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Alberto Salazar, World Records, and Athletics’ Greatest ‘Hug’

Nicholas Thompson: OMG, what is happening? It’s the week of the World Championships, and there are two other cataclysmic stories in our sport. Kenenisa Bekele sneaks out of his retirement home and somehow almost sets a world record in the marathon. And Alberto Salazar, the most successful coach in the country, gets a four-year ban for doping violations right after one of his athletes wins a spectacular gold. Let’s talk about those later on, and let’s start with the actual races inside the bonkers air-conditioned stadium in Doha, with the Star Trek opening montages for every race. My favorite event was probably the men’s 5,000 meters. I love that event in general because of the way it mixes endurance, speed, and tactics. And this year’s edition was nuts. There was a controversial drop-out by Filip Ingebrigtsen, a flame-out by his younger brother, the phenom Jakob Ingebrigtsen, and a last-second comeback by Muktar Edris, who no one thought would be in the hunt.

Knox Robinson: Oh Em Gee indeed. After snapping Mo Farah’s winning streak and denying him a final gold medal at the World Championships two years ago, Muktar Edris hadn’t made much noise at the races. For that he could be forgiven—he had been dubbed “the Mo Farah Slayer,” and that’s gotta be worth a couple of beers at the bar back home in Ethiopia. Even going into the final lap in Doha, he was waaaay back in sixth—with fan favorites pouring on the gas at the front. So to come from behind with such a thrilling kick, that’s what makes track so intoxicating!

Lots of excitement on the track in Doha, and yet so much of the news was thousands of miles away … But yes, let’s stay focused! Picking up where we left off: You really, errr, threw me last week, asking my thoughts on the historic women’s hammer throw. I’m glad I followed up, since the contest—ultimately won by the USA’s DeAnna Price with the first WC medal for an American woman in the throws—began and ended in dramatic fashion, with Price leading from the start and ending with an emotional victory celebration capped with a moment that will forever be remembered as “the scream.” (The scream was later followed by “the hug.”)

NT: Amazing. I had not seen that. And if she’s carrying Bernard Lagat, she’s already one of my favorites. Lagat, of course, is the smoothest runner I’ve ever seen: Watching him run is like watching Sean Connery’s James Bond. And I think Lagat has a genuine chance of making the US Olympic team at age 45 this year—perhaps because he’s always taken so much time off each year. Other runners crush out 120 miles a week until their tendons give. Lagat runs 60, and then takes time off. He’s the classic example of someone who lasts longer by not burning himself into the ground.

KR: He’s so smooth in many ways. I loved a post-race interview a few years back after he’d won another indoor 1500m title. He told a journalist, “I wanted to show the kids that Papa still got it.” And it wasn’t abundantly clear if he meant his own kids there clinging to his leg or the ones he’d just beaten on the track.