Gwen Jorgensen (barely) extends triathlon streak; Olympic qualifying next

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Gwen Jorgensen had become so dominant this season that in spring World Triathlon Series races she high-fived spectators with her sunglasses resting on her head before crossing the finish line.

Not so in Hamburg, Germany, on Saturday.

The accountant-turned-World champion won her record-extending 11th straight race, but she was tested like never before during an unbeaten run since her last loss April 26, 2014.

Jorgensen trailed in the final half-mile, and, though she retook the lead from Great Britain’s Vicky Holland, she looked over her shoulder in the final sprint and went just about full speed through the finish line.

Jorgensen, with her Oakleys resting on her nose in more traditional fashion this time, crossed in 57 minutes, 8 seconds. Holland was five seconds behind (full results here). Vincent Luis won the men’s race, becoming the first French athlete to take a World Triathlon Series title.

Jorgensen had won her previous 10 straight races all by at least six seconds, the largest by 1 minute, 38 seconds. This was unfamiliar territory.

“A lot was going through my head,” Jorgensen said of the duel with Holland in a finish-area broadcast interview, a few minutes before being handed a large glass of beer on the podium that she took a sip of and then poured on the second- and third-place finishers. “I was like, when do I kick? What do I do? Is she going to kick first? Yeah, she really pushed me.

“I could feel her there on my shoulder.”

Jorgensen, who finished 38th in her Olympic debut in 2012, her hopes punctured by a flat tire, was eight seconds behind after the 750m swim in Hamburg and four seconds back after the 20km bike. Her strength is the run, and Jorgensen proved it again by outdistancing Brits Holland and third-place Non Stanford after 5km. Though Holland proved pesky, even leading Jorgensen (by no more than a stride) late in the race.

Holland was asked her thoughts on possibly being in a position to beat Jorgensen.

“I thought I had a chance of getting closer, maybe, than anyone has done yet this year,” Holland said. “You can’t underestimate Gwen. She’s unbeaten at the moment.”

Americans Sarah True and Katie Zaferes were fourth and sixth, respectively, as they continued to show Olympic medal-prospect form.

Jorgensen notched her 14th career win in 30 World Triathlon Series starts, extending the longest men’s or women’s win streak in series history.

Pre-WTS, Australian Emma Carney and Portugual’s Vanessa Fernandes were unbeaten across 12 straight International Triathlon Union World Cup races, but they lost separate World Championships races during those streaks.

The World Triathlon Series continues in Stockholm from Aug. 22-23.

More importantly for Jorgensen, she next heads to Rio de Janeiro for the ITU World Olympic Qualification Event on Aug. 2. The top two U.S. finishers in the top eight overall automatically earn a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.

Jorgensen’s bike helmet includes Paul Bunyan, Bucky Badger

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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