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Mary Keitany, Tatyana McFadden to defend NYC Marathon titles

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NEW YORK — Kenyan Mary Keitany, the world’s preeminent female road runner, will go for her fourth straight New York City Marathon title on Nov. 5.

Keitany chose to race New York’s challenging course for a sixth time rather than debut on the flatter roads of Berlin or Chicago, where she could try to lower her women-only world record.

“I want to continue to be in the history books,” Keitany reasoned, emphasizing trying to extend her New York City streak rather than chasing times. Keitany spoke from a Midtown Manhattan hotel as she prepares to race the New York Road Runners Mini 10km on Saturday.

Keitany could be one-upped in the Nov. 5 five-borough race by another woman. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist, eyes her fifth straight NYC Marathon wheelchair title and sixth overall.

Keitany and McFadden are the second and third headline commitments to this year’s NYC Marathon, the world’s largest 26.2-miler with 50,000 yearly finishers. They follow Meb Keflezighi, the only U.S. runner to win here since 1982, who says New York will mark his 26th and final marathon as an elite racer.

Keitany, 35, has torn up the pavement since Kenya’s track and field federation dumbfoundingly left her off its three-woman Rio Olympic marathon team.

Last Nov. 6, the mother of two became the first runner to win three straight New York City titles since Norwegian Grete Waitz won five of her record nine from 1981 through 1986. She did so with the largest winning margin since 1984.

Keitany followed that with a half-marathon personal best in February. Then on April 23, she broke Paula Radcliffe‘s women-only world record in winning her third London Marathon crown in 2:17:01.

Keitany’s fastest time in five New York appearances is 2:23:38. She is not focusing on the women’s course record of 2:22:31.

“I try to run according to my feelings,” she said.

Keitany finished fourth in her only Olympic appearance in 2012, four months after winning the London Marathon. She estimated she will race another three or four years.

The 2016 NYC Marathon runner-up, Kenyan Sally Kipyego, is expecting a baby in July. The third-place finisher, American Molly Huddle, is focusing on the track at least through the world championships in August.

In a contrast from Keitany, McFadden’s dominance has weakened in the last year. After sweeping the Boston, Chicago, London and New York City Marathons in 2013, 2014 and 2015, she was beaten at the Rio Paralympics in September.

Then in February, McFadden was again diagnosed with blood clots in her legs, requiring an operation. She was hospitalized again in early spring and then finished fourth in the Boston Marathon on April 17.

“I have a great team, and they acted so quickly on it, just to even get into my chair in Boston two weeks after surgery was crazy and insane,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t have done it.”

McFadden said last month she hopes to race on the track at the IPC World Championships in July in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m. She swept all those races, plus the 100m, at her last worlds appearance in 2013.

McFadden said her commitment to New York City will not necessarily preclude her from trying to compete in her second straight Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang in March. She earned a cross-country skiing silver medal at Sochi 2014.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” McFadden said of the winter sport. “I just want to see the direction of my health and make sure I take care of that first.”

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Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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