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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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Roger Federer saves 7 match points; next: Novak Djokovic in Australian Open semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer was not going to go gently, of course, no matter how daunting the number of match points — his opponent accumulated seven! — no matter how achy his 38-year-old legs, no matter how slow his serves, no matter how off-target his groundstrokes.

Federer still plays for the love of these stages and circumstances. Still yearns for more trophies, too. Down to his very last gasp, time and again, against someone a decade younger, 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren of the United States, Federer somehow pulled off a memorable comeback to reach the Australian Open semifinals for the 15th time.

He will face Novak Djokovic, who swept Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (1) in a later quarterfinal.

Despite all sorts of signs he was not quite himself for much of the match, Federer beat the biceps-baring, hard-hitting, court-covering Sandgren 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3 on Tuesday in a rollicking quarterfinal that appeared to be over long before it truly was.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

“For the most time there, I thought that was it. Of course, there’s little sparkles where maybe not. Then you’re like, ‘No, it IS over,’” said 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, who only once before had won after facing as many as seven match points, equaling his personal best from all the way back in 2003. “Only maybe when I won that fourth set did I really think that, maybe, this whole thing could turn around.”

He said afterward that it had been his groin muscle that was the problem and he couldn’t be certain whether he would be fully recovered for the semifinals.

The last two men’s quarterfinals are Wednesday: Rafael Nadal vs. Dominic Thiem, and Alexander Zverev vs. Stan Wawrinka.

One women’s semifinal was set Tuesday: No. 1 Ash Barty, trying to become the first Australian Open singles champion from the host country since the 1970s, against No. 14 Sofia Kenin, a 21-year-old American never before this far at any major tournament.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals are Simona Halep vs. Anett Kontaveit, and Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

There was a lot to live up to after the drama of Federer vs. Sandgren.

“You can’t give a good player — let alone maybe the best player ever — that many chances to come back,” said Sandgren, his voice low, his eyes looking down. “They’re going to find their game and start playing well. That seemed to me what happened.”

In truth, so much had happened.

Federer got into a dispute with a line judge and the chair umpire over cursing. He left the court for a medical timeout early in the third set, then was visited by a trainer later for a right leg massage.

Sandgren was run into by a ballkid during the changeover at 3-all in the tiebreaker, which he said was “physically painful” to his right calf but “wasn’t a big deal.” He was distracted by hearing the work of a courtside broadcast commentator. There also was an odd buzz emanating from the chair umpire’s microphone.

Above all, there were all of those match points for Sandgren, a 28-year-old from Tennessee who’s never been a major semifinalist and was trying to become the lowest-ranked man in the Australian Open’s final four since Patrick McEnroe — John’s younger brother — was No. 114 in 1991.

Imagine, then, the heartbreak for Sandgren, who toiled for years on lower-level tours and was so thrilled just to share the stage with Federer for the first time.

“Back to the drawing board. Keep working. Keep trying to improve. Maybe I’ll get another look, another shot,” Sandgren said. “Maybe I’ll come through.”

After rolling through the second and third sets as Federer’s serve dropped from an average of 112 mph to 105 mph — “Wasn’t popping like it does normally,” Sandgren observed — and Federer’s unforced errors totaled 30, the underdog led 5-4 in the fourth set.

That’s when Sandgren earned his first trio of opportunities to end things and complete a career-defining victory. On one, Sandgren dumped a backhand into the net. On the next, he pushed a forehand wide. On the third, another forehand found the net.

Then came four more match points in the tiebreaker. But Sandgren failed to close the deal at 6-3 … or at 6-4 … or at 6-5 … or at 7-6.

“Honestly, when they told me seven, I was like, ‘What?!’ I thought it was three,” Federer said. “It’s such a blur.”

On Federer’s own second chance to take that set and force a fifth, Sandgren hit a ball that landed near the baseline. Federer thought it might be out — he turned to look at a line judge for a call that never came — yet barely flicked it back in a defensive manner, and Sandgren’s overhead smash went long.

Federer wagged his right index finger overhead — the universal sign for “I’m No. 1!” — and was on the right path. He ended the victory with a service winner at 119 mph, a little more than an hour after first staring down defeat.

“Just seemed like his level picked up when his back was right up against the wall,” said Sandgren, who only got the chance to serve on one of those seven pivotal points. “He just wouldn’t give me anything. Credit to him, for sure.”

Federer has won six titles at Melbourne Park and never lost there to anyone ranked worse than 54th. But Sandgren, whose career tour-level record is under .500, played superbly. He won more points than Federer, 161-160. He produced edges of 27-5 in aces, 73-44 in total winners.

Other than the first set and the fifth, Federer’s footwork was hardly perfect, the lower-body push he normally gets to add oomph to forehands and serves nonexistent.

At the U.S. Open last September, it was Federer’s upper back and neck that bothered him in a five-set quarterfinal loss to Grigor Dimitrov, who was ranked 78th at the time.

In this tournament, the No. 3-seeded Federer still hasn’t played anyone ranked better than No. 41 Filip Krajinovic, whom he beat in the second round. Federer was pushed to the brink in the third round by No. 47 John Millman, two points from defeat before coming back to claim a fifth-set tiebreaker. And in the fourth round, Federer dropped the opening set to No. 67 Marton Fucsovics.

On Tuesday, Federer knew exactly the sort of pain Sandgren experienced. As recently as last July, Federer failed to convert a pair of championship points in the fifth set of the Wimbledon final before losing to Djokovic.

“These ones just sting, and they hurt. … If you could, obviously, play them again, would you play them differently?” Federer said. “But I could have blinked at the wrong time and shanked. That would have been it. I was incredibly lucky today.”

MORE: Top U.S. tennis player leaning toward skipping Olympics

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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