‘The Last Gold’ to air on NBCSN on Monday

The Last Gold
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Inspired by the recent rush of acclaimed sports documentaries, USA Swimming officials batted around ideas to join the movement a year and a half ago.

Executive director Chuck Wielgus, assistant executive director Mike Unger and chief marketing official Matt Farrell had put their heads together.

“We pretty quickly settled on this particular story,” Wielgus said in a phone interview. “It has such immense impact, especially with the old-timers in the swimming community. It hung over everybody like a cloud. It seemed like the right opportunity to do it.”

The result, “The Last Gold,” airs on NBCSN on Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET, four nights before the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“The Last Gold” spotlights the 1976 U.S. Olympic women’s swimming team and the East German doping scandal.

At the Montreal Games, the U.S. men’s swimmers absolutely dominated, taking 12 of 13 gold medals with world records in 11 of those events.

But the U.S. women ran into a dubious and overpowering opponent.

The East Germans had yet to earn an Olympic women’s swimming gold medal in two previous Games. But the team had become a juggernaut by Montreal, the product of a state-sponsored doping program that wouldn’t be more fully exposed until after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following defeat after defeat in individual races, four U.S. women rallied for one last showdown with East Germany in the 4x100m free relay.

“The Last Gold” focuses on that American quartet — Shirley BabashoffWendy BoglioliKim Peyton (passed away in 1986) and Jill Sterkel.

“The 40th anniversary coming up, the fact that only three of the athletes were still alive, and getting older, we wanted to tell the story when they could still help to tell it,” Wielgus said. “It’s almost serendipitous with what’s going on with the whole Russian situation right now. [In 2015] We saw this educational opportunity to share with current and future generations of athletes and pull back the layers and expose some of the evils of doping.”

East Germany has not been stripped of its 1976 Olympic swimming medals.

In 1998, USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee appealed to the International Olympic Committee.

“To ask for recognition of those athletes who we could prove had been cheated out of medals,” Wielgus said. “There were trials going on in Germany, and people were being found guilty. We made this appeal with the USOC, to the IOC, and the appeal was shot down. It was shot down unequivocally. Our position today is that we are not bringing that up again. We made that effort, and we might not like it, but we accept the response we got from the IOC. There’s been no indication they would change their position on it.”

Casey Barrett, a 1996 Canadian Olympic swimmer, served as a writer for “The Last Gold.” Brian T. Brown, a 15-time Emmy Award winner, directed. Emmy-winning actress Julianna Margulies narrated.

“The Last Gold” was screened for the current U.S. swim team at both the Olympic Trials and at a pre-Olympic camp in Atlanta this week.

It premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 6 as one of 12 documentaries chosen from over 4,000 submissions.

MORE: Rio Olympic day-by-day schedule highlights

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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