Daniel Romanchuk

Tokyo Paralympics: Five storylines with one year to go

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Five Paralympic storylines, one year until the Tokyo Opening Ceremony on Aug. 25, 2020 …

1. Operation Gold in Full Effect
Tokyo marks the first Games since the U.S. made two major shifts toward equality between the Olympic and Paralympic Movements. More recently, the U.S. Olympic Committee changed its name to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee in June. The USOPC had managed Olympic and Paralympic sport at the national level since the founding of U.S. Paralympics in 2001, but its name had not reflected it.

In September 2018, the USOPC made its Paralympic medal bonuses equal to those for Olympic medals, increasing Paralympic payouts as much as 400 percent. The move was retroactive for the PyeongChang Winter Games. U.S. Paralympians now receive $37,500 for each gold medal, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze.

2. The Rise of Daniel Romanchuk
Romanchuk had just turned 18 when he made his Paralympic debut in Rio, getting eliminated in the heats of all his events — 100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m. He has since come to dominate the marathon, winning the wheelchair division in Boston, Chicago, London and New York City in the last year.

Romanchuk, who was born with spina bifida, is expected to enter a range of distances in Tokyo, given he also broke the 800m and 5000m world records in his classification last year. He could rival the versatility of Tatyana McFadden, who won three golds from 400m to 1500m in 2012 and four from 400m through 1500m in Rio.

“He has everything in his locker and has mastered all of it,” Brit David Weir, who owns Paralympic medals from every distance from 100m through the marathon, said after Romanchuk won the London Marathon on April 28.

3. Crossover Athletes
Some of the U.S.’ biggest recent Paralympic stars pulled double duty, earning medals at the Summer and Winter Games (Oksana Masters, McFadden). A few more recent Winter Paralympic champions are trying summer sports.

Josh Sweeney, a hockey player, competed in the Paralympic triathlon test event in Tokyo on Sunday. Jack Wallace, another hockey player, is competing this week at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary.

Then there’s Kendall Gretsch, a 2018 gold medalist in biathlon and cross-country skiing who does triathlons. Gretsch is actually a three-time world champion triathlete, but her classification was not added to the Paralympic program until after the sport’s debut in Rio.

4. The Return of Russia
Russia was reinstated by the International Paralympic Committee in March following a two-and-a-half year ban for its doping problems. The IPC was adamant then that Russia’s status could be revoked again with any more slip-ups, but so far that has not happened.

“The Russian Paralympic Committee continues to fully cooperate with the IPC regarding the implementation of the post-reinstatement criteria,” IPC spokesperson Craig Spence said in an email Tuesday. “The RPC is in good standing with the IPC.”

Russia was barred from the Rio Games, four years after placing third in the total medal standings in London. Some Russians were allowed to compete in PyeongChang as neutral athletes, but, unlike the PyeongChang Olympics, that did not include a hockey team.

5. Eye on the Medal Standings
China has come to dominate the Paralympics, topping the total medal standings in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 by at least 40 medals each time, thanks in large part to its prowess in swimming and track and field, where buckets of medals are awarded.

Russia’s return should shake things up. The Russians increased their medal count at every Paralympics since separating from former Soviet Republics starting in 1996. They made it as high as No. 3 in the total medal standings in 2012 before being barred from Rio.

The U.S., meanwhile, was fourth in total medals in 2012 and 2016 and has not been in the top two since it hosted in Atlanta in 1996. Great Britain, Ukraine and Australia are the other Paralympic powers.

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MORE: Tokyo Olympics: 20 storylines with one year to go

Eliud Kipchoge wins London Marathon in second-fastest time ever

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Eliud Kipchoge repeatedly motioned for his so-called challengers to share the work at the front of the London Marathon. None dared.

So the 34-year-old Kenyan cranked up the pace and smiled en route to the second-fastest marathon in history, padding his argument as the greatest of all time on Sunday.

Kipchoge clocked 2:02:37, trailing only his world record 2:01:39 set in Berlin on Sept. 16. It’s his record-extending 10th straight elite marathon win and record-breaking fourth title in London, routinely featuring the toughest fields of the spring marathon season.

“It feels strange to be considered the most successful elite man in racing,” Kipchoge said, according to race organizers. “It was a very tactical race as everyone was there, but I know how to win this race, and I was confident and didn’t feel it was in doubt at any point.”

Kipchoge ran away from Ethiopians Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun in the last two miles, beating them by 18 and 39 seconds, respectively. Four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah was fifth in what he called a disappointing 2:05:39.

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei became the youngest woman to win London in 2:18:20, upsetting countrywomen Vivian Cheruiyot (second, 2:20:14) and Mary Keitany (fifth, 2:20:58).

MORE: London Marathon Results

Kipchoge is inching closer to doubling the win streaks of history’s other legendary marathoners. Ethiopians Abebe Bikila and Haile Gebrselassie each won six straight, according to Tilastopaja.org. Bikila has one accolade that Kipchoge does not — back-to-back Olympic titles — which Kipchoge can rectify in Tokyo next year.

Kosgei, a 25-year-old mom, was second to Cheruiyot in London last year, then won October’s Chicago Marathon for her first major crown. On Sunday, she posted the fastest second half of a women’s marathon in history (66:42) to become the seventh-fastest woman in history.

Emily Sisson was sixth in 2:23:08, the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history.

“We wanted to run faster, ideally, but given the conditions and the way the race went out, I think that was a good performance,” Sisson told media, noting the relatively slow early pace and a windy second half. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Two-time U.S. Olympian Molly Huddle took 12th in 2:26:33, a personal best by 11 seconds, but a disappointing one.

“I felt rough from, like, 10K on, like my legs were just really achy today,” Huddle told LetsRun.com. “Sometimes you have bad days in the marathon.”

Sisson and Huddle are among a large group of U.S. Olympic hopefuls, also including Jordan HasayDes LindenAmy Cragg and, should she continue racing, Shalane Flanagan. The top three at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 are in line to make the Tokyo team.

In Sunday’s wheelchair divisions, American Daniel Romanchuk added his first London title to Chicago, New York City and Boston crowns in the last year. The 21-year-old pulled away from Swiss Marcel Hug in the last half-mile and won by four seconds in 1:33:38.

Swiss Manuela Schar earned her second London title in 1:44:09, distancing American Tatyana McFadden by 5:33.

London marked the final major marathon of the spring. The fall season begins in Berlin on Sept. 29.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results

Lawrence Cherono wins Boston Marathon in third-closest finish ever

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BOSTON — Kenyan Lawrence Cherono won the Boston Marathon by two seconds, edging Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa in the third-closest men’s finish in the race’s 123-year history.

Cherono, a 30-year-old Kenyan, overtook a flailing, slowing Desisa in the final feet of the 26.2-mile event on Boylston Street to win his first major marathon in 2:07:57. Desisa, racing on the anniversary of his 2013 Boston Marathon win that was followed hours later by twin bombings, was seeking his third Boston title.

“It was something amazing,” Cherono said of the closest finish since Elijah Lagat beat Gezahegne Abera in the same time in 2000. “It was not easy.”

Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa won the women’s race in contrastingly convincing fashion, leading alone the last 22 miles and prevailing by 44 seconds over 2017 Boston champ Edna Kiplagat of Kenya. Americans Jordan Hasay and 2018 Boston winner Des Linden were third and fifth, respectively.

“I knew today was going to be a big task to defend,” Linden said on NBCSN. “I had a blast.”

BOSTON MARATHON: Results | Finish Line Camera

Degefa, who on Jan. 25 became the fourth-fastest female marathoner ever in pancake-flat Dubai, shockingly went off on her own in the fourth mile. She led by 90 seconds at 10 miles and nearly 2:30 at the halfway point. Degefa, 28, has never raced a marathon outside Dubai, and, according to TV commentators, did not do a pre-race course tour of Boston.

Though 39-year-old Kiplagat closed in the final miles, Degefa was able to celebrate down Boylston Street. She delivered on pre-race favorite status, having the fastest personal best of the field by two minutes.

“[My husband and coach] said you have good speed, when you have comfortable, just go,” Degefa said through a translator.

Cherono, too, had the fastest personal best in the men’s field, where the top American finishers were Scott Fauble and Jared Ward in seventh and eighth. Surprise 2018 Boston winner Yuki Kawauchi of Japan was 17th.

For the women, Hasay and Linden remain among the favorites for the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon in Atlanta on Feb. 29, though Linden is undecided on her next move at age 35. Top runners sometimes skip a fall marathon to prepare for trials, which determine the three Olympians per gender.

Other Olympic contenders include 2017 New York City champ Shalane Flanagan, who has said she may not race again and may be facing surgery, Molly Huddle, who races London in two weeks, and 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg.

In the wheelchair division, Daniel Romanchuk became the youngest Boston Marathon champion at age 20 and the first American winner since 1993. His time, 1:21:36, gave him a near-three-minute win and the fastest time by a U.S. wheelchair racer ever in Boston. On Nov. 4, Romanchuk became the youngest male and first American male wheelchair racer to win the New York City Marathon.

Swiss Manuela Schär won the women’s wheelchair title for the second time three years. Schär, who prevailed by 7:16 over Tatyana McFadden in 1:34:19, now holds the current Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York City and Tokyo Marathon titles.

MORE: Shalane Flanagan may need surgery, starts post-racing career

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