Galen Rupp returns to Boston Marathon, recalling words from 2017

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BOSTON — Soon after Galen Rupp finished second in the 2017 Boston Marathon, he found his wife, Keara, and coach, Alberto Salazar.

“I’ve got to come back here,” Rupp told them. “I want to try to win this.”

The double Olympic medalist returned to Boston, this time coming off what he said was “by far” his best preparation before any of his five marathons (he’s finished top three in each of the previous four).

He is a co-favorite with last year’s winner, Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya, on Monday morning (8:30 ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

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“It kind of left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth,” finishing 21 seconds behind Kirui last year, Rupp said Friday. “Getting second, being a little dinged up.”

Last year, Rupp considered withdrawing two weeks before Boston with plantar fasciitis. This year, Rupp’s prep race was a personal-best half marathon — 59:47, four seconds off Ryan Hall‘s American record.

Rupp spoke with confidence Friday.

He learned from last year to respect the Newton Hills between miles 18 and 21, which he said “killed” him. Rupp and Kirui broke from the pack in the hills, but Kirui gapped Rupp right after them.

Rupp said all of his key workouts this year have been as fast or faster than they were before he won the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 8.

And he’s grown to revere this race, from experiencing it for the first time to being coached by the man who won the 1982 Boston Marathon “Duel in the Sun.”

“It’s the most prestigious marathon in the world,” Rupp said. “There’s nothing bigger for me than running here.”

A win Monday would change Rupp’s career. He would be introduced as Boston Marathon champion before two-time Olympic medalist, in some places. It’s not clear which he values more.

“That’s too hard to say,” said Rupp, a father of three. “That’s like saying if you can only have one child.”

Fifteen men in this field have faster personal-best times than Rupp, but that is misleading. Rupp chose twice last year to forego the chance to chase a fast time on a swift course. He picked Boston over London. Then he picked Chicago over Berlin.

“At some point, I would try to see how fast I can run from a race, going out hard at the gun,” the 31-year-old said. “I still think there’s still a lot of potential for me to run a lot faster than I have, given that all the races I’ve been in have been fairly tactical. Definitely something to do, but I’ve always put more of a priority on winning, placing, high, winning medals and championships.”

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Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.