Boston Marathon: Kenenisa Bekele among big names to withdraw

Kenenisa Bekele

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, and Sara Hall, the third-fastest American female marathoner in history, have withdrawn from the Boston Marathon scheduled for April 18.

Bekele’s said he was “just not ready” and wanted to avoid repeating his last marathon in New York City in November, when he finished sixth while running six minutes slower than he did at the Berlin Marathon six weeks earlier. He said in a finish-area interview that day that he had a little hip problem.

“All focus on fall marathon,” his agent said Tuesday. “He knows the next one has to be a good one!”

Bekele, 39, was due to race the world’s oldest annual marathon for the first time.

Bekele, the former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder on the track, made his marathon debut in 2014 and ascended to win Berlin in 2016 in 2:03:03, then the second-fastest time in history.

Since then, Bekele started eight marathons with these results: a win (in Berlin in 2019 in 2:01:41, missing Eliud Kipchoge‘s world record by two seconds), a runner-up, a third, two sixths and three DNFs. He also withdrew before the 2020 London Marathon.

Hall, 38, cited a tendon injury emanating from tripping on a run in early February and slamming her knee on a rock.

“I want to enjoy this sport for many years, and don’t want to make short-sighed decisions that cut my career short or my ability to enjoy running for many years,” was posted on Hall’s social media.

Hall has been on a tear since dropping out in the 23rd mile of the February 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials.

She finished second at the October 2020 London Marathon in a personal-best 2:22:01. At The Marathon Project in December 2020 in Chandler, Arizona, she ran the then-second fastest marathon ever by an American woman in 2:20:32. Last October, she placed third at the Chicago Marathon.

Keira D’Amato then broke Deena Kastor‘s American record at the Houston Marathon on Jan. 16, the same day that Hall broke Molly Huddle‘s American record in the half marathon in Houston.

Hall ambitiously set out to race both the Tokyo Marathon and the Boston Marathon within seven weeks of each other. In Tokyo, she became the first American woman to break 2:23 in the marathon on a fourth occasion.

“I did everything I could to make it to the line in Tokyo and was able to get away with racing there due to the flat course,” was posted on Hall’s Instagram on Tuesday. “But the course in Boston puts me at great risk of a major setback.”

Hall plans to race the world championships marathon in Eugene, Oregon, in July.

Roza Dereje of Ethiopia, who was fourth at the Olympics, also withdrew from Boston.

The Boston Marathon women’s field is headlined by Kenyans Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic and New York City Marathon champion, and Joyciline Jepkosgei, the reigning London Marathon champion. Molly Seidel, the Olympic bronze medalist, and Des Linden, the 2018 Boston winner, head the U.S. contingent.

The men are led by Ethiopian Birhanu Legese, the third-fastest marathoner ever, who was announced as added to the field on Tuesday. Countryman Sisay Lemma, the reigning London winner, was also added. Kenyan Lawrence Cherono, the 2019 champion in Boston and Chicago, and veteran world marathon major winners Geoffrey Kamworor and Lelisa Desisa previously entered. Rio Olympian Jared Ward and Scott Fauble are the American headliners.

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South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun

Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei

World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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