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

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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