Nigeria shakes off travel issues, defeats Japan in Olympic opener

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The days leading up to the start of the Olympic men’s soccer competition were anything but smooth for Nigeria, with their being disputes with the Nigerian Football Federation regarding items such as the payment of their bonuses and the size of the plane that was supposed to take them from Atlanta to Manaus. Thursday morning things were finally sorted out, with the team arriving in Manaus just under seven hours before they were scheduled to face Japan in the group opener for both. What would Nigeria be able to give from a competitive standpoint given their travels?

Turns out the Nigerians had plenty left in the tank, as they scored five goals in holding off the Japanese for a 5-4 victory in the final match of the day.

Prior to Thursday no Olympic men’s soccer player managed to register a hat trick in a match since Carlos Tevez did so in 2004 in Athens. That feat was accomplished twice in Brazil, with Nigeria’s Oghenekaro Etebo becoming the second to do so. Etebo, who opened his account in the 11th minute, would go onto score four goals in the match. Etebo’s first goal was the third in a stretch of four goals scored in a seven-minute span, with both teams claiming two apiece.

Nigeria’s Umar Sadiq tapped in a rebound given up by Japan keeper Masatoshi Kushibiki in the sixth minute to open the scoring, only to have Japan receive a penalty three minutes later. Shinzo Koroki converted the penalty in the ninth minute, with Etebo offering a reply two minutes later and Japan’s Takumi Minamino knotting the score at two goals apiece in the 13th minute. The teams would remain tied until the 42nd minute, when Etebo scored his second on a failed clearance by a Japanese fullback. Etebo’s first shot wasn’t all that strong, but the defender attempted to clear the ball with a header that fell right onto Etebo’s right foot.

Less than ten minutes later Japan would be whistled for a foul in the area, with Etebo getting his hat trick from the spot in the 51st minute. Etebo scored his fourth goal in the 65th minute, with Kushibiki’s clearance of a Nigerian cross being of poor quality. At that point it appeared as if Nigeria could pick its final tally, but to their credit Japan refused to quit. A goal from recent Arsenal signing Takuma Asano in the 70th minute made the score 5-3, with Musashi Suzuki pulling Japan to within a goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Luckily for Nigeria their opponents ran out of time, as they appeared to be gassed (understandably so, given their travel to Manaus) down the stretch.

Both teams return to action Sunday, with Nigeria taking on Sweden and Japan facing Colombia in a doubleheader in Manaus.

Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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