The three Olympic women’s berths from next Saturday’s US marathon trials in Atlanta look to be up for grabs among at least five challengers. Besides Desiree Linden, who placed seventh in Rio, there are Jordan Hasay, who was third in Boston last year, Emily Sisson, who was sixth in London in her 26-mile debut, Molly Huddle, a two-time track Olympian, and Sara Hall.
Amy Cragg, who placed ninth in Rio and would have been a contender, has been battling Epstein-Barr virus and withdrew this week.
Linden, the former Boston victor who’s bidding to make her third team, already has committed to competing here in April. If she qualifies for the Games, she’ll be running three marathons in just over five months.
On the men’s side, Galen Rupp, who won bronze in 2016, is the decided favorite, with Jared Ward (sixth in Rio), Leonard Korir, and Scott Fauble, last year’s top domestic finisher in Boston, also in the mix.
The Atlanta loop course, which will finish in Centennial Olympic Park, is a hilly challenge and will be more so if the midday temperature is in the 70s, as it often is on that date. That’s still cooler than it’s likely to be in Sapporo (average temperature 78), the former Winter Games site where the races were moved to avoid Tokyo’s sauna (87).
BAA sends record 14
The Boston Athletic Association is sending a record 14 entrants (nine women, five men) to the trials, the most of any American club. Top contenders are Jerrell Mock, who was the second US finisher in Chicago last fall and has the sixth-fastest time (2 hours 10 minutes 37 seconds) in the field, and Kaitlin Goodman (2:32:08). They’re both members of the BAA’s High Performance Team, which provides runners with coaching, travel expenses, stipends, bonuses, and additional support. The last BAA marathoner to make it to the Games was Johnny (The Younger) Kelley in 1960 . . . The Japanese are so worried about the coronavirus that they limited the March 1 Tokyo Marathon, which was scheduled to have 38,000 runners, to only 200 elite racers and wheelchair competitors. The World Health Organization has told the International Olympic Committee that there’s no reason (at least not yet) for any contingency plans for canceling or moving the Games, which begin July 24. The organizers’ long-term concern is the heat and humidity that turn Tokyo into a sweatbox in the summer. They need 100 tons of natural and manufactured snow to cool venues and spectators and are experiencing a record-low snowfall winter in Niigata Prefecture on the West Coast.
Chinese pull through
The Chinese women’s teams that lost their home advantage when the Olympic qualifiers were moved out of the country still managed to advance. The basketball team went unbeaten against Great Britain, Spain, and South Korea and earned a berth for the ninth time in 10 Games. The soccer team finished second to host Australia on goal differential and will play the Koreans home-and-home next month. China’s home in this case likely means Sydney because of the virus . . . LeBron James is just one of a half-dozen NBA stars who said no to Rio but are saying yes to Tokyo. Besides James, who won gold in London and Beijing and bronze in Athens, the group includes previous gold medalists Chris Paul, James Harden, and Anthony Davis, plus Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. They’re among the 44 candidates who’ll be whittled down to 12. Members of 21 teams are in the pool, including five Celtics — Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart. The latter three deserve special consideration since they volunteered to go to China for last summer’s World Cup and earned the Olympic spot despite finishing seventh.
US women sweep
Even though it had already qualified for the Games two years ago by winning the World Cup, the US women’s basketball team still had to play in the recent qualifier in Belgrade. The Americans, who suited up a half-dozen members of their title team (including Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Brittney Griner), won all three of their games. Earning spots were Nigeria and Serbia. They’ll join newcomers Puerto Rico and Belgium in the 12-team field . . . The US men’s 3x3 basketball team for next month’s Olympic qualifying tournament in India includes three members of the group that won last year’s World Cup — Canyon Barry (son of former NBA star Rick), Robbie Hummel, and Kareem Maddox, plus Dominique Jones. The women’s squad includes Kelsey Plum, who won a gold medal with the 5x5 team at the 2018 Cup, former UConn stars Napheesa Collier and Stefanie Dolson, and Allisha Gray. The top three finishers earn Tokyo tickets. Already in are Russia, China, Serbia, and Japan on the men’s side, and Russia, China, Romania, and Mongolia on the women’s.
US pair eyes spots
Although Olympic gymnastics teams for Tokyo have been reduced from five to four, the United States could well earn two more individual spots under the new format. Jade Carey, a world medalist on vault, can clinch an apparatus berth at this weekend’s World Cup Series event in Melbourne. And Morgan Hurd, the former world champion, can earn points for the all-around at this weekend’s American Cup in Milwaukee . . . Boston University undergrad Anna Weis has qualified for the Olympic sailing regatta with partner Riley Gibbs in the Nacra 17 (hydrofoil) mixed event. Weis, a former Terrier JV rower from Florida, will be the first BU athlete to compete in the Summer Games since grad student Taraje Williams-Murray, a 2008 judoka. Also earning spots were Stephanie Roble-Maggie Shea in women’s 49erFX and Charlie Buckingham in men’s Laser.
Riner’s streak ends
After 10 years and 154 matches, French heavyweight judoka Teddy Riner finally was beaten, losing to Japan’s Kokoro Kageura at the Paris Grand Slam. “It’s a relief because I had been under tremendous pressure to always win,” said the 6-foot-8-inch, 300-pound behemoth, who’ll be going for a record-equaling third straight Olympic title in Tokyo. Riner’s streak surpassed that of US hurdler Edwin Moses, whose undefeated string ran for 9 years, 9 months, and 9 days between 1977 and 1987 . . . For the first time a female athlete will run the first leg of the Olympic torch relay after the flame is kindled in ancient Olympia next month. Anna Korakaki, a Rio shooting champion, will take the torch from high priestess Xanthi Georgiou and hand off to Japan’s Mizuki Noguchi, who won the marathon at the Athens Games.
US Marathon Trials: New England connections
A list of runners with New England connections who are officially entered in the US Olympic Marathon Trials Feb. 29 in Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Track Club and Boston Athletic Association.
New England residents: Rachel Hyland (Boston), Katie Kellner (Boston), Veronica Graziano (Somerville), Amanda Nurse (Brookline), Heidi Caldwell (Craftsbury, Vt.), Meagan Boucher (St. Johnsbury, Vt.), Pamela Pinto (Hooksett, N.H.), Katherine Newberry (Wellesley), Michelle Lilienthal (Portland, Maine), Kasie Enman (Huntington, Vt.), Laura Hagley (Hanover, N.H.), Annemarie Tuxbury (New Hartford, Conn.), Sarah Mulcahy (Fort Kent, Maine), Amelia Landberg (Varese, Italy/Sherborn), Reilly Kiernan (Cambridge), Gabi Drummond (Somerville), Hayley Sutter (Watertown), Kaitlin Goodman (Providence), Laura Paulsen (Brookline), Allie Hackett (Boston), Michaela Hackett (Boston), Rachel Coogan (Somerville), Hannah Rowe (Boston), Katie Edwards (Cambridge).
New England hometowns (current residence/hometown): Emma Spencer (Durham, N.C./Winchester), Julianne Quinn (Charlottesville, Va./Bedford, N.H.), Leigh Anne Sharek (Brooklyn, N.Y./Exeter, N.H.), Hilary Como (Encinitas, Calif./Enfield, N.H.), Lauren Perkins (Brooklyn, N.Y./Northborough), Holly Clarke (San Francisco/Lincoln, Mass.), Meghan Curran (Westminster, Colo./Chelmsford), Megan Foster (New York City/Lynn), Sarah David (Chicago/New Haven, Conn.), Lauren Flores (Chino Hills, Calif./Hopkinton).
BAA runners: Kaitlin Goodman, Rachel Hyland, Laura Paulsen, Katie Kellner, Allie Hackett, Michaela Hackett, Rachel Coogan, Hannah Rowe, Katie Edwards.
New England residents: Tim Ritchie (Northampton), Matt Rand (Portland, Maine), Ryan Smith (Auburn, Maine), Jonathan Phillips (Boston), Tyler Andrews (Cambridge), Dan Vassallo (Peabody), Brian Shrader (Boston), Brian Harvey (Cambridge), Eric Ashe (Natick), Alex Taylor (Lincoln).
New England hometowns (current residence/hometown): Colin Bennine (Charlottesville, Va./Princeton, Mass.), Matthew Herzig (Philadelphia/Weston), Craig Hunt (Flagstaff, Ariz./New Milford, Conn.).
BAA runners: Jerrell Mock, Brian Harvey, Eric Ashe, Alex Taylor, Dan Harper.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews and wire services was used in this report.