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Shalane Flanagan may need surgery as she sits out Boston Marathon

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BOSTON — Shalane Flanagan, a four-time Olympian and 2017 New York City Marathon champion, said Saturday that she may need surgery to alleviate knee pain that kept her from running for a long stretch in the last five months.

“My knees are not doing so well,” Flanagan said at a Q&A at a Heartbreak Hill Running Company store in Boston. “They’ve been hurting. So I have to figure that out. I may need surgery. I’m not sure. That’s kind of scary. But I know that it’s going to pass. I’m going to be better for it. And I’m going to appreciate my health when I can do a lot of running.”

Flanagan, a Boston-area native, commentated at Monday’s Boston Marathon for CBS Boston. On the broadcast, she said she would assess her future once healthy and that racing Boston, New York City and/or the Olympic Trials are options.

It’s not known if or when she will next race at the elite level. What’s clear is that Flanagan is transitioning within her Bowerman Track Club group in Oregon.

“There’s not, that I know of, any female coaches at the Olympic level, professional level, and so I’d love to be the first at that level,” she said Saturday. “My clock for 10,000 hours has started while I’m still trying to get myself healthy and back to running and competing. If the running thing doesn’t work out anymore, coaching.”

Flanagan announced on Jan. 4 via Instagram that she had not run for a month due to patella tendon tears. She almost withdrew before her New York City Marathon defense on Nov. 4 because of the missed training and intense pain.

“I’m at the point where I’m grateful if I can run one day and then sometimes I have to take the next day off,” Flanagan said, according to a Women’s Running Q&A published March 26. “It makes me appreciate my running and that even if I don’t run at a high level anymore — who knows if I will? — I just want to get to a point where I can run an hour a day or warm up and cool down with my team and help them. I’m a little scared because I just want to get back to running for my life and health, so I’m trying to be cautious. I don’t want to ruin my chances of long-term running.”

She attended the World Cross-Country Championships in Denmark on March 30 as a coach for three fellow Bowerman runners.

“I’m looking to become a full-time coach, transitioning out of athletics, personally, from my competition level,” she said on an IAAF podcast from that event.

Last year, Flanagan said before and after a sixth-place Boston Marathon finish that it would her last time racing the world’s oldest annual marathon as an elite.

Then she was third in her New York defense on Nov. 4, mouthing “I love you” and waving her right hand to the Central Park finish-line crowd.

“I just thought [in the final miles] if this truly is going to be my last race, a podium spot really would be special,” Flanagan said that day.

Flanagan could try to become the first U.S. distance runner to compete in five Olympics in 2020. At 39, she would be the third-oldest female U.S. Olympic runner after marathoners Colleen de Reuck (2004) and Francie Larrieu-Smith (1992), according to the OlyMADMen.

But Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist, hasn’t said whether she will enter the Tokyo trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta.

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Thank you to the unknown stranger who placed this note on the pool deck this morning while I was aqua jogging. This note is extremely appreciated right now and gave me the biggest smile 😊. I’ve not been able to run the last month due to tears in my patella tendons. I had been experiencing lots of pain in my knees this fall and didn’t know why (figured it was old age 👵🏼🤷🏼‍♀️). In fact, I almost pulled out of the NYC Marathon because I had to miss some training and I was in so much pain…..but very happy I didn’t. I’m currently letting the tendons heal up and fingers crossed I will be back running with my Bowerman teammates ❤️ in a few weeks. Injuries are never easy and I really really miss running. I’m going to keep this note close, as a reminder to do good and to take time to tell people I appreciate their efforts, kindness and work. Thank you kind stranger for the kind note. #payitforward

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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