Nate Ebner returns to rugby from NFL, eyes another Olympics

Nate Ebner
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In 2016, Nate Ebner became the first athlete with prior NFL regular season experience to compete in the Summer Olympics, less than five months after returning to rugby. He wants to repeat the feat this summer.

Ebner, a 32-year-old New York Giants safety known for his special teams work, announced Monday via Giants.com that he’s trying out for the U.S. Olympic rugby team again.

USA Rugby later confirmed that Ebner joined its residency camp of about 30 players vying for 12 Olympic spots, to be named in late June or early July.

The news comes exactly five years after Ebner announced his first Olympic bid — seven years removed from his junior national team days before he focused on football at Ohio State and later won Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

In 2016, Ebner was successful in one aspect. He made the 12-man U.S. team for Rio, where rugby returned to the Olympic program for the first time since 1924, and started the last two group games.

But he left Brazil unsatisfied. The U.S. was eliminated from medal contention in heartbreaking fashion before the knockout rounds.

Captain Madison Hughes missed a late two-point conversion attempt from out wide against Fiji in the group finale. Had he made it, the Americans still would have lost to the Fijians, but they would have been in position to sneak into the quarterfinals by one in tiebreaking point differential. Instead, they finished ninth.

“Not getting a medal in that last Olympics is something that really bothers me,” Ebner said, according to Giants.com. “When I reflect on what’s important in my life, if I’m being honest, that was high priority. People say, ‘You were the guy who won a gold medal in the Olympics,’ and I’m like, ‘No, we didn’t win a medal.’ Not winning a medal, especially when I thought that we had the team to do it, and as I look at the growth in the last five years, we definitely have an even better chance this time around. It’s something I would really like to be a part of.”

After Ebner went back to the NFL, the U.S. men’s rugby sevens team finished No. 2 in the world in the 2018-19 season. It dropped back to No. 7 last season, which was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Americans returned to competition last month, going 6-5 over two weekends in Madrid. Perry Baker, a two-time World Player of the Year, suffered a significant leg injury in one of the matches. USA Rugby declined to disclose the specific injury and has not said how long Baker is expected to be sidelined.

Just like in 2016, Ebner has the support of his NFL club. Giants head coach Joe Judge was Ebner’s special teams coordinator with the Patriots in 2016. At 32, Ebner is older than all but one player was on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. The U.S. men’s rugby sevens head coach remains Mike Friday, who was also at the helm in Rio.

“[In 2016], physically what it took for really six to eight weeks to get myself where I needed to be was extremely difficult,” Ebner said, according to Giants.com. “At least this time around I know what to expect physically because I’ve been through it. Last time I played [rugby], it had been five years competitively. I’m hoping I’m in a better place this time around than I was five years ago, but I’m also five years older.”

Ebner’s father, Jeff, played rugby at the University of Minnesota and coached Ebner’s high school team in Columbus, Ohio. Ebner became the youngest man ever to play for the national sevens team at age 17.

In November 2008, Ebner brought up to Jeff an idea of walking on to the Ohio State football team.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to see you throw away all the years and potential you have as a professional rugby player just so you can play football at Ohio State,'” Ebner said, according to ESPN.com in 2016. “He said, ‘If you’re going to do it, you have to go all the way. If you want to go to the NFL, you have to be committed.'”

The next day, Jeff was beaten to death during an armed robbery at the auto reclamation shop he owned.

“It would have meant a lot for him to witness this and be a part of this,” Ebner said before he made the Rio Olympic team, according to ESPN.com. “I think he would be proud of what I’m doing and the light this is shining on rugby in the States. He loved playing rugby, and I’ll do anything to give back to this sport that has given me so much.”

Ebner took a one-for-all mindset as he returned to the program, according to the Giants.com story reposted by USA Rugby.

“Even if I didn’t make the team, helping the team get to a place where they need to be going into the Olympics to win a medal, that’s a big motivation,” he said. “There will come a time when physically I’m not capable of doing any of this stuff. When that day comes, I won’t do it, but while I can I will.”

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final