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U.S. Olympic team qualifying, selection races to watch in 2020

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A look at some intriguing races for U.S. Olympic team spots as the final six months of qualifying begin …

Basketball
Men’s Guards

The last four seasons, every guard on every All-NBA team was an American. Thirteen different players combined to take up those spots. All 13 are part of USA Basketball’s national team pool. Maybe five will go to Tokyo. The group to choose from includes those with Olympic experience such as James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Russell Westbrook. And those without, like Stephen CurryDamian Lillard and Kemba Walker.

Beach Volleyball
Kerri Walsh Jennings/Brooke Sweat vs. Kelly Claes/Sarah Sponcil

Two U.S. women’s beach teams will qualify for Tokyo. April Ross and Alix Klineman are comfortably in first place in the standings. The triple Olympic champion Walsh Jennings and new partner Sweat are second in Olympic qualifying more than halfway through, but third-place Claes and Sponcil are within striking distance. The race likely will not be decided before the last stretch of four- and five-star tournaments in late May and early June.

Equestrian
Women’s Jumping

Could this be Jessica Springsteen‘s year? The daughter of rocker Bruce Springsteen recently cracked the top four of the U.S. rider rankings for the first time in at least two and a half years, though she is seventh among Americans in the international rankings. The U.S. Olympic team of three riders (plus an alternate) will be chosen in June. The usual suspects — Kent Farrington, Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, all at least 10 years older than the 28-year-old Springsteen — remain at or near the top of the rankings.

Fencing
Men’s Foil

The U.S. boasts four of the world’s top 10 — Race Imboden (2), Gerek Meinhardt (6), Alexander Massialas (7) and Nick Itkin (10) — plus 2012 and 2016 Olympian Miles Chamley-Watson. But only three per nation can compete individually at the Olympics. The top three in national team point standings come April go to Tokyo. The U.S. is looking for its first men’s Olympic fencing title since 1904.

Golf
Tiger Woods vs. Dustin Johnson vs. Justin Thomas vs. Gary Woodland vs. Brooks Koepka vs. Others

The U.S. will qualify the maximum four men’s golfers for Tokyo, but the names are unknown to start 2020. The Official World Golf Ranking after the U.S. Open in June determines the Olympic field. The current OWGR (which includes results that aren’t part of Olympic qualification) has the top four as Koepka, Thomas, Johnson and Woods. But golf rankings guru @VC606’s projection, which excludes results before the Olympic qualifying window, has Woods in fifth place and Johnson in sixth, replaced by Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Every result could be critical this winter and spring, making Woods’ decision to skip this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions (with its limited field and guaranteed ranking points with no cut) even more noteworthy.

Gymnastics
Laurie Hernandez vs. Newcomers

Assuming Simone Biles leads the four-woman U.S. team (plus two women in individual events), there is one other returning Olympian hoping to join her. Hernandez hasn’t competed since taking balance beam silver in Rio but plans to make a late Tokyo run. Four years ago, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas became the first women to make back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000, but each of them came back a year earlier than Hernandez. Gymnasts in Hernandez’s way include members of the last two world championships teams (like Morgan Hurd and Sunisa Lee) and first-year seniors like Kayla DiCello, looking to repeat Hernandez’s feat in 2016 of making an Olympic team at age 16.

Shooting
Women’s Skeet

Four different U.S. women won the four world titles in this event between 2014-18, including a medals sweep in 2018. Five Americans make up the top 14 in the world right now, and a sixth, 18-year-old Austen Smith, won the first stage of the Olympic trials in September. Two women will qualify for Tokyo by the end of the trials process this spring. The biggest name is 40-year-old Kim Rhode, looking to become the first person to earn a medal at seven straight Olympics in any sport.

Soccer
Women’s Forwards

World Cup rosters are 23 players. Olympic rosters are 18. The U.S. must cut from its world champion team of last summer, putting stalwart goal-scorers at risk. Chief among them is Alex Morgan, who hopes to return from an April due date for a third Olympics. Then there’s Carli Lloyd, who at 37 is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player in history. Other thirtysomethings in the mix: Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press, plus Mallory Pugh, who made the Rio Olympics at age 18. The last two Olympic teams each had four forwards.

Swimming
Chase Kalisz vs. Ryan Lochte vs. Carson Foster

Lochte wants to make a fifth Olympic team, at age 35, in his patented 200m individual medley. To do that, he must take down either the 2017 World champion Kalisz or the 18-year-old Foster, who has been breaking Michael Phelps‘ national age-group records since he was 10. Two swimmers per individual event make the Olympic team at June’s trials. There are other potential spoilers in the 200m IM, including 2018 breakout star Michael Andrew and Abrahm Devine, who made the last two world teams. One thing’s for certain: There will be a new Olympic champion with the retirement of Michael Phelps, who won this event in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Tennis
Madison Keys vs. Coco Gauff vs. Venus Williams vs. Sloane Stephens vs. Others

The U.S. gets four singles spots per gender at the Olympics. Qualifying is via ATP and WTA rankings with the cutoff after the French Open. More than halfway through, Serena Williams comfortably leads via Wimbledon and U.S. Open runners-up (3,185 points). She’s followed by Sofia Kenin (1,941), Alison Riske (1,713) and Madison Keys (1,537). Then comes another drop-off to the current alternates, led by Coco Gauff (709). Venus Williams, eyeing a fifth Olympics when she will be 40, is in ninth place (and just withdrew from her 2020 season opener). Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 11th. Any player who doesn’t make singles could still be chosen for doubles, where Venus is an intriguing option.

Track and Field
Women’s Marathon

One of the hardest U.S. Olympic track and field event teams to make will be one of the first to be decided. Six of the nine fastest Americans in history are expected to start the marathon trials on Feb. 29 in Atlanta. Headliners include 2018 Boston Marathon winner Des Linden and American 10,000m record holder Molly Huddle. Only three get to go to Tokyo, while the rest likely crowd the 10,000m field at the track trials four months later in Oregon.

Wrestling
Jordan Burroughs vs. Kyle Dake

Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, and Dake, the 2018 and 2019 World champion at the non-Olympic 79kg weight class, are expected to make up the most intense final of the Olympic wrestling trials from April 4-5 at Penn State. Only one wrestler per weight class qualifies for Tokyo. Burroughs has made every Olympic and world team at 74kg since 2011. But Dake, who avoided Burroughs by moving up in weight in 2016, represents his toughest challenger yet.

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Des Linden to race U.S. Olympic Trials, Boston Marathon

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Des Linden was undecided whether to race the Feb. 29 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials as recently as a month ago. But now Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon winner, is not only committed to trials but also the April 20 Boston Marathon.

It would be, at 51 days, by far her shortest break between marathons, which has so far included 19 marathons dating to 2007. She’s 36 years old, and it may be her last Olympic cycle.

“I only have so many more chances at Boston. I love being there. Obviously, the Olympics [window] is closing down as well,” she said. “I like the trials and the competitive way we pick our team. I can’t imagine, at this point, watching either of those races and feeling like I had no effect on either outcome.”

If Linden does make the Olympic marathon team — by placing top three at trials in Atlanta — she would be in line to race four marathons over a little more than nine months when including last month’s New York City Marathon.

Until recent years, the world’s top marathoners entered one spring marathon and one fall marathon per year. Other top runners have started racing more frequently.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa and American Sara Hall ran the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3, 29 days and 35 days, respectively, after racing the world championships and Berlin Marathon. Neither finished New York, however.

This past August, when Linden committed to the New York City Marathon, she added that she might not race the trials. After her performance in New York — the top U.S. woman in sixth place — she decided she was ready for the trials-Boston double, which she had been considering since placing fifth at this past April’s Boston Marathon.

As far as how it will impact her trials build-up, Linden said her team will re-evaluate the process weekly. She hasn’t committed to a pre-trials half marathon.

“We’re obviously aware of what’s down the line, so we’re trying to get as much quality as we can without going too deep into the well,” she said. “It’s certainly going to be out there, but we’re trying to run well at both and not say, ‘This isn’t going well,’ and just train through it.”

Linden has been treating every marathon as if it could be her last. She has been incredibly consistent, placing no worse than eighth in her last 11 marathon starts dating to 2013.

Neither of Linden’s previous Olympic experiences was especially memorable. She dropped out of her first one in 2012 with a stress fracture in her femur. She was seventh in Rio, missing a medal by less than two minutes. The Kenyan-born gold and silver medalists were later busted for EPO and are serving lengthy doping bans.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove and anything unfinished,” at the Olympics, Linden said in August. “Quite frankly, the last experience is a hard sell to get back out there to try to compete for medals when you’re not even really sure what the field is all about. It’s a little bit difficult to be excited about that with the way we are about the [World Marathon] Majors. People investing in anti-doping have really been solving that problem [at the majors]. It’s a little tricky [at the Olympics], but certainly representing your country is special.”

Linden is the most experienced of a deep group of U.S. Olympic marathon hopefuls after the recent retirement of four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan.

The U.S. also boasts Jordan Hasay (second-fastest American woman in history), 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg and Molly Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m.

Hall, Emily Sisson and Kellyn Taylor, all bidding for their first Olympic team, broke into the top nine on the U.S. all-time marathon list in the last 18 months.

Linden could become the first woman to compete in three Olympic marathons for the U.S. Colleen de Reuck raced two Olympic marathons for South Africa before representing the U.S. at the 2004 Athens Games.

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MORE: 2019 U.S. Marathon Rankings

Kenyans Geoffrey Kamworor, Joyciline Jepkosgei win New York City Marathon

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NEW YORK — Geoffrey Kamworor and Joyciline Jepkosgei gave Kenya a sweep of the New York City Marathon men’s and women’s titles on Sunday.

Kamworor won the world’s largest annual marathon for the second time in three years, pulling away from countryman Albert Korir in the final miles. Kamworor, who trains with marathon world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge, finished in 2:08:13 and then immediately embraced Kipchoge, who was in the Central Park crowd.

“I didn’t want to disappoint him,” said Kamworor, who calls the eight-years-older Kipchoge a mentor. “That gave me a lot of motivation. He inspired me a lot during the race.”

Jepkosgei, a half-marathon world-record holder like Kamworor, outdueled four-time NYC champion Mary Keitany. She clocked 2:22:38, the second-fastest female time in race history, to become the first woman to win New York City in her marathon debut since 1994. At 25, she is the youngest female winner since 2001.

Keitany, a 37-year-old bidding to become the oldest female NYC winner since 1987, finished second. She was 54 seconds behind Jepkosgei, who in the last year withdrew before scheduled marathon debuts in Honolulu (ankle) and Hamburg (chose to pace the London Marathon).

“I know Mary had more experience in the marathon, so I was trying to push,” Jepkosgei said.

Olympians Des Linden and Jared Ward were the top Americans, each in sixth place.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, the defending men’s champion, withdrew in the seventh mile, 29 days after winning the world championships marathon in Doha. U.S. Olympic team contender Sara Hall dropped out at mile 18 with stomach issues, 35 days after lowering her personal best by four minutes at the Berlin Marathon.

MORE: 2019 NYC Marathon Results

New York City marked the end of the 2019 major marathon season. Top Americans are now focused on the Olympic Trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29, when the top three per gender are in line to make the Tokyo team.

Most of the U.S. Olympic favorites did not run New York City, it being less than four months before trials. That group includes Rio Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp, who withdrew during the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon with a calf injury in his first race in a year after Achilles surgery.

Ward, a BYU statistics professor who was sixth in Rio, is one of three other U.S. men to break 2:10 in this Olympic cycle. He’s finished in the top 10 of major marathons each of the last three years. Four years ago, Ward deemed his chances of making the Olympic team at 35 percent. He feels they are better this time.

“I wanted something today that solidified the breakthrough that I had in Boston [in April, a personal-best 2:09:25] and establish to myself that I’m a different marathoner going into this Olympic trial cycle, in this Olympic cycle, than I was in the last one,” Ward said. “It was a validating performance.”

The U.S. women are deeper, even with the recent retirement of four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan. Linden, the 2018 Boston Marathon winner, repeated in the months before New York that she is undecided on running trials in the final years of her career.

“Right now is not the time, just based on how many calves feel and my feet feel,” Linden said when asked about 2020 plans, about an hour after placing in the top eight of an 11th straight marathon since failing to finish at the 2012 London Olympics. “Maybe at 1 a.m. tonight, I’ll have different opinions.”

The U.S. also boasts Jordan Hasay (second-fastest American woman in history), 2017 World bronze medalist Amy Cragg and Molly Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m.

Earlier Sunday, American Daniel Romanchuk and Swiss Manuela Schar repeated as NYC wheelchair champions.

Romanchuk, 21, followed up a breakthrough 2018 when he became the first U.S. man to win the wheelchair division as well as the youngest male NYC champion in history. Romanchuk won majors in Boston and London in the spring and Chicago and New York City in the fall.

Schar, 34, three-peated as NYC champion to become the first person to sweep all six major city marathons in one year since Tokyo was added to the group in 2017. American Tatyana McFadden, whom Schar supplanted as the dominant female racer, was second, 3:59 behind.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results