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Molly Huddle returns to New York City Marathon with pie-in-the-sky dream

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Molly Huddle was scared going into her first marathon in New York City in 2016, two months removed from the Rio Olympics.

“That I wasn’t ready enough,” she said last week. “My coach wasn’t sure how I’d handle the marathon, and I may have to go back to the track.”

Huddle, a two-time Olympic track runner and American record holder at 10,000m, crossed the Central Park finish line in third place two years ago.

It was a landmark result for not just Huddle, but any American. She became the first U.S. runner of either gender to make the New York City podium in six years.

Much has changed for U.S. women’s marathon running since that day. For Huddle, the difference is in mindset.

Huddle will race the New York City Marathon for the second time on Nov. 4, joining a field that includes 2017 New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan and 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden.

“Hopefully try and finish higher than I did before,” Huddle said. “I could go somewhere and try and run a PR, and I choose to come back to New York because, to me, that’s kind of the ultimate, pie-in-the-sky dream would be to win the New York marathon. All of my eggs are in that basket.”

Huddle did go back to the track in 2017, as planned, to race the world championships in London. The native of Elmira, N.Y., expects to enter at least one marathon per year from here through the Tokyo Olympics.

She can take motivation from Flanagan and Linden’s breakthrough victories.

Flanagan won her first marathon in New York in 2017, at age 36 in her 10th overall marathon. Linden won her first marathon in Boston on April 16, at age 34 in her 16th marathon.

Huddle is younger than both (turns 34 on Aug. 31) with much more to learn, having raced just two marathons so far.

“I would love it to be my turn,” Huddle said in reference to Flanagan’s prophetic tweet to Linden last November. “I don’t know if I’ve paid my dues yet in the marathon. I came to it late in my career, so I don’t have a lot of time to make mistakes.”

Or time for calamities like Huddle’s second marathon back in April.

It was arguably the worst weather in the Boston Marathon’s 122 editions — high 30 degrees at the Hopkinton start, 20 mile-per-hour headwinds and a downpour throughout.

Huddle slogged through it in 16th place, getting passed by elite men who started 28 minutes later.

She finished in 2 hours, 50 minutes (22 minutes slower than her New York City debut). Huddle said she wasn’t thinking clearly for the last three miles and didn’t feel normal again until an hour after the race.

“I was really confused. I couldn’t find the drinks table,” Huddle said. “They were asking me questions at the finish line, and I couldn’t answer them. Everything felt slow. I was frozen.”

It was a shame because Huddle felt fitter and more confident going into Boston than she had on an abbreviated buildup to her first marathon in New York City in 2016.

She broke the American record in the half marathon in January. She had not been beaten by another American in a road race since 2012.

“I could have not trained one step and run faster than [2:50],” in normal weather, said Huddle, who scheduled a root canal for the day after Boston.

Huddle raced a very abbreviated track season this summer, picking up her 27th national title between the track and road in the 10,000m in Des Moines on June 21.

She felt tired after and is seeing a chiropractor and physical therapist to get ready for her third marathon build-up.

Huddle has vivid memories of her New York debut two years ago.

She came off the Queensboro Bridge at mile 16 and saw a group wearing Saucony clothes (Huddle’s sponsor). Their cheers had to be for Huddle, because she was alone for more than half the race after dropping back off the early leaders’ pace.

“It felt like I was time-trialing 15 miles to the finish line,” Huddle said. “I would love to get into a marathon where I’m racing head to head.”

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Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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