Elana Meyers

Elana Meyers, Lolo Jones second in Winterberg bobsled

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Elana Meyers and Lolo Jones improved mightily in their second run, jumping from fifth to finish second, one-hundredth of a second behind, in a bobsled World Cup race in Winterberg, Germany, on Sunday.

Germany’s Sandra Kiriasis won with a two-run time of 1 minute, 55.41 seconds, one day after her 39th birthday. Kiriasis, a two-time Olympic medalist, is the most decorated women’s bobsledder in the sport’s short history.

The Olympic bronze medalist Meyers followed in 1:55.42 and continued her streak of top-two finishes with her fifth straight this season to keep the World Cup overall lead. Meyers and Jones were fifth after the first run but had the fastest second run.

“I feel good with the outcome, but I don’t feel great about my performance,” Meyers said, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “I watched my runs after the race and realized that no one had perfect runs today, so it made me feel a little better. I’m still not happy with my runs, but I’m definitely satisfied with a medal.”

Their faster start run can be attributed to their start time, the part of the race where the push athlete has the biggest impact. They were 5.64 on their start in the first run and 5.52 in their second.

Meyers took the blame for the slow start in the first run.

“We like to live on the edge, keep everybody on the edge of their seats,” said Meyers, who teamed with Jones on USA-1 for the first time this season. “We had a little slip-up at the beginning of the first run. I didn’t run further enough, and she followed me. It caused us to drop some time, but we came back the second one.”

Another American led after the first run. Jamie Greubel was attempting to win her first World Cup race but fell to fourth with the top U.S. push athlete, Aja Evans.

The third U.S. sled — Jazmine Fenlator and three-time Olympic sprinter Lauryn Williams — was ninth.

Evans is expected to team with Meyers at the Sochi Olympics. It’s a bit up in the air for Olympic selection after that. Greubel’s normal push athlete, Katie Eberling, sat out Sunday’s race. Jones, Williams and 2010 Olympian Emily Azevedo are in the running, too.

The women’s bobsled World Cup continues in St. Moritz, Switzerland, next week. The Olympic Team will be announced following the World Cup stop in Igls, Austria, in two weeks.

“Lolo definitely showed her fight by dropping a few hundredths in the second heat,” Meyers said. “Coming back and doing that is impressive. I felt better about my drive, but I still have a lot of room to gain time on these tracks.”

Winterberg Two-Woman
1. Sandra Kiriasis/Franziska Fritz (GER) 1:55.41
2. Elana Meyers/Lolo Jones (USA) 1:55.42
3. Anja Schneiderheinze/Stephanie Schneider (GER) 1:55.48
4. Jamie Greubel/Aja Evans (USA) 1:55.52
9. Jazmine Fenlator/Lauryn Williams (USA) 1:56.09

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Lizzy Yarnold, double Olympic skeleton champion, retires

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Lizzy Yarnold, the 2014 and 2018 Olympic skeleton champion for Great Britain, has retired from the sport.

“I have lived out my dream and achieved far more than I ever thought possible in my 10 years in the sport,” Yarnold said, according to the Guardian. “but it’s time to move on. I am ready for a fresh challenge.”

Yarnold, 29, became the first Brit to earn multiple Olympic titles with her repeat gold in PyeongChang in February — and the first skeleton slider with two golds.

“At PyeongChang I didn’t want to go into the race thinking about retiring, and then afterwards I didn’t want to make the decision for the wrong reason, in rash emotion,” Yarnold said, according to the Telegraph. “So now when I’ve gone through all this rehab for the past six months [plus July back surgery], I’m retiring for the right reasons — not through injury, not for a bad competition, or any other reason but because I love the sport, and I’ve loved 10 years of it, but I think I’m ready.”

Yarnold bowing out further boosts 23-year-old German Jacqueline Lölling‘s hopes for a third straight World Cup season title and repeat world title this winter. Lölling and 30-year-old Brit Laura Deas took silver and bronze in South Korea behind Yarnold, who erased a .02 deficit to Austrian Janine Flock with a track record on her fourth and final run.

Yarnold’s chief rival leading into her first Olympics in Sochi in 2014 was the now-retired Noelle Pikus-Pace, one of the great American stories of those Games.

Yarnold dominated in Russia with the fastest run all four times down the track. Pikus-Pace, a mother of two, came out of a two-year retirement in 2012 and grabbed silver, four years after missing bronze in Vancouver by one tenth of a second.

Yarnold also earned a World Cup season title in 2014 and a world championship in 2015.

Great Britain, not a winter sports power, earned at least one medal in evrey Olympic women’s skeleton competition — Alex Coomber took bronze in 2002, Shelley Rudman silver in 2006 and Amy Williams gold in 2010.

“That feeling when you leave the changing room, walk out to the start block, with your jacket done up and your salopettes on and crash helmet in hand — a feeling of almost growing two inches taller because of being empowered, feeling in control,” Yarnold said, according to the Telegraph, “there’s something so magical about that, so I will miss that. But it’s also really tiring.”

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Loena Hendrickx on the rise, making Grand Prix debut at Skate America

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Belgian teenager Loena Hendrickx made her Winter Olympic debut in PyeongChang, and began her short program with the aim of becoming the first from her country to qualify for a ladies’ singles free skate since Katrien Pauwels in 1988.

Fresh off a 14th place finish in the men’s event, brother Jorik sat in the stands. He looked away as the music – a cool arrangement of Madonna’s “Frozen” – began, and covered his eyes as the 18-year-old set up for a planned triple lutz, triple toe combination.

Eight years younger than her two-time Olympian elder brother, Hendrickx knew the feeling.

“I get nervous when he competes, too,” she explained after winning a bronze medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy, an ISU Challenger Series event. “I might be even more nervous watching him than when I have to skate myself, because I don’t know how he’s feeling on the ice, and I can’t control his skate.”

She ultimately landed the combination – albeit under-rotated – and bested Pauwels’ result from Calgary by one place, finishing 16th overall. Even stronger skates were to come at the world championships in Milan, where she beat reigning Olympic champion Alina Zagitova in the free skate to earn a Top 10 total score and qualify for her first-ever Grand Prix events in the upcoming season.

“I’m very excited because that’s something you wish for. The first one is immediately in Skate America, so it’s very exciting. I’ve never been to the States before!”

Jorik was initially scheduled to skate alongside his sister at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash., but opted to withdraw and spend the start of the season working with other athletes, including Loena.

“He is working with me sometimes. I really can learn a lot from him because he has the knowledge and experience. I think he can teach me a lot.”

While the siblings work primarily with coach Carine Herrygers, Jorik assisted Loena in selecting her “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” short program music, another ’90s hit by Céline Dion.

“I really liked my program [“The Prayer” by Dion and Josh Groban] from two years ago, and so I think I chose the same style. I researched more of her music, and it was my brother who found this song. I didn’t like it at the beginning because I had another song I liked more.

“In the end, Jorik convinced me to take this one because it’s more powerful and I can skate better to powerful music.”

Hendrickx debuted the program in Oberstdorf, earning personal best scores to make the podium alongside Zagitova and Mai Mihara. More importantly, she achieved her pre-season goal of landing the lutz-toe combination – with positive Grades of Execution – in both phases of the competition.

While most of her competitors made waves as juniors, the Belgian struggled with multiple injuries – a 2016 stress fracture in her back, later a bone bruise on her landing knee – that kept her from eliciting the buzz many top skaters get on the Junior Grand Prix.

“After I healed, I was very happy to begin building back up again. For a long time, I worked on my fitness to make my back and body stronger. That made my jumps stronger and helped me perform better, more consistently.”

In a field that includes two-time world medalist Satoko Miyahara and U.S. national champion Bradie Tennell, Hendrickx heads to Skate America armed with a competitive technical arsenal, and a dose of inspiration imparted by her brother on the ice.

“In Belgium, there are fewer opportunities to be successful when you’re younger because it’s very difficult to combine skating with school. Jorik taught me that you never have to give up on your dreams. If you work hard, you’ll see where you can go.”

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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