Norway’s Bjoergen wins ladies’ 10km at Toblach; USA’s Randall finishes 15th

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Norway’s Marit Bjoergen claimed victory in the ladies’ 10km classic during today’s FIS World Cup cross-country skiing event at Toblach, Italy, while Olympic medal threat Kikkan Randall (pictured) of the U.S. finished 15th as she tuned up for Sochi.

Elizabeth Stephen was the top American finisher in the race, coming home just outside the Top 10 in 11th place. Two more Americans finished in the Top 20, with Sadie Bjornsen in 17th and Ida Sargent in 20th.

The U.S. cross-country team has just completed a week-long training session in Italy, and Randall said in a U.S. team release that the session “went exactly as we had planned.”

“It was great to get back to racing today after another training break,” she said about today’s proceedings. “I haven’t done so much distance racing since Christmas, so it’s taking a little bit to get the feeling back…Today’s race was a great effort to kick my body back into race gear and I’m looking forward to another skate sprint tomorrow.”

Those sprint events on Sunday will serve as the final races for the team before heading off to Sochi for the Olympics.

Randall leads the way for the team, as she aims to become the first U.S. woman to win a cross-country medal and the first American, man or woman, to win cross-country gold.

To do that, she may have to go through Bjoergen, who is the defending Olympic champion in the individual sprint and is a seven-time Olympic medalist overall.

Bjoergen is also aiming for big things in Sochi, as she looks to close in on fellow Norwegian and 12-time Olympic medalist Bjorn Daehlie in her bid to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever.

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Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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Olympic cycling champion running for Congress

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein is the latest to announce he’s running for the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Dent.

Dent, a former state senator, is a centrist Republican who has held the seat since 2005. He’s retiring after his term expires next year.

Nothstein, who won sprint silver in 1996 and gold in 2000, is the only American track cyclist to win an Olympic title at a fully attended Games.

Two Republican state representatives, Ryan Mackenzie and Justin Simmons, previously announced they’re running for Dent’s 15th District seat.

Democrat Bill Leiner, a former Lehigh County commissioner, is also running.

Dent’s district includes Allentown and all of Lehigh County, and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republicans in 2011 stretched the district almost 90 miles to the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania to make it more Republican.

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