Kenenisa Bekele wins Berlin Marathon, just misses world record

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Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele restaked his claim as the greatest runner in history, winning the Berlin Marathon in 2:01:41 to miss the marathon world record by two seconds on Sunday.

Bekele, a 37-year-old who struggled the last three years, came just shy of Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge‘s world record of 2:01:39 set in Berlin last year.

He did so with a blazing finish, coming from 13 seconds behind in the 22nd mile to prevail by 67 seconds over countryman Birhanu Legese, who clocked the fourth-fastest time ever.

“I’m sorry, you know, just few seconds I missed world record,” Bekele said, smiling. “Still I can do better than before. … My preparation was not 100 percent because of injury. I was in a rehabilitation center three months ago. After my preparation was a little bit short for a marathon, especially for a record you need four, five months.”

MORE: 2019 Berlin Marathon Results

Kipchoge, 34, skipped Berlin, the world’s fastest marathon for its ideal weather and pancake-flat course, to try and become the first person to break two hours in a marathon in a special event in Austria in October. Vienna will not be record-eligible, though, with pacers set to come in and out of the event.

When Kipchoge took 78 seconds off the world record last year, he also made his argument as the greatest runner in history. He is on the longest winning streak in modern marathoning — 10 straight victories dating to 2014.

But Kipchoge’s success on the track — a world title and two Olympic 5000m medals — pales in comparison to Bekele. The Ethiopian owns eight combined Olympic and world titles between the 5000m and 10,000m, plus world records at both distances.

And Bekele now owns two of the seven fastest marathons in history.

But this one came from out of nowhere. Bekele’s other top marathon time — 2:03:03 — came in Berlin, but way back in 2016. He failed to finish two marathons in 2017 and another in 2018. His last full race at 26.2 miles was at the April 2018 London Marathon, where he was sixth in 2:08:53.

Ethiopian Ashete Bekere won the Berlin women’s race in 2:20:14. Pre-race favorite Gladys Cherono of Kenya dropped out between the 19th and 22nd miles. American Sara Hall joined a deep group of U.S. Olympic hopefuls by finishing fifth in 2:22:16, taking 4:04 off her personal best.

The fall marathon season continues in Chicago on Oct. 13, featuring Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.

MORE: World championships women’s marathon a race of attrition

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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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