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

Eliud Kipchoge, Mo Farah
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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

Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record with slopestyle gold

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“I think I was just not ready to deliver at that day,” Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen, said on NBC. “I was really so confident, I think I sort of overthought everything and tried to get ahead of myself. But I think it’s all right.”

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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