Kate Hansen

U.S. bobsled, luge, skeleton continue World Cup selection races

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Several Olympic hopefuls took steps toward Sochi on Sunday and Monday.

The biggest strides came in luge in Park City, Utah, where the fall World Cup teams were named following the final selection races Sunday.

Kate Hansen, sliding with a broken bone in her right foot, completed a sweep of the women’s races to boost her chances of making the U.S. Olympic team.

The 2008 world junior champion said she “T-boned” a wall in training Wednesday, saying she cried and it was the hardest crash of her career.

“Obviously, no one wants to break their foot, but I’m capable of things that I never thought I would be capable of,” Hansen said in a USA Luge interview. “Whether or not the Olympics happen or any of this works out, I think I’ve proven some things to myself and some people that I can do it.”

Hansen is joined on the fall World Cup team by 2010 Olympians Erin Hamlin and Julia Clukey and by Summer Britcher. For the men, 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer also swept selection races and is joined by Taylor MorrisJoe Mortensen and Tucker West on the World Cup team.

The doubles World Cup teams are Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall, Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk and Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman.

The first luge World Cup is Nov. 16-17 in Lillehammer, Norway, and USA Luge will name its Olympic team in mid-December. It’s expected to be three women, three men and two doubles teams.

In bobsled, 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steve Holcomb finished a sweep of two-man selection races Sunday night in Park City. Holcomb teamed with Chris Fogt one week after riding with Steve Langton.

Holcomb, who was pre-qualified for the World Cup team, completed two runs in 1 minute, 37.20 seconds. Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson were second (1:37.55), and Cory Butner and Chuck Berkeley were third (1:37.62).

“I know I need to step up my game because the other drivers are stepping up theirs,” Holcomb said, according to a U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation press release. “This is shaping up to be a solid team trials. We’ve been analyzing the new BMW sleds and making some changes along the way, and hopefully we’ll have it all figured out so we’re ready to go even faster by the time we’re back here for the World Cup.”

It marked the same order of pilot finishes as the first set of selection races in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Oct. 12, leaving a clear picture for three likely U.S. Olympic spots.

The bobsled selection races will finish in Park City on Friday and Saturday with the final women’s race and the men’s four-man races. The national team for upcoming World Cup races will be named Oct. 27. The first World Cup is Nov. 30 in Calgary.

In skeleton, Noelle Pikus-Pace and Matthew Antoine won the first of four national team selection races in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Monday.

Pikus-Pace, the 2013 world silver medalist and a 2010 Olympian, posted runs of 56.80 and 56.45 seconds to finish a comfortable 0.92 seconds ahead of second-place Annie O’Shea in 1:53.25.

“The first week back is always a little nerve-racking,” Pikus-Pace said, according to a USBSF press release. “We are off of the ice for six months, so everyone is anxious to see where they stack up and where off-season training has put them. It’s nice to get the first trips down the track out of the way so we can all look forward to the competitions. After 10 years of sliding, it comes back pretty quickly, but I still feel the butterflies the beginning of each new season.”

Antoine clocked times of 54.81 and 55.20 for a total of 1:50.01, .96 ahead of second-place John Daly, a 2010 Olympian. He feels better after a 2012-13 season hampered by recovery from knee surgery.

“I’ve had one focus and one goal, which was to get back to where I was physically and to get my head back into the game, and I’ve kept my head down working towards that,” Antoine said. “I’ve worked on getting faster and stronger, and never doubted my sliding ability. I want to be my best in Sochi. Last year didn’t go well for me and part of me feels like I’m undervalued heading into the season. Now I can concentrate on the task at hand and continue to get even better.”

Athletes will continue races for 11 national team spots (six men, five women) on Tuesday morning with the second of four runs. Pikus-Pace, 2012 world champion Katie Uhlaender and Daly have byes onto the national team.

Holcomb describes the art of bobsledding

Brigid Kosgei, Eliud Kipchoge herald new era of fast marathons

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Eliud Kipchoge‘s success in breaking the two-hour mark (final time: 1:59:40) for the marathon on Saturday was expected. He had come close before, and like Alex Honnold‘s unprecedented climb of El Capitan documented in the film Free Solo, the feat required meticulous planning — the ideal mix of pace-setters, course conditions and weather — to steer a once-in-a-lifetime talent to a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

Brigid Kosgei‘s world record at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday was a far greater surprise. Kosgei had run fast times before, but her time of 2:14:04 took more than four minutes off her personal best earlier this year in London, which is typically a faster race than Chicago.

MORE: Chicago Marathon results

The two feats had some common threads. Both runners are Kenyan, no surprise in an event in which the top 100 men’s performances of all time are almost exclusively Kenyan and Ethiopian and the top of the women’s all-time list is similarly homogeneous aside from the presence of British runner Paula Radcliffe, whose time of 2:15:25 had stood as the world record for 16 1/2 years until Sunday. Radcliffe was present in Chicago to greet Kosgei when her record fell.

Kipchoge and Kosgei also wore the same shoes, Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, thanks to Kosgei’s last-minute decision to switch. Earlier versions of those shoes, like the high-tech swimsuits that were eventually banned from competition or golf equipment whose advertising revels in their alleged illegality,

Both marathoners also had pace-setters running with them. Kipchoge’s effort took the concept to an extreme, with an all-star cast running pieces of the course in front of him, and will not be considered an official world record because it didn’t happen under race conditions. (The Atlantic ran a piece on the Kipchoge run with the headline “The Greatest, Fakest World Record,” though the piece itself was more inquisitive than judgmental.)

MORE: Kipchoge shakes off nerves to break barrier

Kosgei was running in an actual race and has already had her time touted as a world record by the international organizer IAAF, but because she was running in a mixed-gender race, she was able to run behind two hired guns, Geoffrey Pyego and Daniel Limo. They were easily distinguished from men’s race contenders by the singlets with the word “PACE” written in the space where a number or name would usually go.

But in general, marathoners are simply getting faster and faster. Perhaps it’s scientific, with specifically engineered shoes, pace-setters and refined training methods, or perhaps all the tinkering and lab experiments are simply a sign of increased focus on the race that traces its history to the myth of the Greek soldier Pheidippides running such a great distance to herald a momentous military victory before falling over dead.

Of the top 20 women’s times on the IAAF list, only five were run before 2012 — one by Catherine Ndereba, four by Radcliffe. Three were run in 2017, then six in 2018 (three in Berlin) and four this year. All 20 of the fastest men’s times have been posted this decade, eight of them in 2019 alone. Kipchoge, in addition to his unofficial best from this weekend, has the official record of 2:01:39 from the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

The all-time list also reminds us that, for all the controversy over the context of Kipchoge’s run, marathons aren’t really standard, anyway. Some courses are more difficult than others. Some races, like the Boston Marathon, aren’t eligible for record consideration for a variety of technical reasons. (Boston’s hilly course doesn’t lend itself to fast times, anyway — the men’s course record of 2:03:02, set by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011, would rank seventh all-time, but no other time would crack the top 100. The women’s course record is nowhere near the best ever.) London, Berlin and Dubai are the places to go for assaults on the record book.

No matter where the race takes place or how it was run, fast times in the marathon capture the imagination.

Purists may cling to romantic notions of long-haired, bearded runners pounding the Boston or New York pavement in shoes that didn’t even have a basic level of air cushioning. But the modern marathon era is built for speed.

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Danielle Perkins is first U.S. boxer to win world title in 3 years

Danielle Perkins
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Danielle Perkins became the U.S.’ first world champion boxer in this Olympic cycle, taking the heavyweight crown in Russia on Sunday.

Perkins, a 37-year-old who played college basketball at George Mason and St. John’s, improved from bronze in 2018 to earn her first world title, blanking defending world champion Yang Xiaoli of China 5-0 in Sunday’s final.

Video of the bout is here.

Perkins was slated to fight Yang in the 2018 World semifinals but withdrew due to medical reasons, according to USA Boxing.

The heavyweight division is 81+kg, but the heaviest Olympic weight division is capped at 75kg.

The last American to earn a world title was Claressa Shields in 2016, before she repeated as Olympic champion in Rio and moved to the professional ranks.

The Olympic trials are in December in Louisiana, after which winners will fight internationally in early 2020 in bids to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

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MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA