Gwen Jorgensen’s record winning streak snapped

Gwen Jorgensen
Getty Images
0 Comments

When Gwen Jorgensen‘s run was over, her run was over.

Jorgensen’s record winning streak of 13 top-level international triathlons was snapped emphatically in Gold Coast, Australia, on Saturday.

The favorite in Rio to become the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion lost for the first time since April 26, 2014.

Jorgensen finished second in her first World Series race since Sept. 18, a distant 41 seconds behind Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins after nearly two hours of racing Down Under.

“Helen was really strong today,” Jorgensen said in exhaustion shortly afterward. “She was the better athlete.”

Jorgensen had always been the better athlete — far and away, in some cases — for nearly the last two years.

But on Saturday, she found herself in unfamiliar territory after the 1500m swim and 40km bike going into the final 10km run.

Jorgensen was 1 minute, 32 seconds behind a leading group of Jenkins, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt and Bermuda’s Flora Duffy.

During her streak, Jorgensen had been known to erase deficits of one minute, or slightly more, on the run, her strongest of the three triathlon disciplines. But never had she faced a gap that wide.

It was too much.

“I missed that [breakaway bike] pack,” Jorgensen said. “I wasn’t up far enough, made a mistake and wasn’t strong enough, and that was the race.”

Jenkins broke free from the three-woman lead group almost immediately on the run and gave up just five seconds to Jorgensen in the first 5km.

Jorgensen caught Duffy and Hewitt on the last of four 2.5km laps, outsprinting Hewitt to the finish line by two seconds. She made up 46 seconds on Jenkins on the final 5km but was never within striking distance of the Brit.

“I can’t quite believe it,” Jenkins said. “But the whole time I’m waiting for Gwen. You can never underestimate how quick Gwen’s running.”

Jenkins, the 2011 World champion, won her first World Series race since May 11, 2012.

She went nearly 18 months between races after a disappointing fifth-place finish at the London Olympics. Jenkins, 32, contemplated retirement while sidelined by injury. She’s been hampered by back, ankle, knee and foot problems the last four years.

Jenkins’ victory could prove vital for her Rio Olympic team hopes.

Two of Great Britain’s three Olympic team members had already been named — Non Stanford and Vicky Holland — and another Brit, Jodie Stimpson, had won the season-opening race in Abu Dhabi on March 5 (which Jorgensen skipped).

As for Jorgensen, shedding the winning streak before the Olympics may actually be a positive. It’s a traditional debate in sports whether that kind of streak, and the pressure that rides with it, can be a burden going into a championship.

“She doesn’t need to prove herself now,” 2008 Olympic champion Emma Frodeno said on the Gold Coast broadcast. “She’s still thinking about August. … This could be the best thing that could happen to her, unfortunately for the other athletes.”

Jorgensen’s streak of 13 straight top-level triathlons, and 12 straight in World Series competition, ends as the longest in history.

Pre-World Series, Australian Emma Carney and Portugal’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 Series continues in two weeks in Cape Town, South Africa.

MORE: Jorgensen: I debated quitting triathlon in 2014

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!