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Galen Rupp ponders American record, finally beating Mo Farah at Chicago Marathon

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Galen Rupp believes the American record is in play at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, where he could beat an upright Mo Farah for the first time.

“This is probably the best situation I’ve ever been in to run fast,” Rupp said Monday, six days before the 26.2-mile race (8 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold for subscribers).

Rupp leans on the confidence from his last marathon, when he won in Prague in 2:06:07 on May 6, shattering his personal best of 2:09:20 from winning the 2017 Chicago Marathon.

Prague came three weeks after Rupp dropped out of the Boston Marathon before the 20th mile due to the hypothermia-inducing weather. Rupp had said before Boston that his pre-race training was “by far” his best of his first five marathons.

“It wasn’t the most ideal circumstances,” Rupp said of Prague. “In that race it was more about winning and really surging in the second half. It wasn’t necessarily the best way to run a fast time, and I still ran pretty quick there. … It left me thinking there’s a lot more room still where I have that I can improve.”

Every marathon that Rupp has finished came in a personal-best time: 2:11:13 (Olympic Trials), 2:10:05 (Olympics), 2:09:58 (Boston 2017), 2:09:20 (Chicago 2017), 2:06:07 (Prague 2018).

Rupp is now the third-fastest American marathoner in history. Khalid Khannouchi‘s American record — 2:05:38 — is not that far off. Ryan Hall ran 2:04:58 in Boston, but the course is not record-eligible.

The situation Rupp mentioned is boosted by a stronger Chicago field than last year (adding the four-time Olympic track champion Farah, plus 2017 Boston and 2017 World champion Geoffrey Kirui and three others who have broken 2:05).

And the reintroduction of pacers. From 2011-14, the Chicago Marathon winning time was faster than Khannouchi’s American record. Race organizers ditched pacers from 2015-17, during which Rupp’s 2:09:20 was the fastest time.

“I’ve got no excuses,” said Rupp, fully recovered from an ankle/Achilles problem that forced him to withdraw before the Sept. 16 Copenhagen Half Marathon. Rupp said training the last two weeks of September was similar to if not faster than before this race a year ago and before Prague.

One stat working against Rupp: He has never won a race that’s included Farah, his former training partner and FIFA video game rival. En route to 10 total Olympic and world championships, the Brit Farah was 21-1 versus Rupp, but never in a marathon, according to Tilastopaja.org.

“He dominated me on the track,” Rupp mentions without being told of their head-to-head record. “I think I might have beaten him once, and that’s because he got tripped.”

Rupp’s right. He finished third and Farah fourth in an indoor mile in 2012 after Farah tripped and fell 21 seconds after the gun.

But Rupp has the experience edge in the marathon. Farah has raced 26.2 miles just twice (2014 and 2018 London Marathons, though he was an impressive third in London in 2:06:21 on April 22, at the time better than Rupp’s PR).

“He’s one of the best track runners of all time,” said Rupp, adding that he hasn’t seen Farah in person since Farah announced a split from their coach, Alberto Salazar, and moved from Oregon back to Britain last year. “I’m certainly more suited for the longer distances.”

Rupp watched the last 30 minutes of Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge‘s world record 2:01:39 in Berlin on Sept. 16. Not as it happened, but he didn’t know the result beforehand, either. Rupp called Kipchoge, a fellow Nike runner, “a good friend” and the best person to represent the marathon.

Rupp hasn’t faced Kipchoge since they shared the 2016 Olympic podium (Kipchoge gold, Rupp bronze).

But beating Kirui, arguably the most impressive non-Kipchoge marathoner of 2017, and Farah, the greatest track runner of the last decade, would move Rupp closer to the top of the non-Kipchoge division of the marathon.

“For you to make the next step in your development, especially what you want to do in 2020, you’ve got to start really running against great competition,” Rupp said Salazar told him before flying to Chicago. “[Salazar] looks back on what he did [a New York City Marathon three-peat and a PR of 2:08:13]. He’s shown me before when he’s run his best times in the marathon. He’s like, everything I’ve done has been so superior to that.”

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VIDEO: Tatyana McFadden stars in Nike ad before Chicago Marathon

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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