Estonia Olympic marathon triplets: ‘It would be great to finish together’

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TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Fans at the Rio Olympics will be seeing not just double, but triple in the women’s marathon when identical triplets race together for the first time.

Calling themselves the “Trio to Rio” and sporting identical uniforms and blonde ponytails, Estonians Leila, Lily and Liina Luik are used to spectators and officials mixing them up when they’re competing.

“They don’t know who is who,” Lily said. “Commentators see one of us is coming, and the other is a little bit later, and then comes the third one. It’s like: ‘So fast, you are already here.'”

The triplets joked among themselves and finished sentences during an interview with The Associated Press at a track in Estonia’s capital. Asked how they decided to turn pro and try for the Olympics, Liina and Lily answered in unison “together.”

Twins are not uncommon in the history of the Olympics, which has many tales of sporting families. But triplets are a first, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon, who keeps a database of athletes.

The 30-year-old sisters are from the medieval city of Tartu, and they only turned pro at the relatively late age of 24. They don’t come from an athletic family.

Keen to play outside from a young age, they took up distance running because “we feel the nature vibe,” Liina said.

Lily said jokingly that the marathon is an “easier” way to travel than hiking.

Whether training or racing, the triplets have a relentless competitive drive and family solidarity. They want to break each other’s personal best (currently held by Leila) but also race tactically, taking turns at the tiring task of leading the pack and facing greater wind resistance.

“When its hard conditions and someone is little bit behind or weaker, we all push each other — ‘Go, go on, come on, don’t stop,'” said Leila, the oldest. “Together we are like a dream team.”

“If one of us has a bad competition or something, everyone feels that,” Lily said. “Injuries (are) also very bad for us because if one of us couldn’t compete somewhere it’s … not a complete team.”

The sisters are favored to take Estonia’s three qualifying spots for the marathon, but they’re not likely to win a medal since Leila’s best time of 2 hours 37 minutes 11 seconds is almost 15 minutes slower than the Olympic record. There’s a strong tradition of Nordic distance running, especially in Estonia’s neighbor Finland, but African countries are the undisputed leaders of the modern marathon.

Still, spirits are high for the “Trio to Rio.”

“The nervousness hasn’t come to us,” Lily said. “Definitely, it would be great to finish all together. It would be difficult, but we try it.”

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Justin Schoenefeld gets U.S.’ first men’s aerials World Cup win in 4 years

Justin Schoenefeld
U.S. Ski & Snowboard
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Justin Schoenefeld ended a four-year U.S. men’s aerials drought with his first World Cup win Saturday in Belarus.

Schoenfeld, 21, hit a double full-full-full in the super final to beat a field that included world champion Maxim Burov of Russia. Burov was fourth, one spot behind another American, Chris Lillis. Full results are here.

“I’m pretty speechless right now,” Schoenefeld said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I’m just shocked. It just all came so quick, all of a sudden the two finals were over, and I was on top of the podium. I probably landed two of my training jumps yesterday, but I managed to land all of my comp jumps down to my feet.”

Schoenefeld’s best previous World Cup finish was fourth, in Belarus last season.

Lillis earned the U.S.’ last World Cup men’s aerials victory on Feb. 20, 2016, also in Belarus. The four-year gap between wins marked the longest for the U.S. men since aerials was added as an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Schoenefeld also became the first American of either gender to win a World Cup aerials event in two years, since Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018. That gap was the longest for the U.S. since 2005.

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MORE: Olympic aerials champion retires to coach

Kaillie Humphries wins bobsled world title in first season for U.S.

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Two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries won a bobsled world title in her first season since switching allegiance from Canada to the U.S., ending recent German dominance.

Humphries, with brakewoman Lauren Gibbs, edged German junior world champ Kim Kalicki by .37 of a second combining times from four runs between Friday and Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.

“I love this track. It’s very challenging, one of the hardest in the world,” Humphries said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “It demands a lot of focus, a lot of respect every minute you’re on that track. So to be able to win here, I know the Germans and the spectators, everybody, have worked so hard and this week, no exceptions. I’m proud of all of the girls.”

Canadian Christine de Bruin took bronze for a second straight year. Full results are here.

Humphries, who married a former U.S. bobsledder, was released by Canada in September after filing verbal abuse and harassment claims against a coach, saying she no longer felt safe with the program. As a Canadian, Humphries won 2010 and 2014 Olympic titles, plus 2012 and 2013 World titles.

Humphries joined German Sandra Kiriasis as the only female drivers to win three world titles. She is already the only female driver with multiple Olympic titles.

German Mariama Jamanka, the reigning Olympic champion and defending world champion, finished fourth in Altenberg.

Triple U.S. Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor didn’t compete as she sits out the season due to pregnancy. Meyers Taylor and Gibbs teamed for silver in PyeongChang.

The world championships continue Sunday with the conclusion of the two-man competition. German Francesco Friedrich, eyeing his sixth straight world title, leads after the first two of four runs.

A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

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