Galen Rupp, fit, fast, faces familiar foe at Boston Marathon

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Galen Rupp finished second in his Boston Marathon debut last year despite not knowing if he would start the race two weeks prior.

This year, Rupp had ideal, personal-best-time lead-up into the world’s oldest annual marathon. If it wasn’t for the defending champion, he might be the heavy favorite.

Rupp, a two-time Olympic medalist, contests his fifth career marathon Monday (8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold). Early weather forecasts call for rain, temperatures in the upper 40s and 20 mph winds. Not ideal for the runners or for making predictions.

Rupp can bolster his argument as the best U.S. distance runners of all time. He already has Olympic 10,000m and marathon medals. In his last marathon, Rupp became the first American-born male runner to win the Chicago Marathon in 35 years.

On Monday, he can become the first American-born male runner to win the Boston Marathon in 35 years.

(It’s a convenient but misleading stat. Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston champ, was born in Eritrea but moved from the war-torn nation to the U.S. at age 12 and matured into a competitive runner in high school and college in Southern California. He ran in all four of his Olympics for the red, white and blue and is arguably the most celebrated American runner of all time.)

Rupp’s lead-up half-marathon results in 2017 were a scratch (plantar fasciitis) and an 11th place (two weeks before Boston, still with foot discomfort). A cortisone shot worked wonders for him on Patriots’ Day.

This year? Rupp clocked a personal best over 13.1 miles on March 11. His 59:47 in Rome was four seconds shy of Ryan Hall‘s American record.

The Boston field also plays into Rupp’s favor. It lacks the world’s best marathoners — like Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele, who are running London on April 22.

That said, the Boston field was of similar strength last year, when relative unknown Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya and Rupp broke from the pack in the 20th mile. Kirui surged with three miles left to prevail by 21 seconds.

Kirui defends his title Monday and is joined by the two Boston winners before him — Kenyan Lemi Berhanu and Ethiopian veteran Lelisa Desisa.

Like Rupp, Kirui won his last marathon, taking the world championships in London on Aug. 6 by 82 seconds. Kirui, a father of three like Rupp, has just as much marathon experience as Rupp, a faster personal best by nearly three minutes and is almost six years younger than the American.

But he hasn’t raced this year. Marathons are the toughest track and field event to predict, as shown by Rupp’s results leading into Boston last year.

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MORE: Why Shalane Flanagan is running Boston rather than retiring

Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

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Nathan Chen called into his media teleconference from the rink last week, still on his winter break between his freshman semesters at Yale University.

The signal wasn’t great inside, he said, and it momentarily spared him from answering a direct question about his GPA his first semester as a college student.

Back on the call, the reigning world champion admitted, “I’m not gonna say the exact number, but there are some A’s and B’s sprinkled in.

“Really no complaints. I got pretty good grades. I’m pretty happy with that.”

His skating report card from the fall reads equally as impressively. Chen won the title at Skate America to open the season, followed by a come-from-behind win at Grand Prix France. To cap it all off, he won a second-consecutive Grand Prix Final title.

All this while the 2018 Olympic team event bronze medalist is across the country from his longtime coach Rafael Arutunian and trying out telecoaching for the first time.

Back in California between semesters, Chen said Raf has asked him to stay full-time.

“Since the past two weeks that I’ve been here, literally every day he’s been like, ‘you gotta come back! You gotta come back! There’s so much that you can learn at the rink. I respect what your decision is at Yale but it’s been so great having you here.’ He really wishes that I could stay here full time but at the same time, I already started this path and I don’t really want to pull out just yet.”

As for his second semester in college, Chen is signed up for about 10 courses and will have about two weeks at the beginning of term to add and drop courses. He’ll be in classes – he’s not exactly sure which, though – for a week before attempting to notch his third-straight U.S. national title.

“I selected a bunch of courses, probably selected like 10 different courses. I’ll go in and the first week I will see which courses I like, which courses I don’t like.”

Competing during the spring semester might be harder. February’s Four Continents Championships, this year to be held in Anaheim, Calif., aren’t during a scheduled academic break. Conveniently, world championships are scheduled during Yale’s spring break.

“I’m not sure yet [if he’ll compete there if named to the team],” he said. “That’s still TBD. I would love to since it’s in California, and it’s a great event. We’ll see.”

But for now, competing well in Detroit is the next step.

“I have to skate as well as I can and regardless of the external things,” he said when asked if coming in as the reigning world champion or as the favorite affects him. “Just focus on all the things that I can do right now in training to make sure that I do the best I can in competition.”

The men’s short program is Jan. 26 followed by the free skate on Jan. 27.

MORE: Adam Rippon’s new year’s resolutions

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships 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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Mikaela Shiffrin wins Kronplatz giant slalom for her 10th win of the season

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Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s giant slalom at the World Cup stop in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday, marking her 10th victory of the 2018-19 season and 53rd World Cup win of her career. Shiffrin, the 2018 Olympic giant slalom gold medalist, led France’s Tessa Worley by 1.39 seconds after the first run. Although Worley outpaced Shiffrin in the second run, Shiffrin’s massive first-run margin allowed her to win the two-run event by 1.21 seconds. Italy’s Marta Bassino placed third. Full results are here. 

Shiffrin entered Kronplatz ranked third in the World Cup giant slalom standings, but moves into first place with the win. The 23-year-old also leads the overall World Cup leader board, as well as the slalom and super-G discipline standings. Shiffrin has won seven World Cup globes in her career (two overall, five slalom).

Shiffrin has already broken multiple records this season, including becoming the youngest skier to win 50 World Cup races, and there are still more records within striking distance. Shiffrin could break the record for most World Cup wins in a single seasons; the current record (14) was set by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider in 1988-89.

The next stop for the women’s World Cup is this weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, with two downhills scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and a super-G slated for Sunday. Shiffrin plans to skip the downhills, but enter the super-G. Lindsey Vonn, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury, is expected to make her return to competition in Friday’s downhill.