Eliud Kipchoge runs 1:59 marathon, first to break 2 hours

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Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 40 seconds, becoming the first person to break two hours for 26.2 miles in a special event in Vienna on Saturday morning.

“It has taken 65 years for a human being to make history in sport after Roger Bannister,” Kipchoge said, noting the Brit who became the first man to break 4 minutes for a mile in 1954. “I can tell people that no human is limited. I expect more people all over the world to run under two hours after today.”

NBCSN airs an exclusive replay of the Ineos 1:59 Challenge on Sunday from 3-5:30 p.m. ET and Monday at 2:30 p.m.

Kipchoge, the 34-year-old Olympic champion from Kenya, reached his goal in a non-record-eligible time trial event built just for him. He flashed smiles in the final mile, appearing confident he would meet the goal he’s had in mind since the Rio Games.

He pointed to both sides of the crowd, slapped his chest twice as he crossed under the finish banner. He found the arms of his wife, Grace, watching him finish a marathon in person for the first time, and children. Then he moved onto his career-long coach, 1992 Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Patrick Sang.

Kipchoge said the hardest hours of his life were between 5 and 8:15 on Saturday morning, up until the event began. He ate oatmeal for breakfast.

The bid, similar to Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour marathon attempt in Italy two years ago, featured packs of pacers from an announced group of 41 taking turns, a lead car beaming lasers out the back as a guide and special Nike shoes.

The final pace group shed from Kipchoge so he could run the final 500 meters alone. Kipchoge sped up, taking the projected finish down from 1:50:50 in the last mile.

Pacers included a Who’s Who of distance runners, from Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz to five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat, who is 44 years old.

Kipchoge ran 2:00:25 in his previous sub-two attempt on a Formula One track in Monza, Italy. He holds the world record of 2:01:39, set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

“Berlin is running and breaking a world record,” Kipchoge said before the event. “Vienna is running and making history in this world, like the first man to go the moon.”

This event was held at the Prater, a central Vienna park, with fans lining the six-mile circuit.

Next year, Kipchoge can become the third person to win multiple Olympic marathons. He won his last 10 marathons over the last five years, a modern-era elite record streak.

Kipchoge, a 2003 World 5000m champion at age 18, moved to road racing after finishing seventh in the 2012 Olympic trials 5000m, failing to make the Kenyan team for the London Games.

“I’m a believer of a challenges and a believer if you climb one branch, look for the next branch,” he said.

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WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV 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.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics