Michael Phelps keeps close eye on swimming’s new international stars

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps believes time is ticking on his last remaining individual world record.

Phelps has held the world record in the 400m individual medley since 2002. His lowered it eight times total, ultimately to 4 minutes, 3.84 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“Hopefully, maybe fingers crossed, I’m going to be greedy and try to keep that record for one more year,” he said in a sitdown interview in France on Thursday.

Nobody swum within a second of it until this past June. That’s when France’s Léon Marchand, a 20-year-old pupil of Phelps’ career-long coach Bob Bowman, rattled Phelps’ time. He went under world record pace through 350 meters before falling 44 hundredths shy of it at the world championships.

“I’m excited to see a kid come up and challenge that record,” Phelps said. “That’s what I want. I would love that.”

Marchand is a student-athlete at Arizona State. Phelps lives in Arizona. Marchand said at worlds in June that they have not met, but they have messaged.

“He reminds me a lot of myself with the competitiveness when you get into it, kind of a dogfight in a race,” Phelps said. “He doesn’t lose many of those.”

The ultra-competitive Phelps may have motivation for his world record to last one more year. If it makes it through next June, he will break the record for longest time holding the world record in an individual Olympic swimming event since World War II, according to Swimming Stats.

The next world championships are in July. Marchand is also preparing for an experience that Phelps never had — a home Olympics in Paris in 2024.

“To be able to swim here, on your home soil, I will say I am jealous,” Phelps said.

Phelps believes another world record is on borrowed time — the 200m freestyle held by German Paul Biedermann since 2009 (1:42.00).

“If there’s one person on the planet that goes under 1:42 in the 200m free, it’s probably Popovici,” he said.

Phelps was referring to David Popovici, the Romanian phenom who just turned 18, one month after breaking a 13-year-old world record in the 100m free (46.86). Over three meets this summer, Popovici swam six of the 20 fastest 100m free times in history.

“I mean, the kid went 46.9, 47.0, 47.0, 47.1, 47.1, 47.2 in the 100m frees this year,” Phelps said. “I pay attention to all that stuff.”

In his Olympic debut in Tokyo, Popovici finished higher in the 200m free (fourth) than the 100m (seventh).

Last month, he swam the fourth-fastest 200m free time in history — 1:42.97. That was one hundredth off Phelps’ personal best in the event, which Phelps dubbed his best race of his eight-gold-medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Games.

“To see somebody swim as efficiently as he does, his stroke is very good,” Phelps said. “It’s just a matter of time before he gets even stronger and swims even faster.”

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

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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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