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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U.S. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN