Kenya, which had dominated the Boston Marathon since the professional era began in 1986, had its worst showing since 1990.

“In sports, sometimes that happens. But not always,” Desisa said. “It is the performance on the day.”

And the performances in Boston might not seem all that impressive on paper. Hayle’s time doesn’t crack the top 150 marathon times in the world this year; Baysa’s 2:29:19 doesn’t rank in the top 50 for the women.

But Boston’s historic up-and-down course and lack of pace-setters leads to the kind of tactical racing that runners are likely to see in Rio de Janeiro. This year’s Boston field included three of the top Ethiopian women ever.

“Boston is different from any other races,” said Desisa, who also won the 2013 race a few hours before a pair of bombs exploded at the finish line.

VIDEO: Boston Marathon documentary trailer

Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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