Tyson Gay makes one last Olympic run after being stripped of medal

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – Tyson Gay has a new coach and a longer beard to go with a new attitude: He doesn’t really care what people think about him.

Behind that tough exterior, though, masks the pain of having to hand back his only Olympic medal. A doping violation cost him and all his relay teammates the silver medal from the 2012 London Games.

A career full of missed chances, close calls, untimely injuries and that stripped-away medal is nearing its end. The man who used to be considered the biggest threat to Usain Bolt is now often viewed as a bit player in the sprint game. Fine with him, the American 100-meter record holder insists. He’s making one last run at the Olympics, doing it for himself, his family, his fans and nobody else.

“This could restore things for me in my heart,” Gay said on the eve of the preliminaries of 100 meters at the Olympic trials. “I lost something when I gave that medal back. The people closest to me, they know how bad I want that medal. Anyone on the outside? I don’t really care.”

For the first time in quite a while, the 33-year-old Gay has no aches or pains. Well, maybe a little knee soreness, but that’s about it, as he tries to earn an Olympic spot in the 100 and 200. Since becoming the American record holder in 2009, Gay’s body has betrayed him. He’s gone through groin and hip surgeries over the years to keep him on the track.

He fully believes he can keep up with the likes of Justin Gatlin, who is a few months older than him, and Trayvon Bromell, the up-and-comer in the field.

“I’m considered the old one,” Gay said. “I’m going to go out there and give it my best, let it all hang.”

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He’s accepted that his past doping problem will now be part of the permanent record. Gay received a one-year ban in 2013 for testing positive for a steroid precursor DHEA – a penalty that was reduced because he provided information that led to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against his former coach, Jon Drummond.

“The key thing to that is putting the past in the past and showing people you can always persevere, especially when you make mistakes in life,” said Gay, who is the second-fastest man in history, thanks to his 9.69-second 100 at a 2009 meet in Shanghai (Bolt’s world record is 9.58 and Yohan Blake tied Gay’s mark in 2012). “I don’t get a lot of hate mail, or any of that type of thing. (Fans) allow me to forget about it for the most part.”

Bolt called him out, though, intimating Gay should’ve been suspended for life. Although Gatlin has a doping past as well, Bolt has been harsher toward Gay, possibly because he was Bolt’s biggest rival for so many years.

Doesn’t bother Gay.

“USADA did their investigation and understood everything wasn’t intentional,” Gay said. “But (Bolt) is entitled to his own opinion. I’m moving forward, man. Just continue to do what I do, not worry about what no one else says.”

He’s reached out to Drummond, with the two sharing a text over a family matter. Drummond, the former track star and longtime coach, got hit with an eight-year doping ban after arbitrators found a series of discussions concluded with Drummond convincing Gay to take the banned substance, and carrying it to Europe for him.

“People are in situations and do certain things,” said Gay, who has a son who is almost 2 and a teenage daughter. “At the end of the day, I can’t sit here and hold a grudge and beat myself up. That’s all I would do, if I didn’t let go.”

These days, Gay is working with longtime coach John Smith, who partnered with him about a year and a half ago. The two are smoothing out his starts, which have sometimes stood in Gay’s way. They’ve recently discovered something, Smith said.

“On Tuesday, his first start at practice and I’m like, ‘Where did that come from?'” Smith recounted. “He got better and better and better. He’s a gamer. He knows how to go for it. That’s what I love about him.

“He’s older. He’s injury-free. He’s been scarred up for the last four years, coupled with all the other publicity he had that I don’t have to expound on. This is motivational for him, to go out and prove to himself and to the rest of the public … he’s still here.”

Indeed, Gay still is.

“It’s been a rough three years,” Gay said. “But I would say I’m almost at peace. After I make this team, then I’ll be all the way there.”

MORE: Ten men’s events to watch at Olympic Trials

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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