Eliud Kipchoge, Keira D’Amato chase records at Berlin Marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Born 15 days apart in 1984, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and American Keira D’Amato have shown there are multiple routes to marathon success. Their paths converge somewhat as the top seeds at Sunday’s Berlin Marathon, where Kipchoge might break his world record while D’Amato could lower her American record.

Kipchoge, a 37-year-old who ran a few miles to and from school as a kid, took a more conventional route to 26.2-mile stardom. A standout on the track (world 5000m champion at age 18), he transitioned to the roads after missing Kenya’s Olympic team in 2012.

Over the last decade, he became the unquestioned greatest of all time: wins in 14 of his 16 marathons, the first person to break two hours over the distance (in a non-record-eligible event) and, at his last appearance on the pancake-flat course at the German capital in 2018, took the world record down from 2:02:57 to 2:01:39.

Kipchoge no doubt returned to Berlin — rather than enter November’s New York City Marathon for the first time, which he plans to do in the coming years — because he feels he can bring the record down even further. New York City is too hilly for fast times. The last seven instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come in Berlin.

In press conferences last Saturday and again on Friday, the philosophical Kipchoge declined to issue a world record-or-bust objective.

“I always say I don’t call a world record, but I aim to run a good race, be it a world record, be it a personal best, be it a good race,” he said. “But let us call it a good race.”

To Kipchoge, a good race isn’t merely about the time or the victory. It is, as has become somewhat of a motto, to inspire people to be active and to show “no human is limited.”

Kipchoge is just as fit as he was when he broke the world record in 2018, said his manager, Valentijn Trouw. The weather, as in 2018, is expected to be ideal for running. He will wear similar, but not the same model, Nike shoes. If anything external can be improved on that special day four years ago, it is the pacemaking, Trouw said.

One thing that is guaranteed to be different this year is Kipchoge’s seed time. Back then, his personal best entering Berlin was 2:03:05. He was a year away from his breaking-two-hours event.

“So he’s a little bit more experienced with running on that kind of pace,” Trouw said.

That Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele ran 2:01:41 in Berlin in 2019 at age 37 — two seconds shy of Kipchoge’s world record — is also a plus. Kipchoge is considered the greatest marathoner in history by a significant margin. If the times back that up, his personal best should be well clear of Bekele, who is arguably the greatest runner in history over all distances as the former world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Bekele is not in Sunday’s field to rival Kipchoge. Other top challengers are racing at next week’s London Marathon, though Ethiopian Guye Adola stands out among Berlin’s supporting cast. In 2017, Adola finished 14 seconds behind Kipchoge in Berlin in his 26.2-mile debut, but did little the next four years before winning Berlin last year in 2:05:45.

Trouw said that he’s had zero conversations with Kipchoge about his remaining shelf life as a marathoner. Haile Gebrselassie, the former world record holder from Ethiopia, earned his last marathon win at 36. Bekele, now 40, hasn’t been within five minutes of that 2:01:41 since he ran it.

“On a bigger scale, the Paris 2024 Olympics is absolutely in the front of his mind,” Trouw said of his client, who can become the first person to win three Olympic marathons. “The World Marathon Majors, he has won four out of six of the races. There are still two races remaining that he hasn’t been yet [Boston and New York City]. So that’s absolutely also one of the targets in the coming years.”

Then there is D’Amato. While Kipchoge built his marathon career, she went nearly a decade between competitive races after a middle-distance stint at American University. She got married, had two kids and worked in real estate before returning to running to lose baby weight.

She has chipped away since finishing the 2017 Shamrock Marathon in the sleet, hail and wind of Virginia Beach in 3:14:54. On Jan. 16, she broke the 16-year-old American women’s marathon record by clocking 2:19:12. That makes her the fastest woman in the Berlin field by personal best times.

No American male or female runner has won Berlin, one of six annual races designated as a World Marathon Major. Like Kipchoge, she entered this race, rather than New York City or even Chicago, to bolster her shot at a fast time.

No active American woman has run within 80 seconds of D’Amato’s national record, but they are accomplished. Sara Hall, the third-fastest American in history, was second in London and third in Chicago the last two years. Molly Seidel took third at the Olympics and fourth in New York City last year. Emily Sisson and Emma Bates are young talents who broke into the U.S. all-time top 10.

Of that group, only D’Amato is running Berlin, the first in a series of four major marathons over the next six weeks.

“There’s a number of American women that I think are also gunning for that record, so if I think if I don’t lower it myself, it’s not going to be mine for very much longer,” she said.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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