Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice retires from swimming via video

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Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice chose a unique way to retire, announcing the end of her career via video spliced with childhood photos, career highlights and portions of the 2012 pop rock hit “Hall of Fame” by The Script featuring will.i.am.

Rice had not swum competitively since the 2012 Olympics.

“I never wanted to make a comeback, so the decision that I wanted to make was definitely final,” Rice said in the video published Tuesday. “Coming to that point today and not continuing my swimming career, it’s sad.”

Rice, 25, won triple gold at the 2008 Olympics, sweeping the individual medleys and as part of the Australian 4x200m freestyle relay team, all in world record times.

“A complete shock and the best moment I could have ever experienced,” Rice said. “It would have been really easy to walk away after Beijing and call it a day there. But I just felt like I had so much more to prove as an athlete. Had I known what I was going to go through [between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics] with three shoulder operations and a load more ups and downs, I probably would have [retired], but I’m so glad that I really stuck through it.”

Rice finished fourth in the 200m individual medley and tied for sixth in the 400m individual medley at the 2012 Olympics. The shoulder injuries hampered her form leading into her second Olympics.

“London was really tough,” Rice said. “There were so many things that went wrong for me in that preparation. It was like I was trying so hard to make everything so perfect, and everything went wrong.”

She said in 2011 that she would likely retire after the London Games but took her time to officially call it a career.

After nearly a year off, she gave herself a deadline of late 2013/early 2014 to get back in the water to contend for a spot on Australia’s Commonwealth Games team later this summer. The Australian trials for the Commonwealth Games concluded over the weekend. She did not participate.

“Coming off the Games, I really didn’t want to make a rash decision on my career and whether I was going to keep swimming or not, because I was still too emotional about the whole preparation I had just been through,” said Rice, who had roles on Australia’s “Today” Show and “Celebrity Apprentice” during her break. “I felt a lot of pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations and fulfill their answers, but I knew that I really had to take the time for myself to get to the point where I knew 100 percent what I wanted to do.”

Rice’s expected retirement came on the same day that nine-time Olympic medalist Ian Thorpe‘s agent said he thought Thorpe would never swim competitively again.

Rice and Thorpe were two pillars of Australian swimming during the height of their rivalry with the U.S. over the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Thorpe was the most decorated Australian men’s swimmer in 2000 and 2004. Rice won more golds than any other Australian women’s swimmer in 2008.

“I definitely feel like I’m losing a part of myself, but I’m really excited for what’s to come,” Rice said. “It’s safe to say that that’s the new goal, a new passion for me is to prove myself out of the water.”

Catching up with Dara Torres

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