Alexandre Bilodeau

Flashback: Alexandre Bilodeau wins Canada’s first home gold (video)

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Canada’s goal at the Vancouver Olympics was to “Own the Podium,” but first it had to reach the top step for the first time on home soil.

No Canadian won gold at either the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal or the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. The infamy had to end in 2010.

The top billed hope was a moguls skier, 2006 Olympic champion Jenn Heil, who competed the night after the Opening Ceremony. But Heil took silver behind American Hannah Kearney.

The spotlight stayed on moguls for the men’s competition the following night at Cypress Mountain. The favorites were enigmatic Australian Dale Begg-Smith and Frenchman Guilbaut Colas, who combined to win the five World Cup events going into the Olympics.

But Quebec’s Alexandre Bilodeau beat them both with a chill-inducing run, inspired by his older brother, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy.

“It puts everything back into perspective,” Bilodeau said then, according to the Toronto Star. “I’ve got that chance to train, and maybe one day will be an Olympic champion, and I’ll take it. Even if it’s raining, I’ll take it. I’ll go train. (Frederic) doesn’t even have that chance, and he has a smile. Every morning he wakes up, and he’s got all the right to complain, and he never complains. … We can learn from those people.”

What’s Bilodeau up to now? He’s still skiing at an elite level, finishing second to countryman Mikael Kingsbury in the last World Cup season standings and the 2013 World Championships.

Bilodeau will try to become the first moguls skier to win multiple Olympic titles in Sochi, but he might get beaten to the feat by Kearney. Regardless, he said he will retire after the season.

“A lot of people are asking me, how is it going to feel to defend my medal?” Bilodeau told CTV. “I don’t see it as I’m going to defend. My medal is at home, I’m not bringing it to Sochi. It’s not like boxing, I’m not putting it on the table. I’m going to Sochi to try to be the first one to win two golds in the row. And I’ll be ready, I’ll be ready.”

It’s true that the Olympic crowds on the streets and in Robson Square in downtown Vancouver were never more raucous than during and after the men’s hockey final on the final day of the Games.

But a clear second place was that night two weeks earlier, when Bilodeau ended the infamy.

“Oh, Canada, the drought is over,” NBC Olympics commentator Todd Harris said. “Alexandre Bilodeau has won gold. … You enjoy it, Frederic. The headlines from Newfoundland to Yukon will read the drought is over.”

source:

Analyzing Infostrada’s 2014 Olympic medal predictions

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