Lolo Jones
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Lolo Jones sets return to track, bobsled after latest surgery

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NEW YORK — Twice in 2015, Lolo Jones thought her track and field career might be over.

First, when she fought last spring to clock 12.8 seconds in 100m hurdles races, following November 2014 shoulder surgery.

“Normally I can close my eyes and run 12.6, 12.7,” Jones, 33 and one of 10 Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, said while in Manhattan on Tuesday, promoting Orangetheory Fitness. “I was like literally, all-out fighting for 12.8s. I was like what the hell is going on? That’s when I started to hit the panic.”

Her coach assessed video but couldn’t find any technique problems. Doctors and physical therapists took a look at her. Nobody had a solution but to keep running.

So Jones did, except it felt like she raced all season with “a flat tire.”

“At that point, as an athlete, you have to think, OK, well am I done?” said Jones, who has constantly dealt with injuries since transitioning back to track and field from bobsled after the Sochi 2014 Olympics. “Maybe I really burned myself out by doing two sports. Maybe that’s all I had in the tank.”

In late spring, Jones began feeling pain in her upper trail leg as it flopped over 33-inch hurdles in races. She knew it wasn’t a torn hamstring — Jones has suffered six to eight of those — so she worked more on hip strength, thinking that part of her body was weak.

At the U.S. Championships in June, Jones hit two hurdles and walked off out of lane eight halfway through the 100m hurdles final. The top three finishers made the World Championships team. Jones, who was 10th overall in the semifinals, ended her season soon after Nationals.

She briefly returned to bobsled training in September, hopeful that the previous month off would have healed her hip. But she still felt pain pushing sleds and decided then to get an MRI.

It turned out that Jones had another torn labrum, this time in her left hip.

“When they told me I needed surgery, it was almost as if somebody told me my career was over,” she said. “I knew how long it took me to recover from my shoulder [November 2014 torn labrum surgery], and I couldn’t lift weights until March [2015]. That puts you too much in the hole.”

Jones was on a bike six hours after the Oct. 15 surgery, posting Instagram video but leaving out the part where she almost passed out from over-exertion.

She then visited the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs for the first time in an 11-year post-collegiate career and took full advantage.

Three workouts per day. The first set included somebody else slowly moving her left leg for 30 minutes at a time. On crutches, Jones asked other athletes to carry her lunch and dinner trays at the on-campus cafeteria. Appointment after appointment with recovery and rehab specialists.

Jones learned she had allergies to eggs, potatoes and Bordeaux, her arthritic 11-year-old silver Weimaraner with a Twitter account.

“I can have a dog around, I just can’t pet it,” she said. Bordeaux will live with Jones’ mom until after the Rio Olympics.

The accelerated recovery led Jones to hurdle for the first time in December and schedule two races already this month — despite doctors telling her in the fall that she wouldn’t be able to compete until the spring.

She might show up at the U.S. Indoor Championships and World Indoor Championships in March, both in Portland, Ore.

She’s returned quicker to running from a hip surgery than from a shoulder surgery.

“Which is crazy,” Jones said.

The focus is on July and the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., where Jones is set to line up in arguably the deepest event in U.S. track and field.

The 18 fastest 100m hurdles times in the world last year were shared by five Americans, though the U.S. was shockingly shut out of the medals at the World Championships. Jones was the eighth-fastest American in 2015 while running with that flat tire.

Regardless of if Jones can make her third Summer Olympic team by placing top-three at trials, she still has designs on making her second Winter Olympic team in 2018.

Jones said she plans to compete in bobsled in the 2016-17 season, which begins three months after the Rio Games, with an eye on the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games.

Jones said she’s not worn down by age and surgeries as much as her well-known Olympic finals, hitting the penultimate hurdle while leading at Beijing 2008 and taking fourth at London 2012.

“Not the injuries so much as coming so close to a medal,” she said. “That’s energy-depleting.”

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

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