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Kenyans Geoffrey Kamworor, Joyciline Jepkosgei win New York City Marathon

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NEW YORK — Geoffrey Kamworor and Joyciline Jepkosgei gave Kenya a sweep of the New York City Marathon men’s and women’s titles on Sunday.

Kamworor won the world’s largest annual marathon for the second time in three years, pulling away from countryman Albert Korir in the final miles. Kamworor, who trains with marathon world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge, finished in 2:08:13 and then immediately embraced Kipchoge, who was in the Central Park crowd.

“I didn’t want to disappoint him,” said Kamworor, who calls the eight-years-older Kipchoge a mentor. “That gave me a lot of motivation. He inspired me a lot during the race.”

Jepkosgei, a half-marathon world-record holder like Kamworor, outdueled four-time NYC champion Mary Keitany. She clocked 2:22:38, the second-fastest female time in race history, to become the first woman to win New York City in her marathon debut since 1994. At 25, she is the youngest female winner since 2001.

Keitany, a 37-year-old bidding to become the oldest female NYC winner since 1987, finished second. She was 54 seconds behind Jepkosgei, who in the last year withdrew before scheduled marathon debuts in Honolulu (ankle) and Hamburg (chose to pace the London Marathon).

“I know Mary had more experience in the marathon, so I was trying to push,” Jepkosgei said.

Olympians Des Linden and Jared Ward were the top Americans, each in sixth place.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, the defending men’s champion, withdrew in the seventh mile, 29 days after winning the world championships marathon in Doha. U.S. Olympic team contender Sara Hall dropped out at mile 18 with stomach issues, 35 days after lowering her personal best by four minutes at the Berlin Marathon.

MORE: 2019 NYC Marathon Results

New York City marked the end of the 2019 major marathon season. Top Americans are now focused on the Olympic Trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29, when the top three per gender are in line to make the Tokyo team.

Most of the U.S. Olympic favorites did not run New York City, it being less than four months before trials. That group includes Rio Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp, who withdrew during the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon with a calf injury in his first race in a year after Achilles surgery.

Ward, a BYU statistics professor who was sixth in Rio, is one of three other U.S. men to break 2:10 in this Olympic cycle. He’s finished in the top 10 of major marathons each of the last three years. Four years ago, Ward deemed his chances of making the Olympic team at 35 percent. He feels they are better this time.

“I wanted something today that solidified the breakthrough that I had in Boston [in April, a personal-best 2:09:25] and establish to myself that I’m a different marathoner going into this Olympic trial cycle, in this Olympic cycle, than I was in the last one,” Ward said. “It was a validating performance.”

The U.S. women are deeper, even with the recent retirement of four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan. Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon winner, repeated in the months before New York that she is undecided on running trials in the final years of her career.

“Right now is not the time, just based on how many calves feel and my feet feel,” Linden said when asked about 2020 plans, about an hour after placing in the top eight of an 11th straight marathon since failing to finish at the 2012 London Olympics. “Maybe at 1 a.m. tonight, I’ll have different opinions.”

The U.S. also boasts Jordan Hasay (second-fastest American woman in history), 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg and Molly Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m.

Earlier Sunday, American Daniel Romanchuk and Swiss Manuela Schar repeated as NYC wheelchair champions.

Romanchuk, 21, followed up a breakthrough 2018 when he became the first U.S. man to win the wheelchair division as well as the youngest male NYC champion in history. Romanchuk won majors in Boston and London in the spring and Chicago and New York City in the fall.

Schar, 34, three-peated as NYC champion to become the first person to sweep all six major city marathons in one year since Tokyo was added to the group in 2017. American Tatyana McFadden, whom Schar supplanted as the dominant female racer, was second, 3:59 behind.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results

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.

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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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