Gwen Jorgensen

Gwen Jorgensen wins World Championship in triathlon

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Gwen Jorgensen capped the most dominant season in the six-year history of the World Triathlon Series, winning the Grand Final by passing 19 women and erasing a 69-second deficit on the final 10km running portion in Edmonton on Saturday.

She wasn’t satisfied with her overall performance.

“Hopefully I can execute a little better in the upcoming years,” Jorgensen said shortly before popping the cork off a champagne bottle to commemorate her first World Championship. “I know that I have work to do still.”

Jorgensen swam, biked and ran across the Alberta city in 2 hours, 5 seconds, shaking her head after crossing the finish line 16 seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt.

“I was thinking I made that really difficult for myself,” at the end, Jorgensen said. “In the middle of the race, I thought there was no way I was going to win it.”

Jorgensen did win her fifth straight World Triathlon Series event, a feat never done by a man or woman in the series’ short history. She only needed to end up 16th to clinch the overall World Championship, which accumulates points from results over the course of the season.

She finished the season with the highest point total in World Triathlon Series history with 5,085, becoming the first man or woman to break the 5,000-point barrier. The margin between Jorgensen and second-place Sarah Groff, also American, was 1,098 points.

The previous record margin was 650 points, by Spain’s Javier Gomez in 2010. The margin separating Jorgensen from second place is greater than the margin separating second place from sixth place.

Jorgensen, 28, is also the first U.S. man or woman to win a World Championship since Sheila Taormina in 2004. The best U.S. finish in an Olympic triathlon, since the sport debuted in the program in 2000, is third.

Jorgensen’s path to victory in Edmonton wasn’t out of character. She’s the greatest triathlon runner on the planet and proved it again Saturday. Jorgensen was 15 seconds behind after the 1500m swim and trailed by 69 seconds after the 40km bike.

“I have to go back to the drawing board [in the swim and bike],” Jorgensen said. “I didn’t execute like I do in training.”

But Jorgensen, a former swimmer and track and cross-country runner at Wisconsin, came in averaging running the 10km 67.5 seconds faster than the field in 10km runs this year.

Knowing that, what would she have said if told before the race she needed to pass 19 women and make up 69 seconds on the run?

“Please, I don’t want to do it that way,” said Jorgensen, who took up triathlons four years ago after being recruited away from an accounting job at Ernst & Young by USA Triathlon. “That’s definitely not the way I wanted to win. I got off the bike and started [running], and my legs were heavy. They felt awful. I don’t think they’ve felt that bad all year.”

It must have felt worse, then, for the women she left behind.

“I just tried to stay relaxed,” Jorgensen said. “I knew it was going to be difficult.”

Jorgensen needed about 7.5km to catch and pass the two New Zealand leaders on the run. For the entire 10km, she ran 63 seconds faster than the next fastest woman of the 47 finishers.

Jorgensen credited countrywoman Sarah Haskins. Haskins was essentially a domestique for Jorgensen on the latter stage of the 40km bike ride, setting the pace to keep Jorgensen from losing more time to the lead group of 18 women.

“I couldn’t have done it today without Haskins,” Jorgensen said.

Haskins, who has dealt with injury this season, didn’t finish the race Saturday.

“I owe her a lot,” Jorgensen said.

What’s next for Jorgensen? She’ll go home to Minnesota after training the previous eight months based in Australia and Spain. She’s set to get married Oct. 4, and then set out new goals for 2015.

In 2016, she will no doubt be eyeing Rio de Janeiro after her Olympic debut in London was punctured by a flat tire.

“This year’s [goal] was to do well in the series overall,” Jorgensen said. “Goal accomplished.”

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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