U.S. Classic ramps up gymnastics season; TV, live stream schedule

Leanne Wong
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As U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team members from Tokyo deliberate returns to elite competition, this Saturday is an opportunity for the next generation to springboard toward August’s national championships and this fall’s world championships.

Leanne Wong, an Olympic alternate who won last October’s world championships all-around silver medal, headlines the U.S. Classic, the primary lead-up meet for the Aug. 18-21 national championships, live on CNBC and streaming on NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

Women compete Saturday just outside Salt Lake City. The men, including Olympians Brody Malone, Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus, plus world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik, compete Sunday.

Top gymnasts often use the Classic to fine-tune routines ahead of the national championships, after which teams are named for worlds.

None of last year’s Olympic women’s team members are entered in Classic, though Suni LeeJade Carey and Jordan Chiles (who all compete collegiately now) said this year that they plan to return to elite, Olympic-level competition at some point before the 2024 Paris Games.

So the spotlight Saturday will be on Wong after fellow 2021 World Championships team members Kayla DiCello and Konnor McClain withdrew earlier this week. Wong, eighth in the all-around at Olympic Trials, was one of four alternates to the six-woman team in Tokyo.

Wong spent most of her Olympic experience in quarantine after roommate Kara Eaker tested positive for COVID-19. Three months later, she earned all-around silver at worlds with a score that would have placed fifth in Tokyo.

Comparing scores between those two meets isn’t quite apples to apples, but consider that Wong finished between the Olympic bronze medalist (Angelina Melnikova) and Olympic fourth-place finisher (Vladislava Urazova). The Olympic gold and silver medalists Lee and Rebeca Andrade didn’t compete in the all-around at worlds.

Wong, 18, then matriculated at the University of Florida, where she shared second in the all-around at the SEC Championships and placed fifth at the NCAA Championships as a freshman.

Later this summer, Wong will be one of the primary contenders for a spot on the five-woman world team, likely along with DiCello and McClain. So may Katelyn Jong, the 2021 U.S. junior all-around champion who moved up to senior this year, and Shilese Jones, who was 10th at Olympic Trials. Both are entered at Classic.

Classic has been a turning or launching point for star gymnasts in the past. In 2013, Simone Biles was pulled from Classic by her coach after two falls, then went on an eight-year all-around win streak surrounding a two-year break from competition from 2016-18. Her comeback meet in 2018? U.S. Classic.

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2022 U.S. Classic Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Saturday Junior Women 2:30-4:30 p.m. CNBC | STREAM LINK | Peacock
Senior Women 7-9 p.m. CNBC | STREAM LINK | Peacock
Sunday Men 3-5 p.m. CNBC | STREAM LINK | Peacock
Sat., Aug. 6 Highlights* 4-5 p.m. NBC | STREAM LINK

*Delayed broadcast

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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