London Marathon is Sifan Hassan’s nervous debut, Mo Farah’s emotional farewell

Sifan Hassan London Marathon

Sunday’s London Marathon may mark the beginning of one track legend’s marathon career. It will likely be the end for another.

Sifan Hassan, a 30-year-old, Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman, makes her 26.2-mile debut, less than two years after winning Olympic 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze in an unprecedented track triple.

Hassan said in announcing her marathon entry in February that she plans to return to the track after London, but how Sunday goes will play into whether she enters a fall marathon or even the Olympic marathon in 2024.

She has no time goal Sunday, but had the courage Friday to tell a press conference that she is scared of the distance, doesn’t know whether she will finish the race and has been nervous for the last month.

“Sometimes I wake up like, why the hell [did] I decide to run a marathon?” said Hassan, who has kept her track training during the build-up. “I am actually in better shape for 5000m, 10,000m right now. I don’t know marathon. Maybe I’m also in good shape for that.”

Hassan faces two road-racing giants on Sunday: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei, who in 2019 lowered the marathon world record to 2:14:04, and Peres Jepchirchir, who in a nine-month span in 2021 and 2022 became the only person to win the Olympic, Boston and New York City Marathons in a career.

Neither Kosgei nor Jepchirchir ran a fall 2022 marathon due to injury. so London is the first 26.2-mile race for both in more than a year.

The field also includes two Ethiopian track greats: Almaz Ayana, the 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion, and Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world record holder (3:50.07). Ayana, 31, and Dibaba, 32, went one-two in October’s Amsterdam Marathon in their 26.2-mile debuts.

The two fastest American women in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato, signed up for London over the winter but withdrew last month with minor injuries.

Sunday’s men’s field doesn’t have quite the star power as the women’s race, nor of last Monday’s Boston Marathon, where Eliud Kipchoge placed sixth in his first outing since lowering his world record to 2:01:09 last September.

London does have the next four fastest men in history — headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, who is 40 years old and last broke 2:05 in 2019, when he ran a personal-best 2:01:41 to win Berlin.

A bigger favorite is Kelvin Kiptum, a 23-year-old Kenyan who won the Valencia Marathon in December in 2:01:53 to become the third-fastest man in history.

Kiptum and other ascending runners may be a threat to the 38-year-old Kipchoge’s chances of making Kenya’s three-man Olympic marathon team, which is expected to be named after spring 2024 marathons.

One man who has said he will not compete at the Paris Games is 40-year-old Brit Mo Farah, who swept the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m in 2012 and 2016. After a failed Tokyo Olympic bid, Farah has repeatedly hinted at retirement due to his body breaking down.

He took another step in Thursday’s press conference, saying that London will be his last marathon. Farah previously announced the end of his track career, then withdrew before last October’s London Marathon four days before the race with a right hip injury.

Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, including the three fastest times in history for a Brit (2:05:11, 2:05:39, 2:06:21). But he hasn’t run a marathon since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

“As long as I stay injury-free and can do the work, then I will continue, but my body is not allowing me,” he said. “After the race, there might be a bit of tears.”

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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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