Boston Marathon spotlight on Eliud Kipchoge, U.S. Olympic team contenders

Eliud Kipchoge

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race, and Monday’s elite contests are its most anticipated in recent memory.

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic marathon champion and world record holder, toes the start line in Hopkinton for the first time on Patriots’ Day morning.

Kipchoge, 38, eschewed his usual April routine of entering the London Marathon to chase a goal of becoming the first runner to win all six annual World Marathon Majors.

He already checked off four of them over an 11-year marathon career that’s included an unprecedented 15 wins in 17 races: Berlin (where last September he lowered his world record to 2 hours, 1 minute, 9 seconds), Chicago (where he won his first major marathon in 2014, his last time racing anywhere in the U.S.), London and Tokyo.

All that’s remaining are Boston and New York City, the latter a November marathon that Kipchoge has attended but never raced.

Boston may be Kipchoge’s toughest test yet given his age, an unfamiliar and hilly course and the challengers. Supporting stars Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto, Kenyan training partners, are arguably the world’s second- and third-best marathoners.

Chebet, 34, won Boston and New York City in 2022. Kipruto, 32, won Boston in 2021 and Chicago in 2022.

All signs point to Kipchoge leading Kenya’s three-man team for the 2024 Olympic marathon in Paris, where he could become the first person to win three gold medals in the event.

The U.S. Olympic marathon teams of three men and three women will be decided at next February’s trials in Orlando. The Boston fields include the most top Americans of any spring marathon.

Conner Mantz and Scott Fauble are the only Americans to break 2:09 since the start of 2022. They share similar stories.

Both abandoned the American distance-running tradition that stipulates moving up to the marathon only after a long track career. Mantz, 26, and Fauble, 31, each made their 26.2-mile debut at age 25, one year after placing fifth and fourth in Olympic Trials 10,000m finals, respectively.

Mantz may be the early Olympic Trials favorite, solely because of what he did in his marathon debut in Chicago last October. He was the top American man in seventh, running the fastest marathon of any American in 2022 and becoming the seventh-fastest American in history.

Fauble is the most consistent American man, when factoring in four-time Olympian Galen Rupp‘s injury struggles (Rupp hasn’t entered a spring marathon). The burrito aficionado has been one of the six fastest U.S. male marathoners in five of the last six years but was 12th at the 2020 Olympic Trials.

The two fastest U.S. women in history — Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato — both chose the April 23 London Marathon over Boston, then scratched with minor injuries.

Those two aside, it’s likely that the top U.S. woman in Boston on Monday, from a deep group, will be a favorite to make the Olympic team.

Sara Hall, who turns 40 on Saturday, was the third-fastest U.S. female marathoner last year behind Sisson and D’Amato. She would be the oldest U.S. Olympic female runner in history, according to Hall has competed in six different Olympic Trials events — the first in 2004 — spanning the 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m, 3000m steeplechase and the marathon. She has never made an Olympic team.

Emma Bates was the fourth-fastest U.S. woman last year (and the fastest in 2021, a year after placing seventh at the Tokyo Olympic Trials). At 30, she is younger than Sisson, D’Amato and Hall, plus makes her Boston debut on Monday.

Aliphine Tuliamuk, the surprise Tokyo Olympic Trials winner, also races Boston for the first time. Last November, she was the top American in New York City in seventh place, a result all the more impressive given an ankle injury limited her to a seven-week build-up. It was her first marathon since dropping out halfway through the Olympics with a hip injury, seven months after childbirth.

Then there is 39-year-old Des Linden, a 2012 and 2016 Olympian and 2018 Boston Marathon champ. Since placing fourth at the February 2020 Olympic Trials, Linden finished 16th, 13th and 16th in three marathons with a best time of 2:28.47, making her the 24th-fastest American woman in this Olympic cycle.

It’s likely that most U.S. Olympic team contenders will race a fall marathon, but at least until then, Monday’s results will be the single biggest indicator of trials prospects.

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Iga Swiatek wins third French Open title, fourth Grand Slam, but this final was not easy


Iga Swiatek won her third French Open title and her fourth Grand Slam overall, pushed to a third set in a major final for the first time.

Swiatek, a 22-year-old Pole, outlasted unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday at Roland Garros. Muchova tested Swiatek, the only singles player in the Open Era to win their first seven major final sets. She became the first player to take a set off Swiatek in the tournament.

Swiatek looked en route to another major final sweep, up 3-0 in the second set. She then committed 11 unforced errors (versus four winners) over the rest of the set as Muchova rallied back (with 10 winners versus 11 unforced errors).

Muchova then won the first eight points of the third set. Swiatek, under the most pressure of her career on the sport’s biggest stages, passed the test. The players exchanged breaks of serve, and Muchova had another break point for a chance to serve for the championship, but Swiatek fended her off.

“After so many ups and downs, I kind of stopped thinking about the score,” Swiatek said. “I wanted to use my intuition more because I knew that I can play a little bit better if I’m going to get a little bit more loosened up.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

No woman lower than the 14th seed has beaten both world Nos. 1 and 2 at a Grand Slam since the WTA rankings began in 1975. Muchova, ranked 43rd, nearly pulled it off.

“The feeling is a little bitter because I felt it was very close,” she said. “But overall, I mean, to call myself Grand Slam finalist, it’s amazing achievement.”

The French Open finishes Sunday with the men’s final. Novak Djokovic faces Casper Ruud, eyeing a 23rd major title to break his tie with Rafael Nadal for the men’s singles record. NBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock air live coverage at 9 a.m. ET.

Go back to the fall 2020 French Open. Swiatek, a 54th-ranked teen, won the tournament without dropping a set for her first tour-level title.

Since, she climbed to the top of the rankings (and has stayed there for 62 weeks running), tied the longest WTA win streak in 32 years (37 matches in a row in 2022) and won majors on clay and hard courts.

She beat challengers from different categories in major finals: a Slam champ (Sofia Kenin), a teen phenom (Coco Gauff), an emerged rival (Ons Jabeur) and now an unseeded (because of injuries)-but-dangerous veteran in Muchova. Swiatek is the youngest woman to reach four major titles since Serena Williams in 2002.

Yet this French Open began with talk of a Big Three in women’s tennis rather than singular dominance. Since last year’s French Open, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and Russian-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina both won their first major and beat Swiatek multiple times.

Swiatek faced neither in Paris but still called it “a pretty stressful tournament,” noting a right thing injury that forced her to retire during her last match before the tournament.

Sabalenka was stunned by Muchova in Thursday’s semifinals, the erratic serving and nerves of her past reappearing. Rybakina had to withdraw earlier in the tournament due to illness.

Next up: the grass court season and Wimbledon, where Swiatek hasn’t made it past the fourth round in three tries. She did win the 2018 junior title at the All England Club. but Sabalenka and Rybakina have had more recent success there.

If Swiatek can lift the Venus Rosewater Dish, she will be an Australian Open shy of a career Grand Slam. Her chances of adding an Olympic gold medal to that collection are very high, given Roland Garros hosts tennis at the 2024 Paris Games.

“I’m not setting these crazy records or goals for myself,” she said. “I know that keeping it cool is the best way to do it for me.”

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Novak Djokovic into French Open final with records at stake after beating Carlos Alcaraz


Novak Djokovic heads into Sunday’s French Open final with all sorts of history at stake after eliminating a cramping Carlos Alcaraz in a showdown semifinal.

Djokovic faces Casper Ruud, eyeing a 23rd major title to break his tie with Rafael Nadal for the men’s singles record. NBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock air live coverage at 9 a.m. ET.

On Friday, Djokovic took out the top seed Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, but the match was even when Alcaraz began showing signs of right leg cramping. The 20-year-old Spaniard attributed it to the “tension” of the match, saying he was nervous for his first time facing Djokovic at a major.

“I have never felt something like I did today,” he said, adding that it was full-body cramps. “If someone says that he get into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies.”

Alcaraz stopped play at 1-all in the third set and had trouble walking. He forfeited the next game, stipulated by the rules for receiving medical treatment for severe muscle cramping when not at a change of ends or end of a set.

Djokovic then won the next nine games. Alcaraz played with limited mobility and without the charismatic magic that’s charmed the tennis world.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

“First and foremost, I have to say tough luck for Carlos. I feel for him. I feel sorry,” Djokovic said to begin an on-court interview. “I told him at the net he knows how young he is. He’s got plenty of time ahead of him, so he’s going to win this tournament, I’m sure, many, many times.”

Djokovic was told of Alcaraz’s reasoning for the cramps.

“I have experienced that several times,” he said. “Early in my career I was struggling quite a bit physically. I can understand the emotions and circumstances that affect you mentally and emotionally.”

The semi was billed as perhaps the greatest inter-generational match in men’s tennis history, the first time that Alcaraz played a member of the Big Three at a major.

Their 16-year age gap was the largest to take place for men this deep in a major since the 1991 U.S. Open (Jim Courier d. Jimmy Connors) and the largest age gap for any major match between Slam champs since 2006 Wimbledon (Rafael Nadal d. Andre Agassi).

Unlike Friday, most of the previous torch-passing meetings took place when one man was not yet at his peak or the other was past his prime.

Typically, the younger player wins these types of duels. Djokovic, by prevailing over a foe 16 years younger this late in a major, broke the Open Era men’s age gap record of 14-plus years set by Roger Federer, who beat Hyeon Chung at the 2018 Australian Open.

Now, Djokovic heads to Sunday’s final as an overwhelming favorite against the Norwegian Ruud, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 winner over German Alexander Zverev in the later semifinal. Ruud was runner-up to Nadal at last year’s French Open and runner-up to Alcaraz at last year’s U.S. Open.

Djokovic can become the first man to win all four majors at least three times. He can break Nadal’s record as the oldest French Open singles champion.

“I’ve been very fortunate that most of the matches in tournaments I’ve played in the last few years, there is history on the line,” he said. “The motivation is very high, as you can imagine.”

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