Des Linden
New York Road Runners

Des Linden decides to keep racing, enters New York City Marathon

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Des Linden says she’s running every marathon as if it’s her last. She could have said goodbye on April 15, finishing fifth in defense of her Boston Marathon title, blowing kisses to the crowd after denying regurgitation.

Instead, Linden plans to race the New York City Marathon for the third time and second year in a row on Nov. 3.

The two-time U.S. Olympian placed fifth in 2014 and sixth in 2018 at the five-borough event. She decided to sign up again after a post-Boston break and a weeklong Hong Kong vacation.

“Just been logging a lot of miles deciding what would be next and got the itch to start doing workouts and getting the longer stuff,” Linden said. “It’s the biggest stage in the world, so it’s hard to pass up on that opportunity. It’s a no-brainer. I like tough, technical courses.”

Linden, 36, could become the oldest female U.S. Olympic marathoner since 2004 next year. But, taking the one-at-a-time mantra that Shalane Flanagan adopted late in her career, she’s not (yet) committing to the Olympic trials on Feb. 29.

Neither of Linden’s previous Olympic experiences was especially memorable. She dropped out of her first Olympic marathon in 2012 with a stress fracture in her femur. She was seventh in Rio, missing a medal by less than two minutes. The Kenyan-born gold and silver medalists were later busted for EPO and are serving lengthy doping bans.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove and anything unfinished,” at the Olympics, Linden said. “Quite frankly, the last experience is a hard sell to get back out there to try to compete for medals when you’re not even really sure what the field is all about. It’s a little bit difficult to be excited about that with the way we are about the [World Marathon] Majors. People investing in anti-doping have really been solving that problem [at the majors]. It’s a little tricky [at the Olympics], but certainly representing your country is special.”

Linden did acknowledge that a technical, undulating course like New York could provide ideal preparation for the Olympic trials course in Atlanta that, like New York, is not expected to produce fast times. Linden also dismissed it being too tight of a turnaround from the latest of the fall major marathons to a trials in the winter.

Linden did not race fall marathons in 2011 or 2015 ahead of Olympic trials, though the trials race was earlier each of those years. If she does race at next year’s trials, it would mark her shortest break between marathons of what would be her 20 times contesting the distance.

“There’s ample time to recover and get back at it,” she said. “I don’t need to go and run a fast time or get a qualifier or anything. It was just about picking the race that was going to get me excited.”

None of the other accomplished U.S. female marathoners are in the New York field. Flanagan, 38 and the 2017 New York winner, hasn’t said if she will go for a fifth Olympics. Amy Cragg, the 2017 World bronze medalist, and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history, are racing Chicago on Oct. 13.

The New York favorite will be Kenyan Mary Keitany, who won four of the last five titles and has Linden’s respect.

“She’s the best of the best,” Linden said. “When you race her, it’s more about running super smart and staying within yourself and doing all the things you can control in your own race and hoping she finds a way to beat herself, which she’s done on the New York course in the past, but it’s not very often that Mary has a bad day on these stakes.”

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-2-hour marathon bid moved out of London

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Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

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.

Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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