AP

Katie Uhlaender waits to hear if she will become 2014 Olympic medalist

Leave a comment

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Katie Uhlaender was scatterbrained Thursday.

She didn’t put her racing bib on for the first run of the World Cup season, so technically she wasn’t compliant with uniform regulations.

Uhlaender also forgot to put anything long-sleeved in her bag of postrace clothes, so she stood in 36-degree air after the race with completely bare arms coming out of her vest.

“I forgot my shirt,” she said.

Uhlaender has plenty of reasons to be distracted.

She’s still grieving the loss of close friend Steven Holcomb, the U.S. bobsledding star who died suddenly in May. She’s breaking in new equipment. And she’s still waiting to hear, more than 3 1/2 years since the Sochi Winter Games ended, if she’s an Olympic medalist.

The International Olympic Committee probe of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program at the Sochi Games is ongoing, and plenty of bobsledders and skeleton athletes are waiting to see what happens. Uhlaender was fourth in those Olympics, and if Russia’s Elena Nikitina — one of the athletes who has been under investigation — loses her bronze, then the American may get her first medal.

“I can’t even put my head there,” Uhlaender said. “It’s been a year since the McLaren Report came out. I’m just going to focus on each race and control what I can control.”

So far, six Russian cross-country skiers have been banned from future Olympics as a result of the probe by an IOC disciplinary panel. The cases against the Russians were built on evidence of a state doping conspiracy detailed last year by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

“More hearings concerning other athletes will be held over the next few weeks,” the IOC said Thursday.

All hearings will be completed by the end of November, the IOC said, and a decision is expected in early December regarding whether Russian athletes will be allowed to enter this winter’s PyeongChang Olympics.

Uhlaender was ninth on Thursday at Mount Van Hoevenberg, a less-than-ideal result especially considering the Americans hoped to have a home-track edge in Lake Placid. Nikitina is still eligible to compete and was fourth on Thursday.

“This year’s been really tough in general,” Uhlaender said, tears running slowly down her face. “Losing Holcomb, I’ve been having mini-panic attacks since he’s not here. Whenever I have a race freak-out, I would find him or text him and get an extra boost. This was the first race I had to go without that. I know what he’d say — that I can’t lose twice, and I have to represent my country by doing the right thing.”

Canada’s Elisabeth Vathje, Thursday’s silver medalist, said the waiting isn’t easy for anyone in sliding — including the probe’s targets.

“It’s a terrible situation and that it’s state-sponsored makes it even more difficult,” Vathje said. “I don’t know what those girls were told they needed or couldn’t do. We don’t know the whole story, and that’s really hard. I’m friends with the Russians. They’re lovely people. And it’s really hard to see them struggling.”

The three principal sliders still under investigation related to what is alleged to have happened in Sochi are double-gold-winning bobsledder Alexander Zubkov, men’s skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and Nikitina.

Zubkov is retired and is president of the Russia Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation. Tretyakov is scheduled to race in the men’s skeleton season opener Friday.

If Zubkov is disqualified, the top U.S. sleds in the two- and four-man events — both driven by Holcomb, with the two-man pushed by Steven Langton and the four-man pushed by Langton, Curt Tomasevicz and Chris Fogt — could move from bronze to silver.

If Tretiyakov loses his medal, Matt Antoine of the U.S. could go from bronze to silver. And if Nikitina loses her medal, Uhlaender could move to third.

“I definitely think something has to be done,” Uhlaender said. “Is there doping control in Russia? Do they believe that testing in the offseason should be done? Just because they’re not doping in the season, that doesn’t mean it’s OK in the offseason. I’m a clean athlete and I’m going to keep representing clean athletes. I don’t know what else to say.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. bobsledders remember Steven Holcomb as Olympic season starts

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

AP
Leave a comment

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. luge head coach steps down due to Parkinson’s

Kaetlyn Osmond leads Grand Prix France as co-favorite falls (video)

Leave a comment

Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond topped the Grand Prix France short program, moving closer to another Grand Prix Final berth on Friday.

The world silver medalist was flawed — performing a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple and putting a hand down on another jump landing.

She goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 1.26-point lead over Russian Maria Sotskova. Japan’s Yuna Shiraiwa is third, while the lone American Polina Edmunds is ninth.

Co-favorite Alina Zagitova of Russia fell and dropped to fifth place in Grenoble.

In the short dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron improved on their personal best with 81.40 points, the third-highest all-time in an eight-year-old system.

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres by 4.66 going into Saturday’s pairs free skate.

The event continues later Friday with the men’s short, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Osmond, 21, was a revelation last season, winning her first Grand Prix medals in four years, making her first Grand Prix Final and finishing second to dominant Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva at worlds.

She’s continued that this fall, winning her first two events in Canada to solidify Olympic medal favorite status. One Canadian woman has won an individual Olympic medal in the last 25 years — Joannie Rochette‘s emotional bronze in 2010.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, fell on her opening triple Lutz. Zagitova won her Grand Prix debut in China two weeks ago and ranks second to training partner Medvedeva in top scores this season.

Medvedeva, Zagitova and Sotskova are the favorites to claim Russia’s three Olympic women’s spots. Sotskova, 17, made the podium in all three of her Grand Prix starts but was a disappointing eighth at last season’s worlds.

Edmunds tallied 56.31 points Friday, stepping out of the landing of her opening triple-triple jump combination.

Still, she improved on her short program from her earlier event this season, where she scored 49.62 with errors on all of her jumps.

Edmunds, the youngest U.S. Olympic competitor across all sports in Sochi, went 20 months between competitions, missing the entire 2016-17 season due to a bone bruise in her right foot.

She is an underdog to make the three-woman U.S. team for PyeongChang that will be named after nationals in January.

Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva continued her string of underwhelming programs since her 2015 World title. She fell on a triple Axel attempt and singled a Lutz, plummeting to last place of 11 skaters.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Internationaux de France
Women’s Short Program
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 69.05
2. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 67.79
3. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 66.05
9. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 56.31

Short Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 81.40
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 73.55
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 70.02
6. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 60.64

Pairs
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 77.84
2. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 73.18
3. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 70.65
6. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 58.99