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Christine Ongare, pregnant at 12, qualifies for Olympic boxing at 26

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Christine Ongare, a Kenyan boxer who became pregnant at age 12, just qualified for the Olympics at age 26.

Ongare took third in the 51kg flyweight division at an African Olympic qualifier where three Olympic spots were available. Ongare, a 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, is headed to Tokyo.

Ongare, speaking to the Olympic Channel, said that when she became pregnant, the help she had came in the form of her mom — a single parent herself.

“So, my mum took the responsibility of raising my child,” she said, according to the report. “So even my child knows my mum as their mother.”

Ongare described herself as “a ghetto girl” who came from an area of Kenya where girls give birth at very young ages out of desperation.

“I was a small child. It was just peer pressure, to try something and then it ruins you,” she said. “I have gone through a tough life, so hard. It’s just that I don’t like talking about it.”

Ongare said that her mom helped her get back to school, but they didn’t have money.

“Boxing is all I have,” she said in the Olympic Channel interview before she qualified. “It is said when you fall down, you must rise up again.

“There is no other place I can get money, take a loan without interest. So if I qualify for the Olympics, it will open doors. It will help me a lot.”

MORE: Pioneering women’s boxer retires due to eye concern

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Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat¬†sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj¬†making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

Eliud Kipchoge leads Kenya Olympic marathon team; Mary Keitany left off

Eliud Kipchoge
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World-record holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei headline the six-runner Kenya Olympic marathon team, one so strong that Mary Keitany, the third-fastest woman in history, was left off.

The rest of the team: Lawrence Cherono (reigning Boston and Chicago Marathon winner), Amos Kipruto (world bronze medalist), Vivian Cheruiyot (2018 London Marathon winner and Olympic 5000m champion) and Ruth Chepngetich (world champion).

Kipchoge will try to become the first repeat Olympic marathon champion since West Germany’s Waldemar Cierpinski in 1980 and only the second man or woman to win multiple marathons at fully attended Games after Ethiopian legend¬†Abebe Bikila¬†in 1960 and 1964.

Kipchoge won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He’s undefeated since the start of 2014 at 26.2-mile races. He lowered the world record from 2:02:57 to 2:01:39 in Berlin in 2018, and on Oct. 12 ran 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible event. Kipchoge takes on the second-fastest marathoner in history, Ethiopian¬†Kenenisa Bekele, in the London Marathon on April 26.

A day after Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour feat, Kosgei took 81 seconds off¬†Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Kipchoge and Cherono are the two fastest Kenyan marathoners since the start of 2018. Kipruto, second to Kipchoge at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, is the 28th fastest, though he was the top Kenyan at last year’s world championships, which lacked most of the world’s best.

Cheruiyot is one of Kenya’s greatest track runners with four world titles between the 5000m and 10,000m. She was second to Kosgei at the 2019 London Marathon and is the sixth-fastest Kenyan woman since the start of 2018.

Chepngetich had a brilliant 2019, winning the January Dubai Marathon in the then-third-fastest time ever and then taking a brutally hot world championships marathon by 63 seconds.

Keitany, 38, likely sees the end of her Olympic career. She owns the fastest marathon run without male pacers, a 2:17:01 from the 2017 London Marathon. She owns seven combined titles between the London and New York City Marathons and was fifth and second in those races last year. Keitany had accepted a spot in April’s Boston Marathon but as of last week was sidelined by a back injury and not part of the announced elite field.

Keitany, fourth at the London Olympics, was also left off the 2016 Olympic team.

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