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Saturday Sports: China And The NBA, Washington Mystics, Simone Biles


Now it's time for sports.


SIMON: The two-hour marathon barrier has been broken. A new first-time champ in the WNBA. Will Simone Biles break every record around? Joining us now, NPR's Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.


SIMON: And we get up to the news today that Eliud Kipchoge, the great Kenyan runner, has broken the two-hour marathon barrier in Vienna today - 26.2 miles in one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds. This is big as Dr. Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile, isn't it?


SIMON: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It's amazing. You know, Scott, but what Bannister - when he broke the mile record in 1954, it might have been a bigger deal because sport was not as much as a science as it is now. And Bannister did his thing in a counting race. Kipchoge's time...

SIMON: Oh, yeah. He was a medical student. He went to class in the morning there in Oxford.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) That's right and then go smashes...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...The four-minute mile, right. Kipchoge's time won't count as a world record because it was a special event totally geared toward this outcome. He ran alone other than an army of professional running pace-setters. The organizers picked what they hoped would be an optimal site with optimal weather conditions. And Kipchoge ran behind an electric car driving at the pace he needed to be at and flashing a laser beam showing the optimal spot for where Kipchoge should run. Still...

SIMON: Oh, yeah, I'm sure you could have done it, too, Tom...

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...With that kind of assistance.

GOLDMAN: You know, I actually did. But it was on a stationary bike.

SIMON: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: But he's great. He's the world's best marathon runner. This is amazingly fast. I would be interested to see when this can happen in a real, unscripted event.

SIMON: Washington Mystics won their first WNBA title this week, defeating the Connecticut Sun. How'd they do it?

GOLDMAN: With an incredibly tight team that talked more about togetherness and family than individual stats, led by league MVP Elena Delle Donne, who scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds in the final game - oh, despite three herniated discs in her back. They had a super substitute in Emma Meesseman, who came off the bench and turned into a terror in the playoffs. She won the finals MVP award. This is an exciting moment, a great ending to a great season.

SIMON: Yes or no - Simone Biles, fifth all-around world title for her, is she in a class of her own?



GOLDMAN: She's peerless, Scott. And even she's amazed. She was quoted at the world championship saying, I really don't know how I do it sometimes. And we don't either. But she does it.

SIMON: Astros and Yanks tonight in Houston. But last night, in the baseball playoffs, National League, the Washington Nationals took the first game from the St. Louis Cardinals after Anabil Sanchez threw eight no-hit innings.


SIMON: And, of course, that exciting - I must say - exciting victory that the Nats had just a couple of days ago. Are they on a roll?

GOLDMAN: Oh, in a big way. And, you know, this is so exciting, as you well know, being there in Washington, D.C., for the Nats fans who have suffered through four division series losses since 2012.

SIMON: Suffered? Try 108 years.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: But go ahead.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: Oh, four division - oh, those poor Nats fans.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Oh, poor babies.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Right, right.

SIMON: Right. But go ahead. I'm sorry.

GOLDMAN: OK, OK. Point taken. But this year, it's been different. It's been amazing - the comeback against the Brewers in the winner-take-all wild-card game, then finally winning a division series, beating the mighty L.A. Dodgers, who were favored...

SIMON: That was incredibly thrilling, that finish, yes. But go ahead, Tom.

GOLDMAN: Oh, yeah. And then they beat the Dodgers. And then they took home-field advantage away from the Cardinals last night in game 1. As our NPR colleague Javon Parris told me, this postseason could wipe out all the misery and the playoff flameouts.

SIMON: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.


(SOUNDBITE OF GOLDROOM SONG, "YELLOW FLOWERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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