Sports shorts: Boston Marathon to feature second-largest field in race history
Some 36,000 athletes, including Kenyan and Ethiopian runners who are consistently ranked among the world's fastest, will run in the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday, putting the world-renown race back in the spotlight after it was marred by last year's bombing attack.
Returning men's and women's champions Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya are among the top-ranked runners expected to compete in the 26.2 mile race.
But each faces a rival with a faster personal-best time: Dennis Kimetto of Kenya ran last year's Chicago Marathon in 2:03:45 and Ethiopia's Mare Dibaba turned in a 2:19:52 performance at the 2012 Dubois marathon.
No American athlete has stood atop the podium on Boston's Boylston Street, not far from the site of last year's bombing, since 1985 when Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach of Michigan won the women's race. The drought has been longer for US men: Greg Meyer of Massachusetts won in 1983.
But there are several US hopefuls in the field, including Ryan Hall of California, who placed third in 2009 and Desiree Linden, who missed winning by just two seconds in 2011.
Race organizers expanded the field by some 9,000 runners this year, to allow the roughly 5,000 athletes who had been left on the course last year when the twin pressure-cooker bombs went off near the finish line another chance to compete.
Amateur runners often work for years to post the strict age-graded times needed to qualify for the elite race.
Three people died and 264 were injured last year when a pair of ethnic Checker brothers bombed the finish line, prosecutors contend.
Image: Bill Sved, who says he ran the Boston Marathon last year and is running again this year, poses for a portrait at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 19, 2014.
Photographs: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
F1: Vettel chafes after orders to let Ricciardo pass
Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel smarted on Sunday after being told for the second race in a row to let Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo overtake because the Australian was faster.
Ricciardo finished fourth in the Chinese Grand Prix with quadruple champion Vettel, winner of the last nine races of 2013, in fifth.
Vettel sounded reluctant to comply when he received the radio instruction on the 24th lap, replying 'tough luck'.
Ricciardo went past on lap 27 and ended the race more than 20 seconds ahead of Vettel and with Ferrari's third-placed Fernando Alonso in his sights. Another lap and he might have overtaken the Spaniard.
"Obviously he's going to challenge them, he's a racer, he's on the same tyres at that point and the guys want to race each other," said team boss Christian Horner of Vettel's response to the team orders.
"But we were looking at a different strategy for Seb...and then he's obviously moved out of the way and let his team mate through.
"From a team point of view we always want to get the best result we can. Seb's done the right thing for the team today. As he's said very honestly, he's let his team mate through. He (Ricciardo) was quicker today."
Red Bull have made a difficult start to the season but have been picking up pace, with Ricciardo starting Sunday's race on the front row and alongside Mercedes' race winner Lewis Hamilton.
He also finished second on his debut with the team in Australia, although he was excluded from that race after a fuel flow rate controversy, and has looked more at home in the new car with its V6 turbo engine.
"I think there was no point holding him back further," said Vettel, always seen as number one at Red Bull when Australian Mark Webber was his team mate up to the end of last year, of Sunday's race.
"He was quite a lot quicker. At that stage we were on different strategies. Once I was told that I decided to let him go. And also I had to realise more and more towards the end that I couldn't hold him back."
Vettel famously ignored team orders in Malaysia last year when he was behind Webber, overtaking the Australian to win in an incident that poisoned the atmosphere of their final season together.
The ever-smiling Ricciardo indicated he had barely noticed any controversy over the team instructions.
"I was told about the radio now so I wasn't really aware of it on track," he told television reporters.
"In turn one I had a bit of a look, I don't know if he went deep or gave me a bit of room but I managed to get by after the lap so it wasn't too bad."
Image: Sebastian Vettel (left) tries to pass Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo
Photographs: Andrew Hone/Getty Images
Ramsey return boosts Arsenal's top-four bid
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey said it was hard to watch the London club's Premier League title challenge fall away in his absence after revitalising their push for a top-four finish since returning from injury.
The Welshman underlined his importance to Arsenal's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League by inspiring them to a 3-0 win at Hull City on Sunday in a dress rehearsal for next month's FA Cup final.
Ramsey, who scored the first and was instrumental in Lukas Podolski's two goals as Arsenal ran out easy winners against Hull, made his return from injury two weeks ago having missed three months with a thigh injury.
His absence coincided with Arsenal's slump in form as they fell from being title contenders into a battle to qualify for next season's Champions League.
His return, however, has revitalised their efforts to hold off Everton in the race for a top-four finish.
Victory at Hull kept Arsenal fourth with 70 points from 35 games, a point ahead of Everton after their 2-0 win against Manchester United.
"Obviously it was a very difficult time for me to be on the sidelines for three months watching on especially after what went on at the start of the season," Ramsey told Sky Sports.
"It was a frustrating time but I'm just delighted to be back now... Hopefully, I can put in some good performances before the end of the season."
Before his injury Ramsey had been playing the best football of his career, scoring 13 goals in 27 games in all competitions.
"Aaron Ramsey is getting back to full fitness and sharpness, but everyone played well today," manager Arsene Wenger said.
"It was a good team performance as it will be when you win 3-0 away from home in a game you have to win.
"We have had to cope with five to six players all out at the same time and we have done as well as we can. You live in the real world."
Podolski scored twice for the second consecutive game and his exploits in front of goal have prompted questions about whether he is best suited as a central striker or on the left side where he has frequently been used.
The 28-year-old, however, said his focus was on winning games rather than his own role.
"When you score goals nobody speaks about where you play," he said.
"I feel well on the left side and the coach makes the decision about who plays on the left and who plays striker.
"In the end it is just important we play well and have the three points."
Arsenal face Hull again in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 17 as they try to secure their first trophy since winning the same competition in 2005.
Image: Aaron Ramsey
Photographs: Scott Heavey/Getty Images