Jennie Finch

Jennie Finch learned of IOC vote while leading softball camp with 400 girls

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Two-time Olympic softball pitcher Jennie Finch checked her phone during a lunch break Sunday and found out her sport was denied re-entry into the Olympics.

“Devastated,” Finch said. “Crushed.”

What came next wasn’t easy, either.

Finch put her phone away and returned to the Jennie Finch Softball Camp at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where a group out of 400 total camp goers waited. Many had been asking “nonstop” about the vote.

The International Olympic Committee voted wrestling into the 2020 and 2024 Olympics over squash and a joint baseball-softball bid.

“Lots of disappointment on the softball field,” Finch said in a phone interview Monday morning, adding this message she told the camp members, as young as third-graders: “There’s two things you can always control, attitude and effort. Keep playing, keep pushing, keep growing our game.”

On Saturday, Finch spread to the camp the good news of Tokyo winning the 2020 Olympics. She hoped that the winning country where the sport is popular — Japan won the 2008 Olympic softball title over the U.S. — would enhance baseball-softball’s chances in the eyes of the IOC members Sunday.

“It’s so tough because I’ve been able to experience so much and see our sport grow all over the world,” said Finch, who lost her voice a bit after the weekend camp. “It was an opportunity being taken away. We, of course, are going to keep having hope. But that hope was once again lost (Sunday).”

Finch said wrestling deserved to be in the Olympics but that there should be a place for baseball-softball, too. Currently, there is not. The Games have a maximum number of athletes (10,500).

Major League Baseball has not committed to stopping its season to send players to the Olympics.

Finch said she sees pros and cons of baseball and softball joining together to try and get back into the Olympics after both were dropped in 2005, with it taking effect starting with the 2012 Games.

“I go back and forth,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think there’s so much that goes on that the public doesn’t know much about. … When (softball) joined with baseball, they truly thought that would be their best opportunity.”

In announcing wrestling’s win Sunday, IOC president Jacques Rogge singled out baseball.

“Hopefully, baseball’s successful in the future,” were his last words in the announcement.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) will not give up hope of trying to get into the Olympics.

“The WBSC will continue working hard and will continue listening and learning from the IOC, so that baseball and softball can come under the Olympic umbrella to serve and strengthen the Olympic Movement, as our sport expands and globalizes further,” Riccardo Fraccari, the president of the International Baseball Federation, told Reuters.

Wrestling wins IOC vote in landslide

Karen Chen breaks U.S. Champs scoring record; Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold trail

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KANSAS CITY — A skater broke the U.S. Championships women’s short program scoring record Thursday night, but it wasn’t Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold.

Karen Chen, a 17-year-old former junior star who struggled the last two years, tallied 72.82 points at the Sprint Center to lead going into Saturday’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, is second, .87 of a point behind.

That leaves Wagner and Gold, who combined to win the last five U.S. titles, in third and fifth, respectively.

This is concerning for Wagner (1.88 behind Chen) and Gold (7.97 behind) given U.S. Figure Skating can send three women to worlds in two months. That selection will be made this weekend, primarily — but not totally — based off U.S. Championships results.

Tessa Hong is in fourth place, but at 14 years old is too young for senior worlds.

Full results are here.

Though Wagner and Gold are usually higher placed, the biggest surprise was Chen.

“My body’s still trembling right now,” she said, two hours after her performance.

Chen skated a clean program Thursday, rare for her in the last couple of seasons. Chen burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little has been heard from Chen since.

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

“Everyone has doubts, and I certainly do as well,” said Chen, who choreographed her short program. “But I just kept pushing and telling myself that I’m gaining more experience, I’m learning about everything in the process and I’m just going to keep getting better.”

Wagner bounced back from her last outing — her worst Grand Prix finish in 25 career starts — with a decent program. She needed to save a double Axel near the end of her short. The 2016 World silver medalist was the pre-event favorite.

“People do not understand how difficult of a position I am in,” said Wagner, a 25-year-old bidding to become the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 90 years. “It might seem like I’m on top of the world, or second from being top of the world, but this is a very tough position to be in. It’s mentally been weighing on my shoulders all season. To be able to come out and show people I am a fighter, I’m really proud of that.”

Gold needed to show a fighting spirit given her well-publicized disaster of a fall season. And she did. Her only miss in the short program was doubling a planned triple flip.

“I can feel a huge improvement as a skater. I think everyone can see it,” Gold said. “I have made comebacks before. This doesn’t feel like a major comeback in some ways, because I felt pretty solid. … A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kind of feel like I’m due for a good one.”

If Gold doesn’t improve in the free skate, she could be left off the worlds team for the first time in her senior career. However, Gold believes her strong credentials in recent seasons merit consideration.

“We’ve seen different controversies where people aren’t on the [nationals] podium, and they’re still selected for events,” Gold said. “Michelle Kwan has not gone to nationals and been selected for an Olympic team [in 2006]. I believe that I deserve to be on the world team, but I’m not on the selection committee. Of course, every athlete feels like they should be on the world team.”

Earlier Thursday, the pairs short program produced surprise leaders.

The U.S. Championships continue Friday with the short dance and men’s short program. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss wants Russia out of PyeongChang

Women’s Short Program
1. Karen Chen — 72.82
2. Mirai Nagasu — 71.95
3. Ashley Wagner — 70.94
4. Tessa Hong — 65.02
5. Gracie Gold — 64.85

 

Gwen Jorgensen pregnant, to sit out 2017 triathlon season

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: USA's Gwen Jorgensen followed by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig Hug (L) compete in the running portion of the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.(Photo by Jeff Pachoud-Pool/Getty Images)
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Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.

“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.

Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.

In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.

The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.

MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened