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Leo Manzano, Olympic 1500m silver medalist, retires

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Leo Manzano, who moved from sixth coming around the final curve of the 2012 Olympic 1500m to take silver, has retired at age 34, citing several reasons including a calf injury and a desire to spend more time with his family, specifically 6-year-old son Max.

Manzano said he felt calf tightness while cooling down after a November workout. It was later diagnosed, after multiple doctor visits and to a chiropractor, as a calf heart attack. He decided to retire in February.

“I started coming to these realizations,” Manzano said. “I’m 34 and, looking back, man it’s just been so good [running for two decades], but right now my body is definitely telling me something. I knew I could potentially compete to fight to get through it, but I’m really happy with where I am, and I want to focus a little bit more on what’s next.”

That includes continuing with sponsor Hoka One One as an ambassador and moving into athlete representation. Manzano said he is certified through the IAAF and USA Track and Field.

Manzano was a surprise podium placer at the 2012 London Games, taking the first U.S. medal in the event for a man or woman since Jim Ryun in 1968. He came into the Games ranked outside the top 20 in the 1500m field on fastest times for the year.

But then Manzano passed nine men in the last lap of the final, finishing .71 behind Algerian winner Taoufik Makhloufi.

“The first word that comes to mind is just incredible,” Manzano remembered Sunday. “Even thinking back on it I’m still kind of in awe, maybe a little bit of a shock, right?

“Forever it’ll be one of those races that I still look back on it, and I even get a little motivation out of it as well when things aren’t going right.”

Manzano was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. His father, Jesus, crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas 16 times searching for work and returning with money to his family until, in 1987, he acquired legal residency. The Manzanos settled in Texas when Leo was 4, and he became a citizen in 2004.

Manzano, at 5 foot 5 with a trademark furious kick, went on to win the 2008 NCAA 1500m at Texas, make his first Olympics in 2008 (eliminated in the semifinals) and win the 2012 Olympic Trials.

After his Olympic silver, Manzano made world championships teams in 2013 and 2015, then was fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials. He counted taking second at 2013 USATF Outdoors, while unsponsored, and clocking his personal best 3:30.98 in 2014 (fifth-fastest performer in U.S. history) as his two highlight races outside of the 2012 Olympics.

Manzano’s last race was at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships, where Manzano was eighth in his first-round heat.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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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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