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Well worth the wait: Neymar stars as Brazil men’s soccer gets first Olympic gold

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Weverton’s save and Neymar’s decisive penalty kick gave Brazil the last of the unplucked gems, as the storied soccer nation finally added a gold medal to its trophy case.

Neymar’s 27th minute free kick gave Brazil an early lead, but Max Meyer managed to bring it all back for Germany in the second half in a 1-1 game that ended 5-4 in penalty kicks at the Maracana on Saturday.

Brazil looked the better for a goal in extra time, but it didn’t come. It doesn’t matter. One of the world’s most celebrated soccer nations had struck gold.

WATCH: Full match replay

There were fireworks a plenty in the gold medal match, as both sides had historic gold in view.

Serge Gnabry picked up a splendid diagonal ball toward the left corner, and worked two defenders before finding Julian Brandt. His curling shot was a beautiful thing and beat Weverton but clanged off the crossbar.

At the other end, Luan couldn’t make proper contact with a cut back cross from Douglas Costa, bouncing his attempt wide.

That’s when Neymar’s goal put victory on the table for Brazil, after a mazey move down the left that was cut short by a harsh tackle from Matthias Ginter.

Barcelona’s dribbling daredevil took his chance well, curling a vicious free kick that had a bit of grace, too. It hit the bar and went in to give Brazil its 1-0 lead. Was Brazil on the verge of glory?

Soon after, Sven Bender bent a header off the same woodwork for Germany. It felt more goals were inevitable, as Brazil looked for the luxury of an insurance goal and the Germans aimed to get back again.

Schalke’s Meyer was lively all match, and looking for a place to happen when he equalized in the 59th minute. Jeremy Toljan streaked down the right wing to cut back a ball toward the penalty spot that Meyer belted to the right of a diving Weverton.

Germany's Maximilian Meyer celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the final match of the men's Olympic football tournament between Brazil and Germany at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Was Brazil playing scared with the lead? Conceding woke the hosts up, and they had the better of both possession and chances in the next few minutes. Gabriel Jesus looked to have a shot deflected out of play for a corner by Toljan, but the referee didn’t see it that way.

It seemed there was something on when Neymar presided over a free kick from further out in the 74th minute. The captain chipped the offering over the wall on a set play, but Germany goalkeeper Timo Horn had the wherewithal to collect the ball.

Brazil camped in the Germany end for the rest of the second half, bar a counter attack or two. Still, the gold medal game was sent into extra time.

Neymar continued to shine, more as a playmaker, in the extra periods. He picked out Felipe Anderson early in the second session, but Horn came out to make the save.

It was time for PKs. The selection was quick, the crew was picked in order:

GER: Ginter scores
BRA: Renato Augusto scores
GER: Gnabry scores
BRA: Marquinhos scores
GER: Brandt scores
BRA: Rafinha scores
GER: Sule scores
BRA: Luan scores
GER: Petersen saved
BRA: Neymar scored

The pendulum swings for Brazil, who was low on momentum after the women were eliminated on the heels of a poor Copa America Centenario and an embarrassing home 7-1 World Cup ouster at the hands of Germany.

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

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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.”

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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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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.

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