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Erin Hamlin, Emily Sweeney have epic day for U.S. luge

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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — It took Erin Hamlin more than a decade to collect two World Cup luge gold medals.

And then came Saturday, when she won two in a couple of hours.

Hamlin dominated the field to win a pair of women’s events, Emily Sweeney took silver in both of those races and USA Luge had a day unlike any other in its World Cup history. In all, the Americans picked up five medals, including a bronze from Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman in a sprint doubles race.

“It’s very exciting,” Hamlin said. “It was a great race day. We had perfect conditions. I’m very relieved and happy that I could capitalize on that.”

She now has four World Cup wins and 16 medals in singles or sprint events on the circuit — not including her gold from the 2009 world championships or her bronze from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Hamlin started her day with a win in the women’s singles event, the usual two-run format. Hamlin won gold in 1 minute, 29.257 seconds. Sweeney tied her career-best World Cup finish by taking second in 1:29.384, and Alex Gough of Canada was third in 1:29.584.

Natalie Geisenberger of Germany, the reigning Olympic champion, was fourth — one spot ahead of Summer Britcher from the U.S.

That was followed by the sprint events, a one-heat dash in which the clock doesn’t start until sliders have built up some speed at the top of the track. Mortensen and Terdiman placed third in that event, their time of 32.938 seconds beaten by only two German teams — Toni Eggert and Sascha Beneckenwere first in 32.838, and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were second in 32.893.

“We had a great run,” Terdiman said. “Can’t argue with a bronze medal.”

Hamlin and Sweeney were back on the track soon after, just a couple of hours after finishing up their first competition of the day. They repeated the 1-2 finish, with Hamlin winning in 32.881 seconds, ahead of Sweeney (33.034) and Germany’s Tatjana Huefner (33.040).

Saturday’s medals for Hamlin and Sweeney were the first four won by U.S. women in singles events this season. Britcher captured a bronze in a team relay at Lake Placid last weekend.

“Everything’s starting to pay off,” Sweeney said. “Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.”

Hamlin’s other World Cup wins were a sprint race at Altenberg, Germany, in February 2015, and a full World Cup last season in Lake Placid. The two wins Saturday vaulted her to No. 3 in the overall World Cup standings for the season.

“Just an awesome day,” Hamlin said.

Sweeney has been dealing with a wrist injury, and she was thrilled with silvers.

“I am so pleasantly surprised,” Sweeney said. “But also, it’s just a relief. I really needed a win for myself. And I didn’t win — but I won in my own mind, so it’s great.”

Dominik Fischnaller of Italy won the men’s sprint Saturday in 28.302 seconds, edging Russia’s Roman Repilov and Germany’s Andi Langenhan.

After this weekend, the luge circuit goes on holiday break before resuming Jan. 5 in Konigssee, Germany.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings pleased by result after longest break in 5 years

Kerri Walsh Jennings
FIVB World Tour
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Kerri Walsh Jennings returned from her longest competition break since 2013 and, with partner Nicole Branagh, nearly beat the world’s top-ranked team.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh ultimately were eliminated in the round of 16 at the Xiamen Open in China.

“We WILL do better,” was posted on Walsh Jennings’ social media. “We actually had a great showing and learned and battled and improved – sometimes the stats don’t show everything.”

Walsh Jennings and Branagh, a pair of 39-year-old moms, played together for the first time since July 22, when Walsh Jennings’ five-times surgically repaired right shoulder popped out mid-match.

Walsh Jennings, eyeing her sixth and final Olympics in 2020, underwent a sixth shoulder surgery and an ankle surgery and did not return to training on the beach until March (her longest break between hitting a ball on sand since switching from indoor following the 2000 Olympics).

The duo won their opening Xiamen match in three sets last week, then lost a three-setter to the world’s No. 1 team in group play. Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes prevailed 21-15, 22-24, 18-16 en route to the tournament title.

After Walsh Jennings and Branagh swept American qualifiers Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman in the first elimination round, they squandered a one-set lead in the round of 16. Australians Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy eliminated them 19-21, 21-16, 20-18.

Walsh Jennings said before flying to Xiamen that she and Branagh would next play on the FIVB World Tour at the Itapema Open in Brazil in mid-May. In four FIVB World Tour events since partnering last year, they were eliminated in qualifying once, bounced in the round of 16 twice and forfeited a bronze-medal match due to that shoulder dislocation.

Early season partner changes defined the U.S. women’s landscape. In Xiamen, one of those new teams, Kelly Claes and Brittany Hochevar, reached the final, losing to the Canadians.

It marked the first final four appearance on the senior FIVB World Tour for the 22-year-old Claes, an NCAA champion at USC with former partner Sara Hughes, and for the 36-year-old Hochevar, the older sister of former Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar.

MORE: Walsh Jennings documents comeback from surgeries

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Watch Dateline special on McKayla Maroney, Larry Nassar; full episode

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McKayla MaroneyAly Raisman and Martha and Bela Karolyi spoke about their experiences with Larry Nassar in “Silent No More,” an NBC News’ DATELINE special that aired Sunday night.

It marked Maroney’s first interview since she went public as one of the hundreds of survivors who said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University for two decades.

The Karolyis, both former U.S. women’s national team coordinators, spoke on camera for the first time regarding Nassar, too. Olympians said they were abused at the Karolyis’ ranch in Texas at national team training camps.

Maroney said that at 2011 Worlds in Tokyo she told John Geddert, the personal coach of teammate Jordyn Wieber and head coach for the U.S. team at the event, that Nassar abused her.

NBC News reported that three other people in the car at the time remembered Maroney’s account from seven years ago. Geddert did not respond to requests for comment.

Geddert was suspended by USA Gymnastics in January and is facing a criminal investigation after Nassar, who molested girls at Geddert’s gym in Michigan, was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison on Jan. 24. Geddert said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Karolyis deny knowledge of Nassar crimes | Maroney’s first speech on Nassar