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Kenenisa Bekele’s marathon world record quest resumes next week

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Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele is entered in the Dubai Marathon on Jan. 20 and the London Marathon on April 23, in what appear to be his next two bids to break the 26.2-mile world record.

The London field is deeper, also including Rio Olympic marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia and 2015 New York City Marathon winner Stanley Biwott of Kenya.

Bekele, 34, padded his argument as the greatest runner of all time when he ran the second-fastest marathon ever, 2:03:03, to win Berlin on Sept. 25. He missed Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s record by six seconds.

“It was fantastic for me to get a personal best, but I’m still disappointed to have missed out on the world record,” Bekele said in a media statement Sunday. “I knew I had trained well and I knew what my strengths were. The Berlin race was fantastic, but I could see that I still had to make a couple of changes in my training.”

Bekele racked up world records and Olympic and world titles in the 5000m and 10,000m from 2004 to 2009. He had done little of note since, debuted in the marathon in 2014 and was controversially left off Ethiopia’s Olympic team for Rio.

Bekele’s resurgence came four months ago in Berlin, known as the world’s fastest record-eligible course, and now he goes into 2017 as one of the world’s top two marathoners.

The other is Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, who is not expected to run a record-eligible spring marathon as he is part of Nike’s sub-two-hour marathon project.

If Bekele breaks the marathon world record, he becomes unquestionably the greatest distance runner of all time (he arguably already is), which would beg the debate over the greatest runner of all time, with his chief rival in that conversation being Usain Bolt.

Bekele’s best shot at the world record this year may come in Dubai next week.

Dubai and London have similar amounts of the fastest marathon times ever, despite Dubai’s disadvantage of not being a World Marathon Major that attracts more of the world’s fastest runners.

World record: 2:02:57 (Kimetto, Berlin 2014)
London Marathon course record: 2:03:05 (Kipchoge, 2016)
Dubai Marathon course record: 2:04:23 (Ayele Abshero, 2012)

If Bekele runs the Berlin Marathon again in September, that would give him the greatest chance of breaking the world record. Berlin appears unlikely if Bekele races at the world track and field championships in August, which he said he will do if he is selected by the Ethiopian federation, according to the IAAF.

Bekele attempted the Dubai-London double in 2015. He dropped out of Dubai around the 19-mile mark due to injury and withdrew before the London Marathon due to an Achilles tendon injury. Bekele wouldn’t run another marathon until London the following year.

The only marathon star whose spring plans haven’t been announced is Kenyan Wilson Kipsang, the only person to break 2:04 three times.

MORE: Boston Marathon field includes 5 of 6 U.S. marathoners from Rio

Sun Yang defends failure to take drug test

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MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — Chinese Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang defended his failure to take a doping test by testifying at a rare public hearing Friday that inspectors drawing blood and urine samples failed to have the proper identification papers.

Courtroom translation problems in both English and Chinese marred the landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, frustrating Sun’s lawyers during his opening statement and cross-examination. Sun’s mother later took the stand in sometimes-combative testimony in the afternoon, admonishing lawyers, “I haven’t finished yet.”

One lawyer said he could not tell if Sun was being evasive or if it was simply a misunderstood interpretation.

The case stems from the three-time Olympic champion’s refusal to cooperate with three anti-doping officials during a random test at his home in China in September 2018.

“During inspection, I realized they don’t have any authorized papers to prove their identification,” Sun testified.

A WADA expert disputed Sun’s account, saying the inspectors’ credentials were in order.

A tribunal appointed by swimming world body FINA gave Sun only a caution in January, but the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed the case to CAS.

Its judges are not expected to give a verdict from Friday’s 12-hour hearing until next year, and if the ruling goes against him, Sun could be banned from the Tokyo Olympics.

The 6-foot, 7-inch Sun became a star in China as its first man to win an Olympic title in swimming. He won the 400m and 1500m at the 2012 London Games. He added gold in the 200m in Rio.

The 27-year-old Sun also has 11 world championships and is a polarizing figure in the sport.

Annoyed by official secrecy surrounding Sun’s three-month ban for a positive test in 2014, Australian rival Mack Horton in Rio called him a drug cheat.

Sun provoked more anger among rivals by winning two world titles in July while the CAS appeal was pending. Horton and Brit Duncan Scott refused to stand on the podium with him in Gwangju, South Korea.

The translation problems at Friday’s hearing began almost from the start, and it was unclear at times how much of the testimony and questions were understood, with both judges and lawyers expressing frustration.

At one point, Sun’s London-based lawyer, Ian Meakin, apologized for asking his client leading questions, saying: “The translation was so bad.”

Richard Young, a lawyer for WADA, said the translation was so bad that “you couldn’t tell if he was monumentally evasive or couldn’t understand the questions.”

When the hearing resumed after a break, juding panel president Franco Frattini also apologized “for the poor quality of the interpretation.”

The court noted that Sun’s team selected the translators, who were replaced at a lunch break by a WADA staff member. Lawyers were told an accurate transcript of the morning sessions would later be provided to all parties.

Sun detailed how he and his entourage had doubted the qualifications of the officials conducting the doping test at his home that escalated into a confrontation.

“How are you able to trust them?” said Sun, whose personal doctor had been summoned to the scene in the middle of the night.

A security guard instructed by Sun’s mother used a hammer to smash a box containing a vial of his blood during a late-night dispute after the swimmer questioned the collection team’s credentials.

Sun said he was not respected by the officials, including a chaperone he said asked to take his photograph.

“This is really ridiculous,” Sun said in translated comments.

Although Sun and his entourage were criticized for their conduct, the first tribunal panel said the sample mission was void and invalid because anti-doping protocol was not followed. Technically, Sun was judged to be not properly notified of needing to give samples.

WADA has asked for a ban of between two and eight years, believing Sun voluntarily refused to submit to give samples.

“That is pretty sensational,” Young, the WADA lawyer, said of the hammer-smashing incident. “But he was nailed on a tampering violation before any of that happened.”

If WADA’s appeal is upheld, Sun risks a longer sanction that could bar him from the Tokyo Games because it would be his second offense. He served a three-month ban imposed by Chinese authorities in 2014 after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

That initial ban was quickly addressed by Sun and his legal team on Friday. He said it was a prescribed medication for a heart issue because he sometimes fainted after training.

Lawyers for WADA repeatedly asked Sun if he had learned in his long career of the serious consequences for refusing to give a sample. He repeatedly answered that the lead anti-doping official had not warned him specifically.

Sun’s anti-doping history was detailed, with 180 samples given at competitions and during training from 2012-18. A total of 60 were organized by the Sweden-based firm IDTM, which sent the collection team to Sun’s home.

CAS judge Philippe Sands pressed Sun whether IDTM staff had shown different kinds of documents of authorization on the 59 previous occasions he gave samples without problems.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva leads as Russians dominate Rostelecom Cup

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As Yevgenia Medvedeva met coach Brian Orser after her Rostelecom Cup short program, she exhaled with one word: Finally.

The world’s dominant skater in the last Olympic cycle returned to her former home of Moscow and performed her highest-scoring short program since the PyeongChang Olympics, tallying 76.93 points for the lead.

“I am happy with my skate, because it finally worked out the way it should,” Medvedeva said, according to the International Skating Union.

Russia also topped the men’s and pairs’ short programs and the rhythm dance. The last time one nation swept all four disciplines at a Grand Prix was Russia at this competition in 2005. Rostelecom Cup concludes with all of the free skates on Saturday. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Medvedeva, who must win after Saturday’s free skate for any chance at December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, topped a short program at a top-level senior international competition for the first time in two years.

Since that last time, she struggled with a broken bone in her foot. She saw then-training partner Alina Zagitova surpass her as the world’s best female skater for Olympic gold (and, this season, other, younger Russian teens). She dealt with growing pains from the transition to a new coach and new environment, with Orser’s group in Toronto.

One short program does not mean the Medvedeva is all the way back, even with all clean jumping passes highlighted by a triple flip-triple toe loop. However, Medvedeva was night and day better than at Skate Canada three weeks ago, when she stumbled out of a double Axel and then fell and slid into the boards on a triple Lutz. Medvedeva replaced the Lutz for a triple loop on Friday.

It might not be possible for her to win on Saturday, though, given second-place Alexandra Trusova has the ability to land four quadruple jumps. (Quads aren’t allowed in women’s short programs, but they are in free skates).

Trusova, a 15-year-old ranked No. 1 in the world, outscored Medvedeva by 19.89 points in the free at Skate Canada three weeks ago. American Mariah Bell is in third, looking for her second straight Grand Prix medal.

Rostelecom Cup Short Programs
Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 76.93
2. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 74.21
3. Mariah Bell (USA) — 67.11
4. Alexia Pagani (SUI) — 65.12
5. Ekaterina Ryabova (AZE) — 64.01
6. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 63.09
7. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 60.57
8. Nicole Schott (GER) — 57.29
9. Chen Hongyi (CHN) — 57.17
10. Yuhana Yokoi (JPN) — 56.51
11. Stanislava Konstantinova (RUS) — 54.36
12. Emmi Peltonen (FIN) — 52.46

Men
1. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 92.81
2. Dmitri Aliev (RUS) — 90.64
3. Makar Ignatov (RUS) — 87.54
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 87.29
5. Deniss Vasiljevs (LAT) — 87.08
6. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 87.01
7. Kazuki Tomono (JPN) — 80.98
8. Michal Brezina (CZE) — 80.27
9. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO) — 75.87
10. Alex Krasnozhon (USA) — 75.46
11. Daniel Samohin (ISR) — 56.94
12. Vladimir Litvintsev (AZE) — 54.42

Pairs
1. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 80.14
2. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.81
3. Ksenia Stolbova/Andrei Novoselov (RUS) — 68.74
4. Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert (GER) — 67.74
5. Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 62.76
6. Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer (AUT) — 61.84
7. Rebecca Ghilardi/Filippo Ambrosini (ITA) — 55.08
8. Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov (USA) — 54.03

Ice Dance
1. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 86.09
2. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 82.56
3. Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 72.01
4. Natalia Kaliszek/Maksym Spodyriev (POL) — 69.97
5. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 59.79
6. Anastasia Shpilevaya/Grigory Smirnov (RUS) — 67.04
7. Anastasia Skoptcova/Kirill Aleshin (RUS) — 66.52
8. Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (CAN) — 64.70
9. Adelina Galyavieva/Louis Thauron (FRA) — 63.22
10. Jasmine Tessari/Francesco Fioretti (ITA) — 62.68

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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