AP

Steven Holcomb reacts to Russia bobsled doping report

Leave a comment

U.S. bobsledder Steven Holcomb isn’t ready to say he wants Sochi Olympic medals redistributed after Thursday’s report of Russian gold medalists doping.

Holcomb-driven sleds took bronze medals in the two- and four-man at the 2014 Winter Games. Those events were both won by sleds driven by Alexander Zubkov, one of four Russian gold medalists from Sochi reported Thursday as being part of a state-run doping program leading up to the Winter Games.

“It’s really hard to say,” Holcomb said Thursday night when asked if he thought he deserved to be upgraded to silver. “I know Zubkov. I would like to say that I’m actually friends with Zubkov. … He’s helped me out. I’ve helped him. … I’d like to think that he is an honorable guy.”

That said, Holcomb had heard and read previously about doping in bobsled.

“I’m definitely suspicious,” said Holcomb, who in 2010 piloted a four-man crew that ended a 62-year U.S. Olympic gold-medal drought in men’s bobsled. “I kid you not, I’ve had this conversation with Russian [bobsled] pushers, multiple times, about what constitutes cheating. And they said, well, you should be able to take anything, any sort of steroid, performance-enhancing drug, any time. Just not on race day.”

Those memories re-emerged when he read the report Thursday afternoon.

“It’s been hard to swallow,” he said. “I guess I kind of think it’s been a very good day, but at the same time it’s hard to know that you’ve been doing this for so long and working so hard and you end up being cheated in the end.”

Zubkov’s victories at the Olympics were partially attributed to his experience on the Sochi track. Being a Russian, he had the home advantage of many more training runs at the Sanki Sliding Center, reportedly as much as 10 times as many as Holcomb, going into the Winter Games.

Holcomb stuck to that contention Thursday, even though the use of performance-enhancing drugs could impact the all-important start times pushing the sled at the top of the track.

“You could see that he knew [driving] tricks about the track that you just couldn’t figure out,” Holcomb said.

Zubkov called Thursday’s report “baseless libel” on Russian TV, according to The Associated Press.

Holcomb, who is still driving, and Zubkov, who retired after the Sochi Olympics, have not spoken since the Winter Games. Holcomb would reach out to Zubkov but doesn’t have his contact information.

“I would like to ask him, ‘Hey, what’s up? Talk to me,'” Holcomb said. “Not to admit you’re guilty or not guilty, but just talk to me. Like I said, I’ve known the guy for a long time. For six months a year, we spend four or five hours a day together [in the World Cup season]. It’s a lot of time. It becomes a brotherhood, a family.”

Holcomb instead spent Thursday evening talking to a doping-control officer in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he is doing offseason training.

Holcomb was undergoing a random, out-of-competition drug test while watching the below NBC Nightly News report on the doping news, for which he was interviewed.

“It sounds crazy, but it actually happened,” said Holcomb, who was not allowed the use of a cell phone while being drug tested and thus couldn’t document the twist of fate. “If I could take a picture, I would have.”

MORE: Holcomb competed at Olympics with torn Achilles

Emily Sisson a U.S. Olympic marathon trials favorite, thanks to Ireland

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Emily Sisson didn’t think she would become a professional runner until her last year of college. Now, at 28, she goes into the U.S. Olympic marathon trials as a contender for one of three Tokyo spots, if not the overall favorite.

“I’ve only done one marathon, so I definitely don’t feel like I’m an experienced marathoner,” Sisson said by phone last week from her Arizona base. “That’s the one question mark I’ve had all build-up.”

Predicting a marathon can be a crapshoot, but a Podiumrunner.com experts panel pegged Sisson to win. She is younger than any female U.S. Olympic marathoner since Anne Marie Lauck in 1996 (though fellow contender Jordan Hasay is a month younger).

Confidence stems from last April 28. Sisson clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow. She finished sixth — behind five East Africans. She crossed 3:25 ahead of sometimes training partner and mentor Molly Huddle, also a headliner at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (12 p.m. ET, NBC).

“We wanted to run faster,” Sisson said that day in London. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Sisson later mentioned a pre-race scare on the “Keeping Track” podcast. She tripped over a carpet jogging back from a bathroom, banged both knees 15 minutes before the start and got checked out physically by a chiropractor and mentally by her husband, who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Sisson then covered the final half of that marathon alone, a foreign feeling for the longtime track runner. At one point, she thought about having never before run more than 23 miles.

Her mind could have also wandered to sports memories that led her to the world’s strongest marathon: Attending a 1999 Women’s World Cup match and seeing her hero, Mia Hamm. As a soccer-playing teenager, being asked by a friend to join a track relay team. Or being told during a record-breaking high school career that she was reminiscent of 2004 Olympic marathoner Jen Rhines.

Sisson, whose dad ran and mom did gymnastics at the University of Wisconsin, transferred after one year in Madison to Providence. She had a best NCAA Championships finish of fourth going into her last year. Before that final season, Sisson was prepared to leave competitive running once her NCAA eligibility exhausted in pursuit of an MBA.

“I had been going through a bit of a funk with running,” she said. “I was getting a little tired.”

Things changed the summer before her senior year. She vacationed with then-boyfriend/now-husband Shane Quinn, a fellow Providence runner, in Quinn’s native Ireland. At one point, they altered training, ditching tempo runs for local road races. Sisson never before competed on the roads. She doesn’t remember the distances being exact. She does remember winning.

“That was a new, fun thing that kept the sport kind of fresh for me,” she said. “You finish, and you go into a local pub and have sandwiches.”

Providence coach Ray Treacy put Sisson in more road races that fall. The opportunity was right. She had no cross-country eligibility left while she readied for the winter and spring track seasons. She went on to win the 2015 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 5000m, a springboard to the pros (while still going after the MBA).

Sisson was set back by injury in 2016 and placed 10th in the Olympic trials 10,000m. She kept training under Treacy, and perhaps just as important, with Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m. Huddle, seven years older than Sisson, made her marathon debut after the Rio Olympics.

“Emily really looks up to her and is inspired by her,” Treacy said. “Molly has helped her out in numerous ways in training. … Making sure she’s not going overboard with the training, not running too fast. She kind of keeps her under control.”

Sisson made the last two world championships teams in the 10,000m, but Treacy thought marathon since 2015. They signed her up for the 2019 London Marathon, in part because Huddle was going to race it as her third career 26.2-miler. And in part to get Sisson ready for the Olympic trials in 10 months’ time.

The build-up was better than ideal. Sisson ran the second-fastest half marathon in U.S. history (on a record-eligible course) in January. She became the third-fastest U.S. woman all-time at 10,000m in March.

Come April, Treacy was impressed again just by watching Sisson after she crossed the London finish line in what would be the second-fastest marathon for a U.S. woman in 2019.

“It didn’t look like it took anything out of her,” Treacy said. “She recovered really fast. Within minutes, she was feeling pretty good. That was a good sign.”

Sisson returned home to Quinn and their golden retriever, Desmond, who has 1,400 Instagram followers. She skipped a fall marathon to compete in the 10,000m at track worlds in Doha, placing a respectable 10th.

The recent marathon build-up for trials went just as well, if not better, than the training for London.

“I’m definitely putting a bit of pressure on myself with this one,” Sisson said. “But at the same time, I don’t get caught up in so much what other people say. I don’t really read the articles about who’s the favorite or what chance you have of making the team.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic trials

Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic trials