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Ghirmay Ghebreslassie youngest man to win NYC Marathon; U.S. ends drought

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NEW YORK — Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, a 20-year-old from Eritrea, became the youngest man to win the New York City Marathon, while Americans made both the men’s and women’s podiums for the first time since 1994.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany became the first runner in 30 years to win three straight New York City Marathons.

U.S. Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Molly Huddle each finished third on Sunday.

New York City Marathon results are here. A record 52,049 people started the 46th running of the five-borough race.

Ghebreslassie won in 2 hours, 7 minutes, 51 seconds, adding to a résumé that includes the 2015 World title and a fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics just 11 weeks earlier.

He beat Kenyan Lucas Rotich by 1:02, becoming the first Eritrean to win a World Marathon Major title and the first non-Kenyan man or woman to win New York City since 2011.

Ghebreslassie, Rotich and Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa broke away in the 14th mile. Desisa dropped back six miles later (and eventually dropped out of the race altogether, along with defending champion Stanley Biwott and top pre-race American hope Dathan Ritzenhein).

Ghebreslassie inched away from Rotich over the final six miles in sunny, upper-50s weather, finishing comfortably enough to turn around, run back and high-five Rotich before the Kenyan crossed.

After, Ghebreslassie exuded self-assurance rather than any sense of astonishment when told of the history he made. When asked about his short turnaround from the Olympics. And when pressed about difficulties faced before or during the race.

“Only the wind,” said Ghebreslassie, the second-oldest of eight children who took a short break from training one month ago to get married. “If you lose your confidence means you are hopeless. If you lose your hope, you can’t do anything.”

MORE: Keitany follows 3-year-old’s advice; Huddle looks to 2017

Many had lost hope in Abdirahman long before Sunday’s race.

The four-time Olympian had finished just one marathon since the 2012 Olympic Trials (an unimpressive 2:16:06 at Boston 2014) and turns 40 years old on New Year’s Day. He pulled out before the Olympic Trials marathon in February with a calf injury.

“I didn’t run the Olympic trials, so I told my manager, this is going to be my Olympic trials,” Abdirahman said.

At the 19-mile mark, Abdirahman and five relatively unaccomplished men were 2 minutes, 20 seconds behind the three-man lead group.

When Desisa dropped out in the 22nd mile, Abdirahman suddenly was in the podium mix.

“I thought I might finish fifth, sixth, or seventh,” said Abdirahman, Somalian born and nicknamed the Black Cactus. “When I passed Lelisa, that’s when my eyes just — I don’t know what hit me, but I just get another wind.”

Abdirahman became the first U.S. man to make the New York City podium since Meb Keflezighi won in 2009, a simply stunning result. Keflezighi announced his final marathon Sunday.

“I was telling these guys I was in the Olympics in 2000, and they were looking at me, really?” Abdirahman said. “And I say yes.”

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Keitany, a mother of two and the second-fastest female marathoner ever, crossed the Central Park finish line in 2:24:26. Her margin of victory over countrywoman Sally Kipyego, 3:34, was the largest since 1984.

The last runner to win three straight New York City titles was Norwegian Grete Waitz, who won five of her nine total from 1982 through 1986.

Huddle, a two-time U.S. Olympian on the track making her marathon debut, was third, the best finish by a U.S. women’s runner since Shalane Flanagan was second in 2010.

Gwen Jorgensen, the Olympic triathlon champion in her marathon debut, finished 14th in 2:41:01.

Earlier, Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, completed her fourth straight sweep of the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City Marathons.

McFadden, born in Russia paralyzed from the waist down and adopted from a St. Petersburg orphanage at age 6 by an American, completed her New York City four-peat on Sunday in 1 hour, 47 minutes, 43 seconds. She won by more than one minute after 26.2 miles.

The 27-year-old became the first women’s wheelchair racer to win four straight New York City Marathons, taking her fifth overall crown. She has won 20 combined World Marathon Major titles.

She’s the only marathoner, able-bodied or wheelchair, to sweep Boston, Chicago, London and New York City in one year, let alone four.

McFadden shockingly lost the Rio Paralympic marathon in a photo finish (video here). The woman who beat McFadden there, China’s Zou Lihong, made her New York City Marathon debut Sunday.

McFadden went to Rio with a shot at seven gold medals in September. She won the 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m and earned silver in the 100m and the marathon. She and the U.S. were disqualified from the 4x400m relay.

Also Sunday, Marcel Hug of Switzerland won the New York City Marathon men’s wheelchair race in a photo finish over Australian Kurt Fearnley. Hug swept the Berlin, Boston and Chicago Marathons this year, plus the Paralympics.

MORE: Runners take on NYC Marathon to help Holocaust survivors

Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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Softball set to return to Olympics as first event on Tokyo 2020 schedule

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Softball, returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Games, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The preliminary master schedule for the Tokyo Olympics was published Wednesday, with the first softball game scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on the Wednesday before the Opening Ceremony.

The first game is scheduled to be held in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster

Traditionally, soccer has been the first sport to have action at a Summer Olympics, one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. While soccer is again scheduled to have matches that same Wednesday, they start later than 10 a.m.

The Tokyo 2020 schedule is subject to change and certainly not a final version — swimming, diving and synchronized swimming schedules are still to be determined, but those sports do not typically start before the Opening Ceremony.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal 10 years ago.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball are not guaranteed to remain on the Olympic program in Paris in 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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