Kate Hansen

Kate Hansen, Chris Mazdzer win USA Luge National Championships

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Kate Hansen surprised the top two U.S. sliders at the National Luge Championships, beating Olympians Erin Hamlin and Julia Clukey for her first U.S. title.

Hansen, 21, posted a two-run time of 1 minute, 30.136 seconds at the Mount Van Hoevenberg track in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Sunday. Clukey, the 2012 U.S. champion, took second in 1:30.326. Hamlin, the 2008-2011 national champion, was third in 1:30.386.

“I’m impressed I had it in me,” Hansen told The Associated Press. “I’m feeling pretty good. It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m more or less just grateful that I threw down some solid runs.”

2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer won the men’s crown in 1:46.498, as expected, and Jacob Hyrns and Andrew Sherk won their first doubles title.

The U.S. team for the World Cup season, which begins Nov. 16 in Lillehammer, Norway, will be determined after more races in Park City, Utah, on Oct. 20.

Hansen’s win makes her the early favorite to secure the third women’s berth on the Olympic team, should the U.S. qualify the maximum three spots as it’s expected to do. A nation’s Olympic spots are determined by World Cup results, as is the specific U.S. Olympic team.

Hansen, the 2008 world junior champion, tied with Emily Sweeney as the third-ranked U.S. woman in World Cup points standings last season. They were 20th overall. Clukey was sixth, and Hamlin, the 2009 world champion, was seventh.

Sweeney was fourth at the National Championships on Sunday.

Hansen, then 17, Sweeney and Sweeney’s older sister, Megan, competed in a race-off for the final berth on the 2010 Olympic team. Megan Sweeney won that spot.

For the men, Mazdzer is the only member of the 2010 Olympic team still active. He beat Tucker West by .114 of a second after the two tied for the National Championship last fall. Taylor Morris was third, followed by Aidan Kelly.

In doubles, Hyrns and Sherk ousted 2012 national champions Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall (1:30.210) Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman placed third (1:30.493).

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What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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