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Olympic notes

Marathoners deal with toughest loss

Email|Print| Text size + By John Powers
Globe Staff / November 6, 2007

One reason Ryan Shay's death at Saturday's Olympic trials produced so much shock and grieving among his fellow marathoners is that so many of them now train together in groups as part of distance projects and develop close personal bonds. Shay was at Mammoth Lakes, Calif., with trials winner Ryan Hall and Olympic runner-up Meb Keflezighi, then moved to Flagstaff, Ariz., where he worked with Abdi Abdirahman.

"I'm speechless, I still don't believe it," said Abdirahman, who thinks he may have been the last person to chat with Shay before Shay's heart failed less than 6 miles into Saturday morning's race in New York.

Hall, whose wife was a bridesmaid in Shay's July wedding and a college teammate of his wife Alicia, was similarly stunned.

"That just cut me straight to the heart," he said. "It makes you forget what you just did."

Getting it orderly

Re-awarding Marion Jones's medals from Sydney will take a while. The International Olympic Committee's executive board won't decide until next month whether to give her 100-meter gold to Greece's Katerina Thanou, who subsequently was banned for two years for ducking a doping test at the Athens Games. The Lords also will decide whether they should strip Jones's relay mates of their medals, as the US Olympic Committee has suggested. The biggest beneficiaries would be the Jamaicans, who would finish 1-2 in the 100 (with Tanya Lawrence and Merlene Ottey) if Thanou is bypassed, take gold in the 4x400, and inherit the bronze in the 200 (Beverly McDonald). Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas would get the gold in the 200. Jones's relay mates are understandably furious at her. "This is bad for athletes like myself, who are truly clean and run outstanding times," said five-time Olympian Jearl Miles Clark. "I feel that everyone will suspect us of cheating and look at us with a jaundiced eye." . . . Though he couldn't catch countryman Robert Cheruiyot for the World Marathon Majors title (and the $500,000 payout), his victories in London and last weekend in New York give Kenya's Martin Lel a leg up on the next two-year cycle, which covers 2007 and 2008. Lel has a 20-point lead over Cheruiyot and Morocco's Abderrahim Goumri in the men's standings. Ethiopia's Gete Wami, the Berlin victor and New York runner-up, leads China's Zhou Chunxiu on the women's side.

Spot may open

Khalid Khannouchi, who finished fourth in the Olympic marathon trials, may get to the Games yet. Dathan Ritzenhein, runner-up to Hall, hasn't decided whether he'll try for the 10,000 meters on the track instead. "Today, I want to do the marathon," said Ritzenhein, who has run only two. "I can't tell you that for sure." If Ritz opts out, Khannouchi will finally get his shot at 36. He didn't receive his citizenship in time for the 2000 Games and was hurt in 2004. The current US team of the 25-year-old Hall, the 24-year-old Ritzenhein, and the 29-year-old Brian Sell is the youngest since the 1984 trio of Pete Pfitzinger, Alberto Salazar, and John Tuttle . . . US record-holder Deena Kastor, who is favored to win the women's marathon trials in Boston in April, liked what she saw of the criterium layout when she ran the national 10K championships here last month. "It looks like a wonderful course," the Olympic medalist said, observing that the multi-loop format lets spectators watch the race evolving and that the straightaways along the Back Bay and the Charles help with tactics. "To be able to see your competition at all times is great for all the athletes," Kastor said.

Fight club

Home cooking proved the charm for the US boxers, who had their best showing in eight years (two gold medals) at the recent World Championships in Chicago. Besides the victories from Providence welterweight Demetrius Andrade and flyweight Rau'shee Warren, the Yanks picked up Olympic qualifying spots in the light flyweight, bantamweight, and featherweight classes. Warren, the first fighter to make successive teams since Davey Lee Armstrong in 1976, had the quote of the tournament. "This is boxing," he said. "If you don't see anything wrong with me, evidently I'm not getting touched." . . . Biggest story of the Olympic sailing trials was the comeback by John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree, who won the final four races to claim the Tornado class by 1 point and clinch their fourth appearance at the Games. Notable, too, was the victory in Star class by 57-year-old John Dane III and his 29-year-old son-in-law, Austin Sperry. Also qualifying for a return trip to the Games was Beverly's Tim Wadlow in 49er . . . Mixed results for the US wrestlers at the World Championships in Azerbaijan. The greco-roman types won three medals and made history by beating the Russians for their first team title. The women also won three, including a silver by Kristie Marano that tied her with Bruce Baumgartner for most career global medals (9). But the freestylers managed a lone bronze by Daniel Cormier and ended up fourth overall. The Russian freestylers had an incredible meet, winning six golds and a bronze in seven classes.

Slippery when not wet

Dry land is a hazardous place for swimmer Michael Phelps, who tripped and fell getting into a car recently and broke a bone in his right wrist. "I'm a fish out of water," conceded the golden boy, who should be sound in plenty of time for next summer's Olympic trials. "I'm a clumsy person." . . . The US women's volleyball team, which knocked off regional champion Cuba in the World Cup prelims in Japan, is well-positioned to earn one of the three tickets to Beijing. The Americans, who'll meet South American champion Brazil today, have a relatively easy road for the rest of the round-robin tournament until mid-month, when they'll face European champion Italy and the hosts in the final two matches. The US males, who won their third straight regional title this summer, open with defending champion Brazil Nov. 18 . . . While the US weightlifters didn't come close to a medal at the World Championships in Thailand, they earned seven Olympic qualifying spots, with the women taking the maximum four. Top performers were Casey Burgener, who finished 11th in the men's 105+kg class and two-time Olympian Cheryl Haworth and mother-of-three Melanie Roach, who were 12th in the 75+kg and 53kg events.

A down cycle

It was all downhill for the US road cyclists after opening day at the World Championships in Germany. Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben, and Christine Thorburn went 2-4-5 in the women's time trial, but the Yanks didn't come close to the podium in the Olympic events for the rest of the event. The men were a particular disappointment, with David Zabriskie finishing 12th in the time trial and George Hincapie 23d in the road race . . . It was a triumphant re-entry for judoka Brian Olson, who won the US Open title after leaving the sport after the Athens Games. "I came in with three years' worth of rust, but now I feel like I'm down to about 2 1/2," joked the 34-year-old Olson, who's bidding for his fourth Olympics. Winning her third straight crown was Wakefield resident Ronda Rousey, who's now ranked fourth on the planet after earning the world silver medal in September . . . Though it'll have to go to Russia to do it, the US women's field hockey team has an excellent chance of getting to the Olympics for the first time since 1996. The Americans are top-seeded in next April's qualifying tournament, which includes the hosts, India, Belgium, Chinese Taipei, and the Netherlands Antilles, with the winner going to Beijing. On the squad are Walpole forward Dina Rizzo and Greenfield defender Kelly Doton. The US men, who were apparently out of contention for the Games, got a second chance when Cuba declined its spot in February's last-chance qualifier in New Zealand. The odds against the 27th-ranked Yanks (who include Sandwich native Nate Coolidge) are long - they have to win the six-team tournament to get to China.

Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.

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