Lawrence Cherono wins Boston Marathon in third-closest finish ever

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BOSTON — Kenyan Lawrence Cherono won the Boston Marathon by two seconds, edging Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa in the third-closest men’s finish in the race’s 123-year history.

Cherono, a 30-year-old Kenyan, overtook a flailing, slowing Desisa in the final feet of the 26.2-mile event on Boylston Street to win his first major marathon in 2:07:57. Desisa, racing on the anniversary of his 2013 Boston Marathon win that was followed hours later by twin bombings, was seeking his third Boston title.

“It was something amazing,” Cherono said of the closest finish since Elijah Lagat beat Gezahegne Abera in the same time in 2000. “It was not easy.”

Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa won the women’s race in contrastingly convincing fashion, leading alone the last 22 miles and prevailing by 44 seconds over 2017 Boston champ Edna Kiplagat of Kenya. Americans Jordan Hasay and 2018 Boston winner Des Linden were third and fifth, respectively.

“I knew today was going to be a big task to defend,” Linden said on NBCSN. “I had a blast.”

BOSTON MARATHON: Results | Finish Line Camera

Degefa, who on Jan. 25 became the fourth-fastest female marathoner ever in pancake-flat Dubai, shockingly went off on her own in the fourth mile. She led by 90 seconds at 10 miles and nearly 2:30 at the halfway point. Degefa, 28, has never raced a marathon outside Dubai, and, according to TV commentators, did not do a pre-race course tour of Boston.

Though 39-year-old Kiplagat closed in the final miles, Degefa was able to celebrate down Boylston Street. She delivered on pre-race favorite status, having the fastest personal best of the field by two minutes.

“[My husband and coach] said you have good speed, when you have comfortable, just go,” Degefa said through a translator.

Cherono, too, had the fastest personal best in the men’s field, where the top American finishers were Scott Fauble and Jared Ward in seventh and eighth. Surprise 2018 Boston winner Yuki Kawauchi of Japan was 17th.

For the women, Hasay and Linden remain among the favorites for the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Atlanta on Feb. 29, though Linden is undecided on her next move at age 35. Top runners sometimes skip a fall marathon to prepare for trials, which determine the three Olympians per gender.

Other Olympic contenders include 2017 New York City champ Shalane Flanagan, who has said she may not race again and may be facing surgery, Molly Huddle, who races London in two weeks, and 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg.

In the wheelchair division, Daniel Romanchuk became the youngest Boston Marathon champion at age 20 and the first American winner since 1993. His time, 1:21:36, gave him a near-three-minute win and the fastest time by a U.S. wheelchair racer ever in Boston. On Nov. 4, Romanchuk became the youngest male and first American male wheelchair racer to win the New York City Marathon.

Swiss Manuela Schär won the women’s wheelchair title for the second time three years. Schär, who prevailed by 7:16 over Tatyana McFadden in 1:34:19, now holds the current Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York City and Tokyo Marathon titles.

MORE: Shalane Flanagan may need surgery, starts post-racing career

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Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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