Eliud Kipchoge, Mo Farah
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Eliud Kipchoge brings record streak to London Marathon; Mo Farah plays the feud

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Mo Farah already clashed with one marathon legend this week. He hopes to create another contest Sunday, but that will be much more difficult on the roads of the British capital.

The build-up to the London Marathon has hardly been singularly about Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner in history and overwhelming favorite to win his 10th straight 26.2-miler (TV/stream schedule here).

Instead the focus fell on Farah and his feud with former world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie.

And while nobody is in Kipchoge’s tier at the moment, race organizers still pitted him head-to-head with the hometown star Farah, boxing weigh-in style, for a photo opp before they shared a stage for Wednesday’s pre-race press conference.

Farah, wearing a bib reading “Sir Mo,” was then asked if it’s fair for the British public to expect him to win given his track record of success (that has started to translate on the roads in three marathons, winning his last time out in Chicago on Oct. 7).

“That’s where they’re used to, why not?” he said. “I don’t line up and go, I’m going to try to finish third or fourth.”

Last year, Farah, a four-time Olympic champion between 5000m and 10,000m, lined up for his first marathons since switching full-time to road racing. He took third in London, 124 seconds behind Kipchoge.

Three weeks after Kipchoge smashed the world record in Berlin — 2:01:39 — Farah lowered his personal best to 2:05:11 in winning Chicago. Both courses are flat, though Berlin is, like Kipchoge, in a class of its own for fast conditions.

MORE: U.S. women add intrigue to London Marathon

“I believe I could have gone a little bit faster,” Farah said. “It wasn’t about time. It was about winning. … I’m a lot more stronger [than at London 2018].”

He’ll need to be against a fit Kipchoge.

Kipchoge, at 34, is a year and a half younger than Farah but with nearly three times the marathon experience. While Farah has yet to break 2:05 in the marathon, Kipchoge has gone 2:05 or better in 10 of his last 11 marathons (including the Breaking 2 event, with the outlier being the Rio Olympics, where he won by a whopping 70 seconds in tough conditions).

There are other strong racers in Sunday’s field, led by Ethiopian Shura Kitata, who finished between Kipchoge and Farah last year and added a New York City runner-up. And the women’s race is deeper with three of the seven fastest in history, plus the best U.S. contingent in London in a decade.

“Eventually, Kipchoge’s going to lose a marathon,” NBC Sports analyst Josh Cox said. “Is this the time he starts losing? No.”

There’s little for Kipchoge to accomplish Sunday that would cause shock waves. The world record would be in play if Kipchoge hadn’t lowered it 78 seconds in Berlin. At this point, a course record or the fact that he’s trying to become the first man to win four London titles would be ho-hum feats.

“That world record was the last missing piece for him,” Cox said. “He’s done everything to prove he’s the greatest of all time. Now it’s about the legacy.”

Forget about fastest times in history. None of the other greats in modern marathons had a stretch like this. Abebe Bikila and Gebrselassie each won six straight, according to Tilastopaja.org.

If Kipchoge is chasing anything the rest of his career, it might be another try at breaking two hours in a staged, non-record-eligible setting like two years ago. He ran 2:00:25 on a race track in Italy.

“Those 25 seconds which he missed in Monza,” agent Valentijn Trouw said, according to LetsRun.com, “that goes sometimes through his mind.”

Kipchoge will continue to race as long as he loves the sport. As long as he enjoys the grind of austere training with his chore-sharing group in Kaptagat, where he scrubs the toilets just like everyone else. He could eventually go for wins in Boston or New York City, major marathons he has yet to enter. There’s also the Tokyo Olympics, where Kipchoge can become the third person to repeat as marathon gold medalist.

For now the onus is on London, even if the focus this week has been on two other distance greats.

“I am confident that I will run well on Sunday,” Kipchoge told media on Wednesday. “I am confident that I will win.”

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results

Nathan Chen, Simone Biles, U.S. women’s soccer team win Team USA Awards

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Simone Biles was named female athlete of the year and Nathan Chen took the corresponding award for men Tuesday at the Team USA Awards in Los Angeles.

Six-time Olympic swimming champion Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, who has taken up wheelchair CrossFit competition since an ATV accident in 2014 left her paralyzed from the waist down, took the Jesse Owens Olympic Spirit Award. She works to help other people with spinal cord injuries through the Amy Van Dyken Foundation and Amy’s Army, which has launched a Wheels for Kids program to help injured children find wheelchairs that may not be covered by insurance.

The show also included a medal ceremony in which the teammates and family of the late Steven Holcomb received silver medals that were reallocated after doping infractions changed the results of the 2014 Olympic bobsled competition.

MORE: Holcomb’s legacy lives on 

Award winners from the ceremony:

Female Olympic athlete of the year: Simone Biles, gymnastics 

Biles took a one-year break after winning four gold medals and a bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics, then came back to do even better, unleashing new skills on the balance beam and in the floor exercise. This year, she won five gold medals at the world championships, breaking the record for career medals.

Female Paralympic athlete of the year: Oksana Masters, Para Nordic skiing and Para cycling 

Already an eight-time Paralympic medalist in Nordic skiing, biathlon and rowing, Masters had a breakout year in cycling, taking silver medals in the world championships. In Nordic skiing, Masters took five world championships (three cross-country, two biathlon) and the overall World Cup championship in sitting cross-country along with a second-place overall finish in biathlon.

Male Olympic athlete of the year: Nathan Chen, figure skating 

Chen had a double back-to-back year, winning his second straight world championship and his second straight Grand Prix final. He also started his 2019-20 season by winning both of his Grand Prix events. He and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu are far ahead of any other skaters in posted scores this season.

Male Paralympic athlete of the year: Ben Thompson, Para archery 

Thompson took the world championship and the No. 1 ranking in the men’s compound event and led the U.S. to a world record in the team compound event.

Olympic team of the year: U.S. women’s soccer team 

The team claimed the sport’s biggest prize for the second straight time, working its way through a difficult field that included a quarterfinal matchup with host France to win the World Cup once again, adding to its previous wins in 1991, 1999 and 2015.

Paralympic team of the year: U.S. sled hockey team 

Like the women’s soccer team, the sled hockey team went unbeaten in the world championships and claimed a fourth world title.

MORE: Golden goal clinches championship

Olympic coach of the year: KiSik Lee, archery 

This year, Brady Ellison won a world title and set a world record in the Pan Am Games, and Ellison teamed with Casey Kaufhold to win the world title in the mixed team event, which will be on the Olympic program in 2020.

Paralympic coach of the year: Wesley Johnson, paratriathlon 

The founder and head coach of Balanced Art Multisport in Salt Lake City, Johnson is the personal coach of three top-10 paratriathletes, and he served as an assistant coach in the world championships, where three of the athletes he coached won silver medals.

NBC will have highlights of the show at 2 p.m. ET Dec. 22.

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Hanyu, Zagitova control their Grand Prix Final destiny at NHK Trophy; TV, live stream schedule

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In order to qualify for the Grand Prix Final — after missing the event the past two seasons for varying reasons — two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu needs to finish inside the top four at NHK Trophy, the sixth and last remaining Grand Prix series event. Hanyu competes on home ice in Japan this weekend, and the event is streaming live for NBC Sports Gold subscribers.

A full breakdown of Grand Prix Final-clinching scenarios can be found here.

Hanyu won the Grand Prix Final four straight times (2013-16). The prestigious December event would be the first time this season Hanyu and two-time Grand Prix Final champion Nathan Chen would compete head-to-head, outside the world championships in March.

Hanyu trains in Toronto alongside American Jason Brown, who will also be competing in Japan. Brown clinches a spot in the Grand Prix Final if he earns a silver or better, but is also very likely in if he earns a bronze medal.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is in a similar situation this weekend at NHK Trophy, needing to finish on the podium to clinch a berth in the Final. She faces Moscow-based training partner Alena Kostornaia (who needs to finish fifth or better to make the Final) and Japan’s Rika Kihira (must earn a medal of any color), among others such as 2019 European champion Sofia Samodurova of Russia and 2017 U.S. national champion Karen Chen.

MORE: Alina Zagitova focused on artistry, while other Russians push technical boundaries

Three teams in the pairs’ field at NHK Trophy can earn spots in the Grand Prix Final. Two-time world pair champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China and Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov need a medal of any color to clinch, while Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro need silver to clinch, but could win with a bronze and a high score. See the breakdown here for details.

In ice dance, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France are favorites at NHK Trophy. They have appeared in three Grand Prix Finals and own a medal of each color, including a win at their most recent appearance in 2017. (The duo withdrew from a regular-series Grand Prix event last season and were unable to qualify for the Final.)

The most likely NHK Trophy scenario is that Papadakis and Cizeron win NHK Trophy, and Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin finish second – and if that happens, Papadakis and Cizeron, Stepanova and Bukin and Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates (currently on the cusp of an entry) all make the Final.

MORE: Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron on ‘Fame,’ chasing history

NHK Trophy Broadcast Schedule

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Thursday 10:30 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Friday 12 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
2:30 a.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
5 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
10 p.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Saturday 12:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
2:30 a.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
5 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold STREAM LINK
Sunday 4 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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