Jahvid Best, former Detroit Lions RB, named to Saint Lucia Olympic team

Jahvid Best
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By Nick Zaccardi and Seth Rubinroit

Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best has been submitted and approved for Saint Lucia’s Olympic track and field team and is set to become the first person with previous NFL experience to compete in a Summer Games.

“Above all else I’m excited to get out there and make my country and family proud,” Best said in a statement to NBC Olympics.

Best, a former California high school sprinter with a Saint Lucian father who holds dual citizenship, was a 2010 first-round draft pick whose football career was cut short after two seasons due to concussions.

He has been doing sprint training at the Altis center in Arizona, home of many elite Olympic athletes, for at least one year.

Best registered on the Olympic radar on April 2, when he ran a personal-best 10.16 seconds for the 100m with nearly the maximum allowable legal tailwind (1.9 meters/second) at a small meet in California.

That met the Olympic qualifying standard of 10.16 seconds or faster (on the dot), but the IAAF must also recognize the results as official.

The small meet’s director said in May they hadn’t considered sending results to the IAAF to be recognized. In June, after the director learned Best had run an Olympic qualifying time at the meet, those results finally appeared on Best’s IAAF profile.

But Best was still an American runner up until this week, though never in international competition, which was key to him being able to represent Saint Lucia in Rio.

He did not compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he would not have made the Olympic team as the U.S. has several sprinters who are faster.

But Saint Lucia does not have faster sprinters. Best’s Saint Lucia representation issues were solved, clearing the way for him to compete in Rio.

“This is a huge accomplishment for me, but at the same time this is just the beginning,” Best said. “I have only been in this sport for two years professionally, and plan on being around for a long time.”

Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island that debuted at the Olympics in 1996, has never sent more than six athletes to an Olympics and never earned a medal, according to sports-reference.com.

Best, given he hasn’t improved on that 10.16, would be fortunate to make the Olympic 100m semifinals.

About 40 NFL players have competed in the Olympics, but almost all of them have done so before playing their first regular-season game.

One athlete with prior NFL regular-season experience has competed at the Olympics, but it was at the Winter Games — 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker in bobsled at Albertville 1992.

Another NFL player could join Best in Rio. New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is a candidate for the U.S. Olympic rugby team expected to be named any day now.

Three other athletes with NFL experience failed to make Rio Olympic teams.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin finished seventh in the long jump at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on July 3. Goodwin, who finished 10th at the London Olympics before starting his NFL career, came into the meet with the two best jumps in the world for the year but strained a hamstring in qualifying at Trials. 

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts return specialist Jeff Demps was eliminated in the first round of the 100m at the Olympic Track and Field Trials. Demps was a member of the U.S. 4x100m relay team at London 2012, taking a silver medal that later had to be returned due to teammate Tyson Gay‘s doping.

Former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne made a quixotic bid for the world’s best rugby sevens team — Fiji — but did not make the final 12-man roster.

MORE: Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills WR, misses U.S. Olympic team

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

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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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