Olympic champions, hopefuls react to Tokyo Games move to 2021

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Athlete reactions on social media and elsewhere to the announcement that the Tokyo Olympics will be moved to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic … 

“As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country,” was tweeted from U.S. Olympic champion swimmer Katie Ledecky‘s account. “Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy.”

Noah Lyles, the world champion in the 200m, said he was relieved “because my first concern is that everybody would be healthy and everybody would have a fair place to compete.” Training in Central Florida has been curtailed to grassy, trail-like areas around woods where people are walking dogs.

“We can’t really sprint,” said Lyles, who is spending more time playing video games and working on an EP he has planned to release in the next few months. “Not a lot we can do, just kind of a little bit of running on the grass. Some plyometrics. Just an hour or two, and then you go back and quarantine. It’s just a little bit of something to not go crazy.”

Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan flag bearer sensation from Rio and PyeongChang, had already qualified for the Tokyo Games in taekwondo. He will continue to try to qualify in a second sport of kayak.

“Either way this is the right decision and now athletes can focus on looking after themselves and their families,” he posted. “Personally I will keep pushing on my kayak just Incase [sic] there is that chance that a miracle will happen and I get to represent Tonga on the Taekwondo mats and in the Kayak in Tokyo. I will use the extra year to be the best athlete and person that I can be.”

Des Linden, a two-time Olympian, was fourth at the Feb. 29 Olympic Marathon Trials, just missing the team of three women. Any changes to any Olympic qualifying procedures have not been announced, but she was adamant that the U.S. marathon team not change.

“Anybody suggesting the Marathon Trials be re-run, just stop,” she tweeted. “There are 6 athletes who actually have so much to celebrate during this tough time, please don’t crap on their parade.”

France’s Kevin Mayer is the world-record holder in the decathlon. The Olympic decathlon champion is commonly labeled the world’s greatest athlete.

“No problem,” Mayer tweeted, “we can wait.”

Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson is the reigning world champion in the heptathlon, which crowns the world’s best female athlete.

“Waited 8 years for this, what’s another 1 in the grand scheme of things?” she tweeted. “As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news about the olympics being postponed until 2021, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone!”

Lilly King, the finger-wagging Rio Olympic breaststroke champion, posted, “Just one more year to get better.”

Eliud Kipchoge, the world-record holder in the iconic Olympic event of the marathon, called it “a very wise decision” to postpone.

“I look forward to come back to Japan to defend my Olympic title next year and look forward to witness a wonderful event,” Kipchoge posted. “I wish everybody good health in these challenging times.”

Carli Lloyd, a two-time Olympic champion soccer player and World Cup star for the U.S., was already, before the postponement, bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player in history at age 38.

“This is bigger than sports. It’s bigger than an Olympics,” she said in a video interview with an ABC affiliate. “I think it was definitely the right call. Disappointed … but I think for the safety of everybody, it’s definitely the best thing”

Powerful Frenchman Teddy Riner, who won 154 straight judo matches from 2010 until February, summed it up.

“See you in 2021, Tokyo,” he posted. “First, we have to win a huge fight.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

Katie Ledecky out-touches new rival at swimming’s U.S. Open, extends streak

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It was a rare sight: Katie Ledecky being matched stroke for stroke in a distance race in an American pool. She was up for the challenge.

Ledecky out-touched emerging 16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh by eight hundredths of a second in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Ledecky and McIntosh were tied at the 300-meter mark. Ledecky ended up clocking 3:59.71 to McIntosh’s 3:59.79 to extend a decade-long win streak in freestyle races of 400 meters or longer in U.S. pools.

“I know we’ll have a lot more races ahead of us,” Ledecky said on Peacock. “We bring the best out of each other.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with live finals coverage on Peacock at 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

At the Tokyo Olympics, McIntosh placed fourth in the 400m free at age 14.

She accelerated this year, taking silver behind Ledecky at the world championships and silver behind Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free — also by eight hundredths — in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and the U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh also won world titles in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

A potential showdown among Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh at the 2024 Paris Games is already being compared to the “Race of the Century,” the 2004 Olympic men’s 200m free where Australian Ian Thorpe edged Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps.

In other events Thursday, Regan Smith, an Olympic and world medalist in the backstroke and butterfly, won a 200m individual medley in a personal best 2:10.40, a time that would have placed fifth at June’s world championships. She beat 16-year-old Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the event at worlds.

Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz won the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.52, his best time ever outside of major summer meets. Frenchman Léon Marchand won the world title in 1:55.22 in June, when Kalisz was fourth.

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Eliud Kipchoge, two races shy of his target, to make Boston Marathon debut

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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World record holder Eliud Kipchoge will race the Boston Marathon for the first time on April 17.

Kipchoge, who at September’s Berlin Marathon lowered his world record by 30 seconds to 2:01:09, has won four of the six annual major marathons — Berlin, Tokyo, London and Chicago.

The 38-year-old Kenyan has never raced Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon dating to 1897, nor New York City but has repeated in recent years a desire to enter both of them.

Typically, he has run the London Marathon in the spring and the Berlin Marathon in the fall.

Kipchoge’s last race in the U.S. was the 2014 Chicago Marathon, his second of 10 consecutive marathon victories from 2014 through 2019.

He can become the first reigning men’s marathon world record holder to finish the Boston Marathon since South Korean Suh Yun-Bok set a world record of 2:25:39 in Boston in 1947, according to the Boston Athletic Association.

In 2024 in Paris, Kipchoge is expected to race the Olympic marathon and bid to become the first person to win three gold medals in that event.

The Boston Marathon field also includes arguably the second- and third-best men in the world right now — Kipchoge’s Kenyan training partners Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto. Chebet won Boston and New York City this year. Kipruto won Boston last year and Chicago this year.

American Des Linden, who won Boston in 2018, headlines the women’s field.

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