Julia Clukey

Julia Clukey misses U.S. Olympic Luge Team

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The best U.S. women’s luger from the last World Cup season will not go to the Olympics.

Julia Clukey, who ranked sixth in the 2012-13 World Cup standings, was beaten out for the final U.S. Olympic Team spot by 19-year-old U.S. junior champion Summer Britcher on Friday night, USA Luge confirmed.

U.S. Olympic qualification for luge is done via a tier system with three women making the team for Sochi.

Tier one is a top-five result on the World Cup tour this season. Erin Hamlin achieved that last week and booked her third Olympic berth. Kate Hansen also earned that Friday night in Park City, Utah, by finishing fourth.

Tier two is two top-nine results on the World Cup tour this season. Nobody other than Hamlin or Hansen had achieved that going into Park City’s race Friday night. Britcher had one eighth-place finish in Igls, Austria, three weeks ago. Clukey had zero top-nine finishes.

Britcher was in fourth place after the first of two runs Friday. Clukey was in eighth. If the standings held after the second and final run, Britcher would make the Olympic team over Clukey.

They didn’t hold, but Britcher still barely hung on. Britcher finished ninth for her second top-nine finish to achieve tier two status. Clukey finished sixth. If she had finished fifth, she would have earned tier one status and leaped past Britcher for an Olympic spot.

Hansen and Britcher both made their first Olympic teams.

The two U.S. Olympic doubles teams were also determined Friday. Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall and Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman will go to Sochi.

Mortensen and Griffall earned a spot based on World Cup results. Niccum and Terdiman got in by winning a raceoff, The Associated Press confirmed.

Mortensen and Griffall have led U.S. doubles on the World Cup tour the last two seasons, ranking 10th last year and 10th this season going into Park City. They were ninth in Friday’s race.

It will be the first Olympic appearance for Mortensen, 28, and the second for Griffall, 29. Griffall took eighth in 2006 with Dan Joye.

Niccum and Terdiman were the top U.S. doubles team in 2011-12, ranking seventh on the World Cup circuit. They missed nearly all of last season after Niccum tore an Achilles tendon.

Niccum, 35, is going to his third Olympics. He placed 23rd in singles in 2006 and sixth with Joye in doubles in 2010. Terdiman is going to his first Olympics. Terdiman, 24, is an Olympic rookie.

The men’s team will include Chris Mazdzer. The other two U.S. spots will be determined after race results Saturday.

Park City World Cup

Women
1. Natalie Geisenberger (GER) 1:27.628
2. Anke Wischnewski (GER) 1:27.821
3. Alex Gough (CAN) 1:27.889
4. Kate Hansen (USA) 1:27.929
6. Julia Clukey (USA) 1:28.003
8. Erin Hamlin (USA) 1:28.014
9. Summer Britcher (USA) 1:28.023

Doubles
1. Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (GER) 1:27.326
2. Andreas Lingerer/Wolfgang Lingerer (AUT) 1:27.488
3. Toni Eggert/Sascha Benecken (GER) 1:27.547
9. Matt Mortensen/Preston Griffall (USA) 1:28.080
11. Christian Niccum/Jayson Terdiman (USA) 1:28.153

U.S. breakthrough in skeleton World Cup

Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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