Eliud Kipchoge on his marathon bucket list, shoe technology debate

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NEW YORK — Eliud Kipchoge is in Manhattan for New York City Marathon weekend. He is not running the race, three weeks after becoming the first person to break two hours in a marathon (in a non-record-eligible setting), but for the second time in three years, he is here to watch training partner Geoffrey Kamworor.

Kipchoge sat down with OlympicTalk to discuss marathon-related topics. Interview lightly edited and condensed for clarity:

OlympicTalk: What perspective have you found in the three weeks since the 1:59?

Kipchoge: I realized that the whole human community was lacking something within them. I’ve been receiving good messages of inspiration. Many people in the world are saying that I inspired them in a human way, that they’ve pushed their limits in their fields of work. Many people realized that they can be more happy when they venture into sport or when they get out of their house and run. Many people, from the farmers, lawyers, teachers, everybody is eager to get out of the house in the morning and do something better. Being a game-changer in the whole world, just to change the life of a human family. I’ve realized that together we have won.

OlympicTalk: Your motto for the 1:59 event was “No human is limited.” Is there an athlete in a sport other than track and field who you look at as somebody who also portrays that?

Kipchoge: Chris Froome is actually a good example. Grew up in Kenya, lived in Kenya for 14 years. You don’t expect someone who grew up in Kenya to come and win the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.

OlympicTalk: You said after the London Marathon that you would like to run all six World Marathon Majors before you retire. Is that still your goal, and do you have a schedule in mind for when to run Boston and New York?

Kipchoge: That’s what is in my bucket list. I wish in the future that I will do that.

OlympicTalk: What about next year? Have you thought about your schedule and how the Olympics might come into play?

Kipchoge: Not really. For now, I am concentrating purely on my recovery.

OlympicTalk: But would a second Olympic gold medal be on your bucket list?

Kipchoge: It’s on my bucket list, yes.

OlympicTalk: What do you think about the decision to move the Olympic marathon from Tokyo to Sapporo?

Kipchoge: I can’t comment on that because I am still active. Those who can comment on that are those in the administration. All in all, I respect what the administration of the IOC and the Japanese are doing.

OlympicTalk: If you could only have one of these accomplishments, which would you take: 1:59, world record or Olympic gold medal?

Kipchoge: The 1:59. Because it’s a noble gesture. It’s history. And I trust and believe that it will go all through to more than three billion people.

OlympicTalk: When you were here in 2017 and you watched Geoffrey win, what was that experience like for you to be a spectator in Central Park?

Kipchoge: I was really nervous when I was watching him running. But, all in all, I was happy to receive him after crossing the line being the winner. The first thing [I said] was many congratulations for winning.

OlympicTalk: The IAAF formed a committee to determine whether or not to put more regulations on shoes before the end of this year. What would you tell the committee?

Kipchoge: I respect technology. I respect innovation. I respect the law of man. We are growing in the world. And the world is moving, and you can’t stop. We are moving with the world, and the world is changing. I expect the committee will be respecting the change in the world, the innovation, the technology.

OlympicTalk: When you ran in Vienna in the new Vaporfly version, could you feel the difference from your previous version?

Kipchoge: I’ve been using different shoes. For my 14 marathons, I’ve used 11 new pairs. It’s my fitness that I consider fast. My mental fitness. My physical fitness. The beauty of the shoe is the recovery.

OlympicTalk: If you were running in your shoes from 2014 or 2015 in Vienna, do you think you still would have broken two hours?

Kipchoge: I may or I may not. We cannot put ourselves in the last 10 years.

OlympicTalk: In 2012, you missed the Olympic team on the track. The next year, you moved to marathon running. If you had made that Olympic team on the track, would you still have moved to the marathon?

Kipchoge: Absolutely, I would have made the transition. It was a plan with my management and my coach. I spent 10 good years in track, which I can say was really successful and I enjoyed running track for 10 years. Even if I would have made the team to London, I would have made the transition, no worries.

OlympicTalk: When will you make a decision on if you will run a spring marathon, and which one?

Kipchoge: Absolutely, yes, [I will run a marathon in the spring]. I will make the decision in December on which one.

MORE: Tokyo governor to IOC: Keep Olympic marathon in Tokyo

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Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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