U.S. men, ranked eighth, start Paralympic goalball run with win over No. 1 Brazil

2020 Tokyo Paralympics - Day 2
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Against all odds, the U.S. men’s goalball team started its Paralympic campaign with a thrilling victory over Brazil on Thursday afternoon.

Ranked eighth in the world, the U.S. was handed a tough draw for the Tokyo Paralympics, being placed in Group A alongside the likes of reigning Paralympic champion Lithuania and world No. 1 Brazil.

In goalball, two teams of three players each compete on a court reminiscent of the one used for indoor volleyball. Athletes who are visually impaired or completely blind wear eyeshades to level the playing field and throw a hard rubber ball – which features a bell inside – into the opposing team’s net, which is 9 meters wide and 1.3 meters high. Athletes block the ball with their bodies.

Regardless of how this matchup appeared on paper, the Americans proved themselves as medal contenders by taking down the two-time reigning world champion team 8-6.

Calahan Young, 26, starred for the U.S. in his Paralympic debut, scoring four goals. He also played all 24 minutes, more than any player on either team, and had almost double the number of total throws as any other American with 40 (Tyler Merren had 22).

Brazil’s Romario Marques opened play by scoring a penalty-shot goal after Zach Buhler was given a personal penalty for delaying the game. Young put the Americans on the board two minutes later. Goals by Josemarcio Sousa and Merren, competing at his fourth Paralympics for the U.S., made it appear the first 12-minute half would close in a tie, until Sousa handed the U.S. an own goal with 29 seconds left.

Brazil was quick to respond in the second half, with Leomon Moreno, the top goal-scorer at the last two world championships, scoring 41 seconds in and notching another less than a minute later, bringing it to 4-3 in his team’s favor.

Two-time Paralympian Matt Simpson, who earned his law degree last year, had his first goal of the tournament 12 seconds later to tie it up once more. Moreno scored a penalty-shot goal over Young, who fired back a few minutes later for the start of a U.S. tear that brought it from 5-4 in Brazil’s favor to 8-5 in the U.S.’ in a matter of five minutes.

The impressive run included three goals by Young and one by Daryl Walker, the elder statesman of the U.S. team at 39 who made his mark shortly after being substituted in for Merren. Brazil attempted to come back, with Sousa scoring in the final minute, then again at the buzzer, though that one was called a long ball and given a shot violation.

The U.S. continues play on Friday at 1:15 p.m. local time/12:15 a.m. ET against host country Japan. A full Paralympic Games broadcast schedule is available here. Events can also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app with more info available here.

In 10 previous Paralympic appearances, the U.S. men’s goalball team has accumulated five medals, including silver in 2016 – its best result in 28 years – though the team placed fifth at the world championships two years later. The team’s only gold came in 1984.

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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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2024 Tour de France to end with Nice time trial due to Paris Olympics

2024 Tour de France Nice
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The 2024 Tour de France will end on the French Riviera instead of the French capital because of the Paris Olympics.

The finish of cycling’s marquee race leaves Paris for the first time since 1905.

Tour organizers said on Thursday the last stage of its 111th race will take place in the Mediterranean resort of Nice on July 21. Five days later, Paris opens the Olympics.

Because of security and logistical reasons, the French capital won’t have its traditional Tour finish on the Champs-Elysees. Parting with tradition of a sprint on the Champs-Elysees, the last stage will be an individual time trial along Nice’s famed Promenade des Anglais.

The start of the 2024 race, which will begin for the first time in Italy, was brought forward by one week, a customary change during an Olympic year. The Tour will start on June 29 in Florence.

Nice has hosted the Tour 37 times, including its start twice, in 1981 and in 2020. Two years ago, the start was delayed until Aug. 29 due to lockdowns and travels bans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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