It seemed for some time that a two-hour marathon was years, if not decades, off in the distance. But after this year's Berlin Marathon, the milestone may be closer than we think.
Kenya's Patrick Makau's new marathon world record of 2 hours, 3 minutes, 38 seconds, set on the fast course in Berlin last weekend, underscores the rapidly changing standards of the event. Makau knocked 21 seconds off the old record, set by Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie on the same course in 2008.
Though Gebrselassie is among the greatest runners in history, his time may have passed. Gebrselassie has recently struggled with asthma, causing him to pull out in the middle of both Sunday's race and the New York City Marathon last fall. Despite his recent issues, however, he still plans to compete in London.
Gebrselassie estimates it will take another 20 to 25 years before we see the first sub-two-hour marathon (requiring a series of 4:35 miles to turn the trick).
"Not for this generation," he said, "but it will definitely happen. Maybe the next one."
Though it took a full 24 years to lower the record from 2:08 to 2:04 -- Gebrselassie's mark was actually 2:03:59 - the drop from 2:16 to 2:12 took less than eight years.
With the World Boxing Championships taking place in Azerbaijan, another votes-for-results scandal has made boxing seem more like soccer. A BBC report accused Azerbaijan officials of paying as much as $9 million to officials from AIBA, the sport's international governing body at the Olympic level, in return for guaranteed gold medals at the London Olympics next summer.
AIBA president CK Wu called the charges of corruption "preposterous and untrue." Tom Virgets, the head of AIBA's disciplinary commission and for many years a board member with USA Boxing, will lead an internal investigation, but the outside response is likely to damage Baku's longshot bid to host the Olympics in 2020.
Allegations that Don Peters, four-time USA Gymnastics coach of the year and the head coach of the 1984 U.S. Olympic women's team, behaved inappropriately toward his athletes are not new, as many are reporting. In her book, Chalked Up, released in 2008, Jennifer Sey, the 1986 U.S. all-around champion, wrote the following:
Doe Yamashiro, one of Don Peters' gymnasts, was purported to be the one to beat. New on the national scene, she was graceful, strong, and technically perfect, just the way Don liked them. He had spread the word about her months before. And though she had no equity in the gymnastics world, he did. If Don said she was the best U.S. gymnastics had to offer, then it was true ...
It was rumored that something was going on between Doe and Don, something more than a coach/gymnast relationship. That perhaps there were improprieties. A quiet girl, Doe kept to herself or spent time with Don during most of the stay in Russia, adding weight to the rumors. It got to the point where we all joked about it. Even Mrs. [coach Donna] Strauss. "Where's Doe?" one girl would say, and we would all fall into a pile in fits of laughter. Yet no one intervened. Nobody asked Don, "What's going on here?" Everyone just let it happen.
Yamashiro, who was 17 at the time of the alleged behavior, spoke up recently about Peters, as two other former gymnasts have reportedly done.
Smokers beware. Even though the vice isn't yet on the World Anti-Doping Agency's official banned list just yet, WADA added nicotine to the list of substances under review, the first step toward a full-on ban. While there aren't too many marathoners out there lighting up, athletes in sports that don't require a lot of aerobic capacity such as archery and curling may want to look into dice and worry beads to start calming the nerves.
Though the Rio Olympics are still five years away, expect Brazil to target certain sports for long-term improvement. Before hosting the 2008 Olympics, China similarly boosted several of its sports programs, including rowing.
Orlando Silva, the Brazilian Minister for Sports, recently told Sports Illustrated that he expects the country to excel in traditional areas such as soccer, equestrian (dressage) and beach volleyball, but also mentioned badminton and shooting as areas of growth.
"The important change," he said, "is the introduction of more sports in schools and a gradual move away from reliance on club sports just in the last couple of years. This is making so many more sports available to a much greater segment of the population. Given the size of the population [190 million], we expect that will translate into greater medal performance some day soon."