Mother of three/real estate agent set for track worlds debut

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DENVER (AP) — Her training runs involved pushing a jogging stroller loaded with enough snacks to keep her toddler content. Her core workouts featured exercises as her kids climbed on her back or even joined her. Her schedule sometimes got thrown off for potty training.

This is the program that allowed Sara Vaughn, mother of three daughters, real estate agent and burgeoning 1500m runner at 31 years old, to earn a spot for the world championships in London this week.

She even borrowed a line from her youngest daughter for inspiration at the USATF Outdoor Championships in June with the third and final spot on the line: “My turn.”

“My daughter doesn’t share very well, and when someone has a toy or something that she wants, she’ll say, ‘My turn,’” said Sara, who’s coached by her husband, Brent. “In that moment, it made so much sense. I saw a couple of women in front of me that had something I wanted, and I was tired of not finishing in the top three. It was my turn.”

A standout runner out of high school in Nebraska, Sara competed at Virginia before transferring to Colorado. She got pregnant with Kiki during her sophomore year and later became an All-American in cross-country. She and Brent — a former runner at Colorado — were married July 28, 2007.

They just celebrated their 10th anniversary while training in London. And soon, they will be joined by their three daughters — Kiki, 10, Calia, 7, and Cassidy, who turns 2 on Saturday — a day after the opening round of her mom’s event.

“This summer, a family trip to Europe — that’s something we never would’ve dreamed of without this running thing,” said Sara, who will head to Paris and Barcelona with the crew for some sightseeing after worlds.

To think, she almost stepped away. Heavy emphasis on almost.

With each pregnancy, resuming her running career became increasingly difficult. Last summer at the Olympic Trials — 11 months after giving birth to Cassidy — Sara finished seventh.

Enough almost seemed to be enough. She was largely unsponsored and constantly concerned about spending money for training out of the family’s finances, which, for years, were solely based off Brent’s running deal with a shoe company.

“I had a hard time performing well when our livelihood depended on that performance,” she said.

That motivated her to become a real estate agent in 2013, just to bring in extra funds. On top of that, Brent opened a construction business about 3 ½ years ago.

“Now that we have income and stability, for me, it brought a lot of the joy back into running,” Sara said as the couple recently bought their “forever home” in Boulder. “I can enjoy competing without stressing about whether we can pay the mortgage or for swimming lessons. I don’t have that guilt that goes with running.”

Brent’s noticed a difference, too, with her fitness at another level after not making the Olympic team. She ran a personal-best time of 4:06.64 on June 10.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Brent said. “She has plenty more space to improve over the coming years.”

Brent took over coaching his wife earlier this season. First, though, they had to establish ground rules. At home, he’s Brent. At the track, he’s coach — and what Coach Brent says, goes.

“If I start to complain or whine about a workout, he won’t let that charm work,” Sara said, laughing.

Frequently, Sara will load up Cassidy in the baby jogger to squeeze in between five and nine miles, when the other two are at school.

“I have a love/hate relationship with that stroller,” she said. “I would much prefer never to run with it, because it adds extra stress, and it changes my form a little bit. But it’s such a tool when in a pinch, which is half the time.”

Baby sitters, friends, family, DVDs — to entertain the kids as she stretches — and the drop-in sitter service at her gym have proven invaluable as well.

“It takes a lot of cooperation from my kids, too, to be understanding and forgiving and supportive of their parents,” Sara said. “I’m traveling a lot. I miss recitals every once in a while. They have been awesome and supportive of their mom, which is really helpful.”

At nationals, her game plan was elementary: Stay calm on the first few laps, stay alert in the middle and stay aggressive on the last lap. The mantra “my turn” popped into her mind with the finish line in sight. Her daughter’s saying was the perfect motivator.

“I was so happy for her. I didn’t know how to contain myself,” Brent said. “It was quite a moment.”

So was this: Calling home to tell their kids the news about mom. Each had a different reaction.

“My oldest, who’s been around the sport for a long time, she kind of understands the significance of finally making the team,” recalled Sara, who’s creating a fund to help undergraduate parents so they can earn their degrees. “My middle one, a little less so, but she does understand that it meant she got to go on a cool, exciting trip to London this summer.

“And my youngest one, she’s like, ‘Hey, that’s my mom on TV!’ She was pretty excited.”

Mom’s success wasn’t the only big news around the Vaughn household in recent weeks. Cassidy is getting the hang of potty training.

“Everything feels really settled,” Sara said. “We have life stress, normal stress, but not like we did when all we were doing was running. Not that life is easier — it’s just much less stressful.”

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Russian skeleton stars banned from World Cups

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The two Russians who had their medals from the Sochi Games stripped because of doping have been barred from competing in World Cup races, at least temporarily.

It’s the latest sanction against Aleksandr Tretiakov and Elena Nikitina, who had their medals — gold for Tretiakov, bronze for Nikitina — taken away Wednesday after it was determined they were part of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program at the 2014 Olympics. They have already been banned from future Olympics, and now may have no place to slide.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation handed down the suspensions Thursday, effective immediately. Tretiakov and Nikitina were both planning to compete in World Cup races at Whistler, British Columbia, this weekend.

In all, four Russians have been suspended by the IBSF. Along with Tretiakov and Nikitina, Mariia Orlova and Olga Potylitsyna — who have been racing on the lesser-tier Intercontinental Cup Circuit this season — were also banned, just as they were by the IOC. All four are expected to appeal, and the IBSF said they will be entitled to a hearing if that happens.

“Sport is all about who’s the best on that day and if anything compromises that, like the situations in Sochi, it taints everything and kind of undermines the fundamental belief in the system and the competition itself,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele, also is a vice president with the IBSF. “This is kind of righting the ship.”

The IBSF’s decision is a strong one and is in stark contrast to one made by the International Ski Federation, which is allowing Russian cross-country skiers who were found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics to compete in World Cup events this weekend. The FIS wants to see detailed reasons why the IOC disciplinary panel reached its decisions about the Russian athletes.

The IBSF isn’t waiting.

“I understand that it was a difference of culture and that the Russians don’t believe they did anything wrong,” U.S. women’s skeleton veteran Katie Uhlaender said after the IOC decision to strip the medals and issue the Olympic bans was announced Wednesday. “But this was the only way to fix it.”

Uhlaender will be promoted to the bronze medal spot once Nikitina, as the IOC has ordered, surrenders what had been her bronze from Sochi and the IBSF updates the results. Tretiakov was the men’s gold-medalist; the revised order of finish for that event will now have Latvia’s Martins Dukurs getting gold, Matt Antoine of the U.S. bumped up to silver and Latvia’s Tomass Dukurs, Martins’ brother, will become the bronze medalist.

Uhlaender, who was fourth, will soon officially be third behind gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold of Britain and silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace of the U.S.

Sliders have lauded the IOC for doing the right thing, though noted that racers like Uhlaender and Tomass Dukurs — even once they have medals in hand — will never be able to replicate the moment on a podium that they should have had in Sochi.

“Having the physical medal’s cool, but most of it in my opinion is the experience of everything that happens,” Antoine said. “That’s what you cherish the most.”

Not having the top Russians on the World Cup circuit figures to have a major impact on the points standings.

Nikitina was the World Cup women’s points leader after the first two races of the season, and was coming off a victory last weekend in Park City, Utah. Tretiakov was fourth so far in the men’s standings, including a bronze at the season-opening race in Lake Placid, New York.

Russian skiers banned from Olympics allowed to race World Cup opener

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics can compete in World Cup races this weekend because the International Ski Federation (FIS) has been unable to prosecute its own cases in time.

Six Russians, including two Sochi medalists, were retroactively disqualified from the Winter Games this month and banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC.

FIS previously blocked all six from competing with interim suspensions, but those expired on Oct. 31. The International Olympic Committee judging panel then reached its verdicts this month.

However, FIS said Thursday that its own judicial body lacks key IOC documents to process cases.

“Consequently, the FIS Doping Panel is obliged to wait until the IOC Disciplinary Commission reasoned decisions are submitted with details of the evidence relied on,” said the governing body, which is responsible for imposing competition bans.

“As a consequence the active athletes are eligible to compete in FIS including World Cup competitions for the time being,” FIS said.

The World Cup season for men and women begins Friday in Ruka, Finland, with sprint and long-distance racing.

Organizers had not published starting lists Thursday for the three-day meeting and it was unclear which of the six intend to start.

Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin both won multiple medals in Sochi but were stripped by the IOC. The others suspended by the IOC were Evgeny Belov, Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova.

FIS said rules governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency meant it could not re-impose interim bans without “a specific allegation” plus evidence.

Attempting to assure cross-country skiers they will not be competing against doped rivals, FIS said an additional and independent testing program for Russians has been in operation since June and has taken about 250 blood and urine samples.

The three-man IOC disciplinary panel — chaired by Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer and member of the Olympic body’s executive board — has not issued detailed reasons for judgments in 10 cases from Sochi so far completed in cross-country skiing and skeleton.

Without positive doping tests, the panel used evidence of state-backed cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles in the Sochi laboratory first gathered last year by WADA investigator Richard McLaren.

At least 18 more Russian athletes are having their cases prosecuted in an ongoing series of hearings in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On Wednesday, the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said it would update “within the next days” action against four Russians, including the Sochi gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina.

Nikitina won a skeleton World Cup race last weekend in Park City, Utah — a result which may soon be overturned by the IBSF.

All the Russian athletes disqualified by the IOC can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Dec. 5, IOC President Thomas Bach will announce after a board meeting if the Russian team will be banned from the Olympics, which open Feb. 9 in PyeongChang.

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