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Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky impress each other

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky met for the first time in 2015, when they were nominees for the same award. Ezekiel Elliott won.

Biles and Ledecky, who have a combined five gold medals at these Games and could finish with nine between them, came to New York City in April 2015 for the Sullivan Award ceremony.The award goes to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the U.S. (the definition of amateur athlete is used loosely in choosing nominees). Past winners include Michael Phelps, Michelle Kwan and Tim Tebow.

Biles and Ledecky were nominated for their 2014 performances – Ledecky winning five gold medals at the Pan Pacific Championships and Biles winning a second straight world all-around title.

But the award went to the then-Ohio State running back Elliott.

“Ezekiel truly epitomizes what the AAU Sullivan Award is all about – leadership and excellence both on and off the field,” AAU President Dr. Roger Goudy said in a press release then.

Biles is from Texas. Ledecky from Maryland. They each made the New York trip during the middle of their seasons, got dressed up and did media appearances before the ceremony that ended up crowning Elliott (but honoring all nominees).Biles’ coach, Aimee Boorman, jokes about it now.

“We were like, what, seriously, all right whatever,” Boorman said with a laugh and a smile and no disrespect Friday morning.

Biles said she and Ledecky exchanged little more than polite greetings at that first meeting.

“Everyone’s pretty shy, even though you’re at the same place for the same reason,” Biles said. “So we barely talked, but then we saw each other in L.A. [at pre-Olympic media shoots], and that’s when we started talking.”

Congratulations, good luck at your next meet, stuff like that.

Then on June 11, the 4-foot-9 Biles actually mounted a swimming starting block at an indoor pool, had it filmed and tweeted it at Ledecky.

“Yes @Simone_Biles! Great technique! You are more than welcome on the @USASwimming team!” Ledecky tweeted back.

 

Ledecky has tweeted 747 times, including about once every 12 days in the last year. Biles has tweeted more than 7,250 times.

On Biles’ first day in Rio, she saw Ledecky in the athletes’ village, ran up and hugged her.

“Simone’s kind of animated,” Boorman said. “Katie’s kind of chill.”

Asked if she could compare anything about the athletes’ accomplishments, Boorman remembered walking behind two male and two female swimmers the other day. They were discussing how hard it was for the male swimmer to train with Ledecky, who has been known to beat men in practice.

Then the male swimmer asked how Ledecky will fare if she swims at Stanford starting next year (Ledecky has not turned pro, so she is still eligible for NCAA competition).

“I don’t know, because she needs to train with the guys just to have someone to push her, someone to challenge her,” Boorman remembered the female swimmer saying.

“So that says how dominant she is,” Boorman continued. “It’s funny, because I’ve heard male gymnasts talk about Simone that way. They get upset that she can tumble and vault better than they can.”

Ledecky will end her Olympics on Thursday night as an overwhelming favorite in the 800m freestyle. If she wins, she will become the third U.S. woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympics, joining Missy Franklin and Amy Van Dyken.

Biles gets Friday and Saturday off before returning for apparatus finals Sunday (vault), Monday (balance beam) and Tuesday (floor exercise). If she sweeps them, which is possible to probable, she will surpass Ledecky, Franklin and Van Dyken with five golds.

As impressive as that would be, Biles looks at what Ledecky does and gives a look of dread.

“I would drown for sure,” Biles said.

Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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