U.S. wins first figure skating worlds pairs’ title since 1979; Ashley Cain-Gribble hurt in fall

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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier became the first U.S. pair to win a world figure skating title since 1979, competing immediately after fellow American Ashley Cain-Gribble fell three times and withdrew with partner Timothy LeDuc.

Knierim and Frazier, sixth at the Olympics, posted the highest scores in the short program and free skate to win by 21.54 points over Japanese Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara. Canadians Vanessa James and Eric Radford took bronze in Montpellier, France.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

“I’ve dreamed about this moment for so many times, but this was even better,” said Frazier, a junior world champion in 2013 with previous partner Haven Denney who made his Olympic debut with Knierim last month. Knierim won three U.S. titles with husband Chris, and went to the 2018 Olympics, before he retired in 2020.

The last American pair to win worlds was Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner in 1979.

The top five teams from the Olympics — all Russians and Chinese — were not entered at worlds, making both American teams medal favorites in the country’s weakest discipline over the last two decades. The U.S. last won a pairs’ medal in 2002. Russia was banned. China sent zero skaters overall.

Knierim and Frazier totaled personal bests in both programs and won by the largest pairs’ margin in either the Olympics or world championships since the points-based scoring system was introduced in 2006.

They did so minutes after Cain-Gribble fell on a pair of side-by-side jumps, a triple loop and a triple Salchow, and on a throw triple Lutz.

She lay on the ice after the Salchow, was tended to by LeDuc, then was standing before being taken off on a stretcher and to a hospital for evaluation, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

“I was startled because you remember how dangerous skating can be,” Knierim said. “Even when you’re most prepared, something can happen, but I knew there was nothing I could do in that moment to help them.”

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc were in second after the short, looking to give the U.S. its first one-two in any worlds event since Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan in 1997.

“Our hearts go out to our training mates, Ashley and Timothy,” Frazier said. “They’re our friends first, competitors second, so we wish them a very speedy recovery.”

Knierim and Frazier’s total score — 221.09 — would have placed fourth at the Olympics.

They suffered the biggest challenges of their career, separately, over the same year span.

In spring and summer 2016, Knierim came down with hard-to-diagnose stomach problems, including vomiting episodes, emergency room visits and three abdominal surgeries over an eight-month ordeal.

In March 2017, Denney and Frazier finished 20th in the world championships short program, failing to qualify for the 16-skater free skate and reducing the U.S. to one pairs’ spot at the 2018 Olympics.

Worlds continue Friday with the rhythm dance and women’s free skate.

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Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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