Swimmers prep for Olympic Trials at split meets this weekend

Ryan Lochte
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Ryan Lochte is racing in Charlotte. Katie Ledecky is racing in Atlanta. Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin are training in Colorado.

The Olympic Trials are in six weeks, and the best U.S. swimmers are spread across the country.

An annual grand prix meet in Charlotte started Thursday, highlighted by the 11-time Olympic medalist Lochte, who resides in the Queen City.

Another meet in Atlanta begins Friday, with a field including the five-time 2015 World champion Ledecky.

Phelps was scheduled to compete in Atlanta but withdrew last week ahead of his baby boy being born.

Franklin signed up for neither meet and is believed to be training hard at home in Colorado, embarking on a blackout period for sponsorships as she focuses on Olympic Trials prep.

“We’re six weeks out of trials, and about another five weeks out of the Olympics, so everybody has dialed in now,” Lochte’s coach, David Marsh, told media Thursday. “This meet is probably the key window of time, about six weeks out, where, as an athlete and a coach, and kind of all the preparation comes together to make the adjustments. … So the information that will be gained from this weekend will be very, very important in terms of the preparation. And even as a standalone, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some tremendous swims.”

Lochte is entered in seven events from Friday through Sunday in Charlotte and said it will be his last-chance meet to determine what he swims at the Olympic Trials in Omaha from June 26-July 3.

The Charlotte meet finals are at 6 ET each night, with NBC Sports Live Extra coverage on Saturday and Sunday. USASwimming.org will have a live webcast all three nights.

Questions about Lochte’s event schedule center on whether he swims the grueling 400m individual medley at trials. That’s the only individual event Lochte won at the 2012 Olympics, but he contested the 400m IM at one meet in 2013 and 2014 combined.

He raced it a little more often since January 2015, has the fastest time in the U.S. this year and is contesting it again Friday.

The other questionable trials event for Lochte is the 200m backstroke, the only individual race he won at the 2008 Olympics. Lochte didn’t make the 2015 World Championships team in the 200m back and isn’t racing it this weekend.

Marsh marveled at Lochte’s individual-medley prowess in Thursday’s press conference, saying Lochte’s breaststroke is better than ever.

“Ryan has, I think, the best four strokes in the world, if you can put them all together,” Marsh said.

London Olympic champions Tyler Clary and Dana Vollmer are also competing in Charlotte.

The Atlanta meet also includes 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin and Olympic 100m free gold medalist Nathan Adrian.

But the headliner is Ledecky, who is entered in six events, including both individual medleys and the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles.

It was four years ago Friday that Ledecky stamped herself as an Olympic team favorite by winning the 800m freestyle in Charlotte with a personal best by more than four seconds.

MORE: Michael Phelps explains ‘Boomer’ name

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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