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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Female runners with high testosterone face new restriction

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Female runners with high testosterone must reduce those levels or will not be allowed in international races between 400m and the mile, according to an IAAF rule starting Nov. 1.

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya, who was gender tested in 2009, is expected to be affected, according to South Africa’s Olympic Committee.

“Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes,” IAAF president Seb Coe said in a press release. “The revised rules are not about cheating, no athlete with a DSD [difference of sexual development] has cheated, they are about leveling the playing field to ensure fair and meaningful competition.”

The IAAF, after funding a study along with the World Anti-Doping Agency, said research showed the following natural testosterone levels:

Most women: .12-1.79 nanomoles per liter in blood
Normal men after puberty: 7.7-29.4 nmol/L

The IAAF rule forces all women who race the 400m through mile and who are androgen-sensitive to restrict their ratio to below five. It said women who have “a difference of sexual development” can have natural testosterone levels beyond the normal male range.

The IAAF and WADA-funded study found that women with high testosterone have up to a 4.5 percent advantage over their competition on the track.

Research showed 7.1 of every 1,000 elite female track and field athletes have elevated testosterone, most of which were runners in events between 400m and the mile.

“The treatment to reduce testosterone levels is a hormone supplement similar to the contraceptive pill taken by millions of women around the world,” an IAAF doctor said in the release. “No athlete will be forced to undergo surgery.”

The IAAF had gender-verification testing in place until 2011, when it was replaced with a test for abnormally high levels of natural testosterone. Under that rule, female athletes with a ratio of 10 nmol/L or higher could only compete against women if they had an operation or took hormones to reduce their testosterone level.

In July 2015, the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) suspended the IAAF’s regulation, ruling that it lacked sufficient scientific backing and was therefore unjustifiably discriminatory.

The gender-testing issue was raised in 2009, when Semenya won the world 800m title by nearly 2.5 seconds at age 18. Word leaked that track officials mandated she undergo sex testing.

Semenya was not cleared to run for 11 months and came back to earn silver at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, while the testosterone-limiting rule was in effect, behind Russian Maria Savinova, who has since been stripped of her golds for doping.

Semenya then had a lull in performance after the London Games while the testosterone-limiting rule was still in effect. After CAS suspended the rule in 2015, Semenya peaked again in 2016, going undefeated in 800m races, twice breaking the national record and comfortably winning Olympic gold.

Semenya has never spoken publicly in detail about her situation. It has never been publicly verified that Semenya’s body naturally produces abnormally high levels of testosterone or that she ever took hormone suppressants.

An image with the sentence, “How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged,” was posted on Semenya’s social media Wednesday after reports were first published about the new rule.

Her default position is generally to talk only about her running, but she spoke out against her critics in a speech after accepting South Africa’s Sportswoman of the Year in November 2016.

“They say she talks like a man, she walks like a man, she runs like a man,” Semenya said, before finishing off the series with an Afrikaans word that loosely translates to “Get lost.”

South Africa’s Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam said Thursday his organization was “disappointed by the IAAF ruling.”

“Especially given that Caster’s name is again being dragged through the publicity mill,” he said in a press release. “We are concerned that the decisions have been approved without taking into account all factors into consideration, as these factors have not been properly nor fully ventilated. We wish to place on record that Caster Semenya has never engaged in any performance-enhancing activities and any enhanced testosterone levels are due solely to her genetic make-up.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Olympic pairs champions take indefinite break

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Aljona Savchenko, the Olympic pairs champion with Bruno Massot, said they are taking an indefinite break from competition, according to German press agency DPA.

Savchenko and Massot will perform in ice shows next fall and winter, which could preclude them from competing in major events like the Grand Prix season (late October to early December) and the European Championships in January.

The German pair followed their title in PyeongChang with a world title last month, breaking a four-year-old world-record score and winning by the largest margin (20.31 points) in pairs at an Olympics or worlds since the 6.0 system was replaced 14 years ago.

Savchenko, 34 and a five-time Olympian, became the oldest Olympic pairs gold medalist. She then claimed her 11th world medal — tying the female record held by Norwegian singles legend Sonja Henie — and sixth world title — tying Soviet Alexander Zaitsev for second on the all-time pairs list, four behind Irina Rodnina.

The French-born Massot, 29, competed in his first Olympics in PyeongChang and earned his first world title. Savchenko’s previous five world titles came with now-retired Robin Szolkowy.

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