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the second-fastest marathoner in history, and Sara Hall, the third-fastest American female marathoner in history, have withdrawn from the Boston Marathon scheduled for April 18.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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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever

Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here with redactions.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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