Kate Hansen

Kate Hansen takes first U.S. women’s luge World Cup win since 1997

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Kate Hansen snapped a 17-year drought for American women lugers, winning the World Cup finale in Sigulda, Latvia, on Saturday.

Hansen, 21, beat a field lacking the top three Germans with a two-run time of 1 minute, 23.976 seconds. She edged Canadian Alex Gough by .076. Russian Natalia Khoreva was third, followed by American Erin Hamlin.

Hansen, set to make her Olympic debut in Sochi, made the World Cup podium for the first time in her young career. It marked the biggest international victory for a U.S. luger since Erin Hamlin‘s World Championship in 2009.

“Of course it’s a great surprise for me,” Hansen said, according to The Associated Press. “I’ve never dreamed of winning the event.”

The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup race was Cammy Myler in November 1997, also in Sigulda.

Hansen kept Germany from sweeping all nine races this season. The powerful sliding nation did not enter its top three women in Sigulda — Olympic gold- and silver-medal favorites Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Hufner and Anke Wischnewski.

What a bookend to the World Cup season it was for Hansen. She had the fastest run in the first heat of the first World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, in November, but was 22nd fastest in the second run to tumble to 12th place.

The women’s luge competition in Sochi is Feb. 10-11.

“I don’t know if the pressure with regard to the upcoming Olympic Games will be greater now,” Hansen said, according to the AP. “It’s a good question. But we’ll see.”

Just watched Hansen win her first world cup!!! So amazing!!! #dancetothetop #teamusa @k8ertotz

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Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi lead U.S. Olympic marathon team

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Galen Rupp is the first American to make the Olympic marathon team in his debut at the distance since 1968.

Meb Keflezighi has become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time, according to USA Track and Field.

The Olympic medalists Rupp, 29, and Keflezighi, 40, finished first and second in the Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles on Saturday. Jared Ward was third and earned the final place on the Olympic team, his first.

In the women’s race, Amy CraggDesi Linden and Shalane Flanagan were the top three, all returning to the Olympics, with Flanagan collapsing at the finish line. Full recap here.

Rupp and Keflezighi broke away on their own around the 20th mile. Rupp then dropped Keflezighi in the 23rd mile and won by about 1:08, clocking 2:11:12. He broke the finishing tape with a fist pump.

Full results are here.

“It was a bit of a change running the marathon, but there’s no bigger honor than being able to represent your country at the Olympics,” Rupp told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Rupp, the 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist, and Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist, are the only U.S. men to earn Olympic track and field medals in events longer than 1500m since 1984.

Dathan Ritzenhein, a three-time Olympian and a pre-race favorite with Keflezighi and Rupp, dropped out of the race around mile 20 of 26.2 total in the hottest U.S. Olympic marathon trials of all time. The temperature at the men’s start at 10:06 a.m. local time was 66 degrees.

The Rio Olympic marathon will be on Aug. 21, the final day of the Games.

Rupp has said he prefers the 10,000m and might not race the marathon at the Olympics. If he doesn’t, the fourth-place trials finisher, Luke Puskedra, will move onto the team.

“I think [Rupp] is a 2:05 [marathon] guy, someday,” Rupp’s coach, three-time New York City Marathon winner Alberto Salazar, told media after Saturday’s race.

Rupp could contest two races in Rio, the 10,000m (Aug. 13 final) and the marathon, or the 10,000m and the 5000m (Aug. 20). Rupp finished seventh in the 5000m in London.

“I would say that the 10k is still my primary focus,” said Rupp, who would have to make the Olympic track team at those trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10, in a USATF interview published Jan. 28. “Really, it just comes down to what I think I have a better chance in as a second event, whether that’s the 5k or the marathon.”

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Amy Cragg wins marathon trials; Shalane Flanagan collapses at finish

Amy Cragg
AP
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Amy Cragg finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic marathon trials, just missing the three-woman team.

She left no doubt Saturday, winning the Rio Olympic marathon trials by 33 seconds over Desi Linden.

“Finishing fourth, looking back on it now, was so good for me,” Cragg told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “It made me more determined than ever as an athlete. I’ve worked really hard the last four years, basically, to move up one spot.”

Shalane Flanagan was third to round out the Olympic team, collapsing after she crossed the finish line and being carried into a wheelchair.

Two-time Olympian Kara Goucher finished fourth, just missing the team. She’ll have to compete at the track trials in July in Eugene, Ore., if she wants to make it to Rio.

Full results are here.

Flanagan said there was a point during the hottest marathon trials ever where she thought she was “done,” but her training partner Cragg talked her through it.

“Sweet baby Jesus, I’m so thankful for her,” Flanagan said with an ice pack over her shoulders, clutching a water bottle in her right hand and holding onto Cragg’s right shoulder with her left hand. Cragg held up Flanagan during the interview and then helped her back into the wheelchair.

Cragg, who later made the 2012 Olympic team in the 10,000m and finished 11th, led a team of returning Olympians to finish in the top three after 26.2 miles in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Linden repeated her 2012 trials finish of second place, surging in the final few miles past Flanagan. At the London Olympics, Linden pulled out 2.2 miles into the race with right hip pain, what would later be diagnosed as a femoral stress fracture.

“It’s been this Sisyphean task where I get to the top, and then the rock crumbles down,” Linden said. “I want to do it better this time.”

Flanagan, who broke from the pack with Cragg at the 12-mile mark, faded to third, still making her fourth Olympic team.

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