U.S. rowing women's eight
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U.S. Olympic women’s eight rowing team set to be named, eyes extending dynasty

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LUCERNE, Switzerland (AP) — The saying ”don’t change a winning team” doesn’t apply to the U.S. women’s eight, the most successful boat in international rowing.

The Americans have won 10 consecutive world and Olympic titles in the event, a winning streak that is unmatched in most sports but little known outside the rowing world.

The U.S. has dominated the event since 2006 even though coach Tom Terhaar has consistently changed the lineup, moving rowers around the boat or replacing them with others, eager to be part of a seemingly self-perpetuating dynasty.

The competition to make the women’s eight boat is so fierce that even athletes who consistently perform at the highest level know that no one is guaranteed a spot when Terhaar picks his crew for the Olympics on June 20.

”That’s one of the things that feeds into the success of the team,” said Meghan Musnicki, the longest-serving member of the crew, with six Olympic and World Championship gold medals in the event since 2010. ”There’s no room to get comfortable.”

The 34-year-old from Naples, Florida, helped the U.S. boat fight off a late challenge from Great Britain to win a World Cup regatta on May 29 in Lucerne, Switzerland – the last international test for the Americans before Rio.

Of the nine women in the boat (eight rowers plus coxswain Katelin Snyder), five remained from the crew that won gold in last year’s World Championships. Only two, Musnicki and Eleanor Logan, competed in the women’s eight in the previous Summer Games.

”For every kid that’s here we’ve got one who isn’t here who pushes these guys,” Terhaar said, as his rain-soaked crew disassembled the boat on the banks of lake Rotsee in Lucerne. ”So it’s never the same people. It’s always new people.”

Terhaar, who has been in charge of the U.S. women’s team since 2001, said he’s looking for powerful and tall rowers for the eight, the biggest and fastest boat in rowing.

”Our stroke right now is not the tallest kid. But she strikes up a good rhythm,” he said of Amanda Elmore, of West Lafayette, Indiana, who sits closest to the stern. ”So it really depends on the group that you have. You try to play around and find something that works.”

Some teams tend to stick with crews that have performed well in the past. New Zealand’s lineup in Lucerne was identical to the one that finished second behind the Americans in last year’s World Championships.

Like the U.S., Great Britain has tried many different lineups since placing fifth at the London Olympics, and appears to have found the strongest yet this year. The Brits won the European Championships in May and followed up with a strong performance in Lucerne, beating New Zealand to the finish line, less than a second behind the U.S. boat.

Katie Greves, who will be competing in her third Olympics in Rio, said that race changed the ”mindset” of the crew. Instead of hoping for a bronze medal, the British women now see themselves as the biggest threat to the Americans.

”You don’t want to give them too much respect. They are only rowers,” Greves said. ”There is no reason we can’t beat them, just because they have this historical pedigree.”

Each sport measures success differently so winning streaks are hard to compare. But it’s difficult to find a team in any sport that can match the U.S. team’s 10 consecutive gold medals in the women’s eight.

Norwegian figure-skater Sonja Henie won 13 straight world and Olympic titles from 1927-36. The Soviet Union won nine consecutive world and Olympic gold medals in ice hockey (1963-71). In rowing, the U.S. dominated the men’s eight with eight consecutive Olympic titles (1920-56). At that time there were no world championships.

”They’ve done a ton of research to try to find another team in any sport that has had such a winning dynasty, and they weren’t able to find one,” Musnicki said. ”It’s special. It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of it.”

Despite the intense competition, there’s also an unmistakable camaraderie among the U.S. rowers, whether they make the team or not, said Snyder, the 28-year-old coxswain from Detroit. She was deeply disappointed not to make the cut for the 2012 Olympics, but has coxed the women’s eight since the year after.

In an event where synchronization is paramount, gelling with and pushing your team mates means as much as a powerful stroke, she said.

”You don’t go fast by beating another girl,” Snyder said. ”You go fast by being your best self and bringing that girl with you.”

MORE: Musnicki, poetic pride of Naples, is veteran leader of U.S. eight

Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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