Mac Bohonnon, Kiley McKinnon, Ashley Caldwell

U.S. aerialists, elementary school classmates, sweep World Cup titles

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Mac Bohonnon and Kiley McKinnon, who once shared a first-grade classroom, now share the title of World Cup aerials champion.

The freestyle skiers clinched the crystal globes in Minsk, Belarus, last weekend.

The last time a U.S. aerialist claimed a World Cup season title was the late Olympic silver medalist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson in 2005.

The last time U.S. aerialists claimed both men’s and women’s titles was 1995, when World champion Trace Worthington and 1998 Olympic champion Nikki Stone swept.

Bohonnon and McKinnon shared not only Island Avenue Elementary School in Madison, Conn., growing up but also the same feeling of surprise for capturing the crowns last weekend.

“If we had this conversation in November or December, I definitely would not have told you that I thought this was possible,” Bohonnon said.

“I really wasn’t expecting this,” McKinnon said.

Start with Bohonnon, who is 19. He was an upstart qualifier for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team and finished an impressive fifth in Sochi.

Back in October 2011, a U.S. development coach sat Bohonnon down and told him to quit aerials. He hadn’t adjusted well to a growth spurt in this high-flying, flipping and twisting sport and perhaps should return to moguls, which he had grown up doing.

“It was devastating,” Bohonnon said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I thought then and there my aerials career was over.”

Shortly thereafter, 1998 U.S. Olympic champion Eric Bergoust started coaching him and, Bohonnon said, saved his career.

Last season, Bohonnon earned an Olympic spot with his first World Cup podium finish on Jan. 14 in Val St. Come, Canada. The U.S. actually only sent one men’s aerialist to Sochi, due in part to the addition of ski halfpipe and slopestyle, limiting the amount of total freestyle skiers that could be sent to the Olympics.

That meant Dylan Ferguson, the top U.S. men’s aerialist in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 World Cup standings, but who did not make a podium that season, was left out. Ferguson subsequently retired.

“We should have had two [men’s Olympic] spots,” Bohonnon said. “I never doubted myself for a second for why I was there. I was the only guy with a podium that year. … I think this year kind of validates that whole situation, the whole process. I know a lot of people had doubts. I kind of showed up out of nowhere.”

McKinnon also competed in Val St. Come, where she dislocated an elbow to end any hope of joining her first-grade classmate Bohonnon in Sochi.

McKinnon, also 19, said she delayed a transport to a local hospital that day so she could watch the men’s competition. She saw Bohonnon finish second and earn his Olympic berth.

“I was leaving for the hospital, but Mac was taking his final jump,” she said. “I saw him get the second place and immediately left after that.”

This season, Bohonnon and McKinnon both benefited from Chinese stars missing the final two of seven World Cup competitions.

Qi Guangpu, who won the men’s World Championship on Jan. 15, and Xu Mengtao, the Sochi women’s silver medalist, swept the season’s first two World Cups in Beijing, Dec. 20-21.

China sent a B team to the final two World Cups in Moscow and Minsk the last two weekends.

Plus, both 2014 Olympic champions from Belarus, veterans Anton Kushnir and Alla Tsuper, took this season off.

Bohonnon and McKinnon wish they could have competed against the star Chinese and Belarusians all season but felt the absences didn’t diminish their feats.

Bohonnon said he proved himself to be competitive against them last season, finishing second in Val St. Come and fifth at the Olympics. He also beat Qi at a World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Jan. 30.

“Not having them, it’s kind of easy to say it could’ve been different with them here, but I kind of validated it to them a month ago in Lake Placid,” he said.

McKinnon had three second-place finishes this season, plus a Worlds silver, but is still searching for her first World Cup victory.

“This is the generation I was part of in aerials,” McKinnon said of the athletes whom she did defeat. “It would’ve been awesome to compete against them [the Chinese and Belarusians] more, but I think I’m just really happy that I was able to compete with the athletes who are here.”

Bohonnon and McKinnon also benefited from coming up through the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Elite Aerial Development Program, which started in 2008.

The program’s first member, 2010 and 2014 Olympian Ashley Caldwell, roomed with McKinnon this entire season and won the final World Cup to secure second place in the standings.

Bohonnon joined the program after the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and then recruited McKinnon via Facebook Messenger.

“I knew Kylie was a good gymnast and a good skier; it was a no-brainer,” Bohonnon said (Chinese are so good at aerials because they often have a gymnastics background). “Here we are, four years later, both with crystal globes.”

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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