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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Javier Fernandez rebounds to lead Grand Prix France

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez was back at his best, landing two quadruple jumps to top the Grand Prix France short program on Friday.

Fernandez, who was sixth at his opening Grand Prix two weeks ago with a reported stomach bug, tallied 107.86 points in Grenoble. It’s the second-best score of his career.

The 2015 and 2016 World champion goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 13.94-point lead over Shoma Uno of Japan. Uno fell on his opening quad flip attempt.

Uno went into France as the clear favorite, the only man to break 300 total points this season. He did it at both of his competitions this fall.

Earlier Friday, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond led a group of favorites who topped the short programs for the women, pairs and ice dance. All of the free skates are Saturday.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Both U.S. men fell Friday, not helping their cases for the three-man Olympic team.

Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, fell on his opening jump combination. He failed to build on his personal-best free skate from his last competition, where he landed three quads to claim bronze at Cup of China.

U.S. silver medalist Vincent Zhou crashed on both quadruple jump attempts, two weeks after falling three times between two programs at his Grand Prix debut.

Zhou, 17 and the world junior champion, has the jumps to easily make the three-man U.S. Olympic team. But those big mistakes allow the likes of Jason Brown and Adam Rippon to pass him.

“To say the least, my performance was dismal,” was posted on Zhou’s Instagram. “It was not a representation of how I train or who I am. Smiling and waving while my heart is breaking is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I have been following my Olympic dream for as long as I can remember, fighting, being set back, conquering obstacles, and experiencing the ups and downs of striving to better myself every single day. I am capable of so much more. I am a fighter. I fully believe that I can and will draw on my spirit, inner strength, and faith to my words to perform much better in the future.”

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Internationaux de France
Men’s Short Program
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 107.86
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 93.92
3. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 91.51
8. Max Aaron (USA) — 78.64
10. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 66.12

Erin Hamlin nears end of historic U.S. luge career

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Erin Hamlin is looking forward to normalcy. She is getting married next summer in her hometown. She is thinking about career moves. She is trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It is probably her last luge season. It is definitely her last Olympic season.

As such, it would be easy to fall into the trap of saying that winning a gold medal at PyeongChang in February would be the only thing that makes this season a success.

It’s important, sure, but Hamlin is entering her 13th year of World Cup racing with a much broader view and insisting that she’s going to enjoy whatever time she has left on her sled.

“I’m not going to hyperfocus myself on one result or bust,” Hamlin said. “Very likely, it’s going to be my last time in a lot of places, sliding on a lot of tracks. So I think more so, it’s going to be a lot of soaking it all in.”

That process starts Saturday, when the World Cup season opens in Igls, Austria.

Hamlin, who turns 31 on Sunday, is coming off the finest year of her career — she won a gold medal and two silvers at the world championships for the biggest haul ever by an American luger, got two World Cup wins and finished fourth in world rankings.

She might be going out, and there’s a chance she can go out on top.

“We’re working hard to convince her to stay,” longtime U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney said.

Sweeney knows that’s probably futile.

Sliders always tend to cycle out after an Olympics, no matter if it’s bobsled, skeleton or luge, and the Americans will see plenty of veterans take their last rides this winter.

A few U.S. sliders already retired this fall, in part because they weren’t going to have a shot at an Olympic berth.

For her part, Hamlin hasn’t officially said this is the end.

“There’s never really as concrete of a plan as you hope there would be, because you never know what can happen,” Hamlin said. “But at the moment, what I’m excited to do is see what other opportunities are there and what other adventures await.”

Hamlin has been in the world’s top 10 in each of the past 11 seasons — the second-longest current streak of any woman in luge, one year behind German legend Tatjana Huefner.

She won a World Cup each of the past three years, took the world title in sprint last winter and became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in 2014 with a bronze.

A lesson learned that season: Not expecting much can work wonders. That’s one of the reasons why PyeongChang isn’t taking up all the bandwidth in her brain.

“That’s the nature of winter sports in a Winter Olympic year, there being so much focus on the Games,” Hamlin said. “How I went into the last Olympics taught me a lot. I had no expectation of walking away from the last Olympics with a medal. At this point, goal No. 1 is to make the team and beyond that, I know if I slide as I’m capable of I can be pretty fast and I can do well.”

The schedule this season is hectic.

This weekend’s stop in Austria starts a run of five races in five weekends, with the next two in Germany followed by another in Calgary, Alberta, and then on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 15-16.

When that Lake Placid World Cup is over, the U.S. Olympic team will be named.

So when Hamlin needs an escape from all that, the wedding is there to bring her back to reality.

It will be at her parents’ home in July. It will, without question, be the social event of the season in Remsen, N.Y., where the one-time high school soccer player has annually left her tiny hometown brimming with pride.

“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”

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