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Shalane Flanagan to race New York City Marathon as if it’s her last (again)

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As Shalane Flanagan trains to defend her New York City Marathon title on Nov. 4, she repeats a line from a Toby Keith song.

“I’m not as good as I once was, but I was good once as I ever was.”

Flanagan began a media teleconference with Boston Marathon winner Des Linden on Tuesday by saying she definitely notices her age more in marathon build-up. Recovery days are more vital at 37 years old.

That said, Flanagan believes she has become a better marathoner in the last two years. Maybe that’s why she’s not saying whether this will be her last New York City Marathon as an elite racer, as she said of her hometown Boston Marathon in April after a seventh-place finish on Boylston Street.

She has not publicly ruled out trying to become the first U.S. distance runner to compete in five Olympics in 2020.

“The last two years since Rio, I’ve acted as if each marathon is my last,” said Flanagan, echoing her comments before last year in New York. “I haven’t really decided what the next step in my career is. I’m focused on the next 20 days being the best athlete I can be.

“I’m not in the phase of my career where I’m focusing years in advance. Until I cross the finish line on November 4th, I don’t know.”

In 2017, Flanagan became the first U.S. female runner to win New York in 40 years and the second-oldest women’s winner in 30 years. Linden’s triumph in the frigid, windy rain in Boston five months later followed, signaling a full-fledged American marathon movement.

They’re joined in the Nov. 4 field by more potential U.S. breakthroughs — Sally Kipyego and Molly Huddle, who were second and third in the 2016 New York City Marathon, a race that lacked Rio Olympic marathoners like Flanagan and Linden.

Kipyego is running her first major race since switching representation from Kenya to the U.S. and having daughter Emma in July 2017. Huddle, a two-time Olympian on the track, is the American record holder at 10,000m and the half marathon.

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David Taylor wins wrestling world title, at long last

United World Wrestling
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David Taylor, the formerly dominant NCAA wrestler known as the Magic Man, was stuck for five years.

Stuck finishing second or third in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 World Championships team trials in the U.S.’ toughest weight class owned by Jordan Burroughs. When Taylor moved up a division, he suffered the same fate in 2016 (Olympic Trials) and 2017.

At last, at 27 years old, Taylor made his first world team this summer. It helped that United World Wrestling expanded the number of weight classes from eight to 10, meaning Taylor didn’t have to go through Burroughs, Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox or four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake at trials. But Taylor earned his place, going undefeated internationally this year.

Then in Budapest on Sunday, Taylor completed a breakthrough run through the 86kg bracket, becoming a world champion.

Taylor is the oldest first-time Olympic or world champion for USA Wrestling since 2006, when now-freestyle head coach Bill Zadick did so at 33. Taylor reached the top four years after ending an NCAA career at Penn State that included two Hodge Trophies, given to the college wrestler of the year.

Taylor had to work from start to finish in Budapest, upsetting Iran’s Olympic and world champion Hassan Yazdani in his first match Saturday. He then dumped Turkey’s top-seeded Fatih Erdin in the final, scoring a two-point takedown in the first 10 seconds and getting a 12-2 tech fall.

Also Sunday, the 2012 Olympic champ Burroughs rallied for a bronze medal, beating Cuban-born Italian nemesis Frank Chamizo via tiebreaker by scoring the last point with 26 seconds left. It’s the seventh Olympic or world medal for Burroughs in eight global tournaments, coming one day after he suffered just his seventh defeat in seven-plus years on the senior stage.

In the 61kg bracket, worlds rookie Joe Colon earned a bronze medal, two weeks after replacing U.S. champion Nahshon Garrett on the team. Garrett, who beat Colon in the world team trials final in June, is out with a torn pectoral.

Cox and Dake advanced to Monday’s gold-medal matches in the 92kg and 79kg divisions, respectively.

Logan Stieber, a 2016 World champion, lost his opening match at 65kg. Thomas Gilman, the 2017 World silver medalist at 57kg, lost his semifinal match and will go for bronze Monday.

Olympic champions Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis begin their world title defenses on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.

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Ethiopian marathoner who made Olympic protest returns from exile

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The Ethiopian marathon runner who made global headlines with an anti-government gesture at the Rio Olympics finish line returned from exile on Sunday after sports officials assured him he will not face prosecution.

Feyisa Lilesa’s return from the United States came several months after a reformist prime minister took office and announced sweeping political reforms. He received a warm welcome at the airport from the foreign minister and other senior officials.

Feyisa said the new government is “a result of the struggle by the people” and he hopes it will address concerns after years of repression in Africa’s second most populous nation.

The silver medalist crossed his wrists at the finish line in 2016 in solidarity with protesters in his home region, Oromia, who like many across Ethiopia were demanding wider freedoms.

Feyisa later said he feared he would be imprisoned or killed if he returned home. But he became a symbol of resistance for many youth until the pressure on the government led to a change of power, with 42-year-old Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking office in April.

Abiy is the country’s first leader from the Oromo ethnic group since the ruling coalition came to power 27 years ago.

Ethiopia’s government did not immediately comment Sunday on the runner’s return.

Asked by The Associated Press if he has any political ambitions, Feyisa said: “I don’t have any ambition in politics! Actually I didn’t get close to politics, politics gets close to me.”

Feyisa broke down in tears while speaking about youth who lost their lives during the years of protests. “I will continue to remember those who lost their lives for the cause. Many people lost their lives for it.”

Turning his attention to running, he said his next race will be the Dubai Marathon in January.

“My training while I was in exile was not good, so it has affected my performance,” Feyisa said. He missed two races in recent weeks as he prepared to return to Ethiopia. “I will resume my regular training after a week.”

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