Eliud Kipchoge considers Boston Marathon return after leg issue in debut

Eliud Kipchoge
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Eliud Kipchoge said he developed an upper left leg issue about 18 miles into Monday’s Boston Marathon, shortly before he was dropped from the lead pack en route to finishing sixth for his third defeat in 18 career 26.2-mile races.

“My left leg actually was not coming up anymore,” he said Tuesday. “That’s the problem is you try to do [what is] necessary, but it was not working. I put my mind just to run in a comfortable pace and just to finish.”

Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic champion and the world record holder, developed the issue after the first two of Boston’s famed four Newton Hills. Those hills make Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon, stand out from the marathons that Kipchoge has run the most — the flatter Berlin and London.

Kipchoge walked with a limp immediately after finishing in 2:09:23, the slowest marathon of his career. After he came to a stop on Boylston Street, he touched his left leg and motioned to it while a member of his team helped him put on a jacket.

“It’s just a problem on the leg,” he said Tuesday when asked to elaborate on the injury. “What can I say? I’m not a doctor.”

Kipchoge said that a lot was going through his mind at that turning point in the race, but he was determined not to quit. He has never dropped out of a marathon.

“They say it’s important to win, but it’s great to participate and finish,” he said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is the lesson.”

Kipchoge, 38, said that he absolutely will consider running Boston again. This year, he eschewed his usual London Marathon start to make his Boston debut as part of his goal to become the first runner to win all six annual World Marathon Majors.

Kipchoge previously won Berlin, Chicago, London and Tokyo. The lone annual major he has yet to race is New York City, which takes place in November.

Kipchoge was asked whether he could race New York City this fall and said he hasn’t decided what his next marathon will be.

Come next year, Kipchoge will be older than every Boston Marathon men’s champion since 1930. Depending on what happens in the fall, he may also be fighting for a spot Kenya’s three-man Olympic marathon team for the Paris Games.

He will be older than any previous Kenyan Olympic track and field athlete and older than any previous Olympic gold medalist in any running event, according to Olympedia.org.

Kipchoge wants to become the first person to win three Olympic marathons, but three Kenyans finished ahead of him in Boston, including Evans Chebet, who has now won three consecutive major marathons (Boston 2022, New York City 2022 and Boston 2023). Another Kenyan, Benson Kipruto, finished third on Monday after winning Boston in 2021 and Chicago in 2022.

Sunday’s London Marathon includes more star Kenyans, notably 2022 London champ Amos Kipruto and Kelvin Kiptum, a 23-year-old who won the Valencia Marathon in December and became the third-fastest man in history.

Kipchoge, who follows many sports, knows how quickly things can change in his event, where the best traditionally race just twice a year.

“I can’t win every time,” he said. “Lewis Hamilton has been world champion for seven times and was beaten for the eighth time by Max [Verstappen]. That’s life.”

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At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

Also Wednesday, 108th-ranked Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis ousted three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in four and a half hours. Wawrinka’s exit leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone man in the draw who has won the French Open and Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as the lone men left who have won any major.

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Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

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