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

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
AP
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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
Getty Images
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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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