Katie Uhlaender, skeleton World champion, becomes track cyclist

Katie Uhlaender

Katie Uhlaender, a three-time Winter Olympian and 2012 World champion in skeleton, plans to compete at the U.S. Championships in track cycling in August.

Uhlaender, who entered the 2012 U.S. Olympic weightlifting trials but didn’t make that team, began serious track cycling training in January. She plans to make her competitive debut in the sport at Nationals in Carson, Calif., in three months.

“The whole thing seems sort of crazy,” Uhlaender, a 30-year-old who slid at the last three Winter Olympics with three different hairstyle colors, said in a phone interview Friday.

On Feb. 14, 2014, Uhlaender finished fourth in skeleton at the Sochi Olympics, missing her first Olympic medal by .04 of a second in combined time over four runs. She competed with hip and ankle injuries that would require surgery and following a preseason concussion.

After Sochi, Uhlaender underwent surgery on her left hip, which had bothered her since 2010. She planned to return to skeleton last fall, but then came the left ankle surgery in September to shore up a problem area since 2005.

Uhlaender announced she would miss the 2014-15 skeleton season and rehabbed at a U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she started doing stationary bike work. A professional cyclist there noticed Uhlaender’s wattage statistics and suggested she give the sport a try.

Uhlaender, though, had decided to move to Texas, without a job lined up, and share a bed separated by a pillow named Berry with her best friend. She learned a velodrome was nearby, so Uhlaender decided to continue cycling.

“The worst that could happen is I fail,” Uhlaender said. “I thought, I’m kind of chubby from two surgeries and not [skeleton] training. I feel like it would be more of an insult to deny the opportunity. I’m established as a skeleton athlete. For me to go ride a bike when I can’t slide anyways, this is perfect cross training until my ankle’s ready.”

Uhlaender rides on a borrowed green 1992 Cannondale bike nicknamed Dumpster that she renamed Oscar, in honor of the “Sesame Street” character Oscar the Grouch of the same color.

“It’s refreshing to do something when I can’t go sledding 90 miles per hour head first,” she said.

USA Cycling invited Uhlaender to take part in a camp in Colorado Springs in April, she said..

“They thought I had really great potential,” Uhlaender said.

Track cycling, where riders compete on 250-meter wooden ovals banked up to 45 degrees with one gear and no brakes, includes several disciplines.

Uhlaender is focused on one of them — the team sprint. The women’s team sprint, which debuted at the Olympics in 2012, includes two cyclists from one nation racing two laps in about 33 seconds. One rider peels off after the first lap, with the second rider’s time crossing the finish after two laps as the nation’s overall result.

“For the first 125 meters, I was competitive,” Uhlaender said of her performance at the USA Cycling camp. “The issue is I’m going from doing a five-second sprint [on the ice at the start of a skeleton race, running and then jumping onto the sled] to a 19-second sprint [the time it takes to do one lap in the velodrome].”

Uhlaender, boosted by her skeleton and weightlifting careers, believes she has the strength to contend as that first-lap rider with more seasoning, to become competitive with national-level cyclists for 19 seconds.

“I don’t think there’s many women more powerful than me,” said Uhlaender, who clean and jerked 216 pounds at the 2012 U.S. Olympic weightlifting trials in the 127-pound weight class and failed in all three attempts to snatch between 175 and 180 pounds.

Uhlaender said she was seeking a partner to compete with at the U.S. Championships in August.

It’s very possible the U.S. will not qualify a berth in the team sprint at the Rio 2016 Olympics. It did not qualify for the London 2012 Games, which included 10 nations. It is currently ranked No. 18 in the world by the International Cycling Union. Nine nations will qualify for Rio 2016 based on the rankings next Feb. 29.

After Uhlaender finished fourth in Sochi, she saw Dan Jansen, the speed skater who missed Olympic medals in 1984, 1988 and 1992 before winning gold in world-record fashion in his final Olympic race in 1994. Jansen told Uhlaender his story of enduring defeat and tragedy (his sister died of leukemia the day of his first race at the 1988 Olympics).

Uhlaender asked Jansen how he persevered for so long.

“He said, don’t think about it as four years or the overwhelming goal at the end,” Uhlaender said. “Just focus on each day and each step.”

Uhlaender plans to continue skeleton. Even if she impresses at the U.S. Championships in August and continues competing in track cycling in the fall, she wants to also compete on the 2015-16 World Cup skeleton tour this fall and winter.

She plans to retire from skeleton after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, which could be her fourth Olympics.

Watch: Noelle Pikus-Pace shares skeleton stories in emotional TEDx Talk

Ryan Crouser breaks world record in shot put at Los Angeles Grand Prix


Two-time Olympic champion Ryan Crouser registered one of the greatest performances in track and field history, breaking his world record and throwing three of the six farthest shot puts of all time at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on Saturday.

Crouser unleashed throws of 23.56 meters, 23.31 and 23.23 at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. His previous world record from the Tokyo Olympic Trials was 23.37. He now owns the top four throws in history, and the 23.23 is tied for the fifth-best throw in history.

“The best thing is I’m still on high volume [training], heavy throws in the ring and heavy weights in the weight room, so we’re just starting to work in some speed,” the 6-foot-7 Crouser, who is perfecting a new technique coined the “Crouser slide,” told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Sha’Carri Richardson won her 100m heat in 10.90 seconds into a slight headwind, then did not start the final about 90 minutes later due to cramping, Johnson said. Richardson is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100m in 2023 (10.76) and No. 2 in the 200m (22.07).

Jamaican Ackeem Blake won the men’s 100m in a personal best 9.89 seconds. He now ranks third in the world this year behind Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala and American Fred Kerley, who meet in the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday (2-4 p.m. ET, CNBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock).

The next major meet is the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in early July, when the top three in most individual events qualify for August’s world championships.

Richardson will bid to make her first global championships team, two years after having her Olympic Trials win stripped for testing positive for marijuana and one year after being eliminated in the first round of the 100m at USATF Outdoors.

LA GRAND PRIX: Full Results

Also Saturday, Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico won the 100m hurdles in 12.31, the fastest time ever this early in a year. Nigerian Tobi Amusan, who at last July’s worlds lowered the world record to 12.12, was eighth in the eight-woman field in 12.69.

Maggie Ewen upset world champion Chase Ealey in the shot put by throwing 20.45 meters, upping her personal best by more than three feet. Ewen went from 12th-best in American history to third behind 2016 Olympic champion Michelle Carter and Ealey.

Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic ran the fastest women’s 400m since the Tokyo Olympics, clocking 48.98 seconds. Paulino is the Olympic and world silver medalist. Olympic and world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas is on a maternity break.

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy won the 800m in 1:44.75, beating a field that included most of the top Americans in the event. Notably absent was 2019 World champion Donovan Brazier, who hasn’t raced since July 20 of last year amid foot problems.

CJ Allen won the 400m hurdles in a personal best 47.91, consolidating his argument as the second-best American in the event behind Olympic and world silver medalist Rai Benjamin, who withdrew from the meet earlier this week.

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Primoz Roglic set to win Giro d’Italia over Geraint Thomas

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 20
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Primož Roglič all but secured the Giro d’Italia title on Saturday by overtaking leader Geraint Thomas on the penultimate stage despite having a mechanical problem on the mountain time trial.

Roglič started the stage 26 seconds behind Thomas — who was trying to become the oldest Giro champion in history — but finished the route 40 seconds quicker than the British cyclist after the demanding climb of the Monte Lussari.

That saw Roglič move into the leader’s pink jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Thomas going into the race’s mainly ceremonial final stage.

Roglič was cheered on all the way by thousands of fans from just across the border to his native Slovenia. They packed the slopes of the brutal ascent up Monte Lussari, which had an elevation of more than 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

The 33-year-old Roglič celebrated at the end with his wife and son, who was wearing a replica of the pink jersey.

“Just something amazing, eh? It’s not at the end about the win itself, but about the people, and the energy here, so incredible, really moments to live and to remember,” said Roglič, who had tears in his eyes during the post-stage television interview, which he did with his son in his arms.

It will be a fourth Grand Tour victory for Roglič, who won the Spanish Vuelta three years in a row from 2019-2021

Roglič also almost won the Tour de France in 2020, when he was leading going into another mountain time trial on the penultimate stage. But that time it was Roglič who lost time and the race to compatriot Tadej Pogačar in one of the most memorable upsets in a Grand Tour in recent years.

It appeared as if the Jumbo-Visma cyclist’s hopes were evaporating again when he rode over a pothole about halfway through the brutal climb up Monte Lussari and his chain came off, meaning he had to quickly change bicycles.

His teammates and staff had their hands over their heads in disbelief.

Despite that setback, Roglič — who had been 16 seconds ahead of Thomas at the previous intermediate time check — went on to increase his advantage.

“I dropped the chain, I mean it’s part of it,” he said. “But I got started again and I just went … I had the legs, the people gave me extra (energy).”

The 33-year-old Roglič won the stage ahead of Thomas. Joao Almeida was third, 42 seconds slower.

For Thomas, his bad luck at the Giro continued. In 2017, he was involved in a crash caused by a police motorbike, and three years later he fractured his hip after a drinks bottle became lodged under his wheel – being forced to abandon both times.

Thomas turned 37 on Thursday. The Ineos Grenadiers cyclist had seemed poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history — beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

“I could feel my legs going about a kilometer and a half from the top. I just didn’t feel I had that real grunt,” Thomas said. “I guess it’s nice to lose by that much rather than a second or two, because that would be worse I think.

“At least he smashed me and to be honest Primoz deserves that. He had a mechanical as well, still put 40 seconds into me so chapeau to him. If you’d told me this back in (February), March, I would have bit your hand off but now I’m devastated.”

Thomas and Roglič exchanged fist bumps as they waited their turn to ride down the ramp at the start of the 11.6-mile time trial.

The Giro will finish in Rome on Sunday, with 10 laps of a seven-mile circuit through the streets of the capital, taking in many of its historic sites.

“One more day to go, one more focus, because I think the lap is quite hard, technical. So it’s not over til it’s finished,” Roglič said. “But looks good, voila.”

The route will pass by places such as the Altare della Patria, the Capitoline Hill, the Circus Maximus and finish at the Imperial Forums, in the shadow of the Colosseum.

The Tour de France starts July 1, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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