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Meghan Duggan, following a trailblazer’s path, plans post-pregnancy return to U.S. hockey team

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Meghan Duggan, captain of the Olympic champion U.S. hockey team, is working out through her pregnancy with a plan to return to the national team.

Duggan, due Feb. 26 with her first child, said she is following training regimens used by Olympic teammates and new moms Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando during their pregnancies.

Lamoureux-Morando’s husband, a professional strength coach who has studied working with pregnant athletes, tailored a program for Duggan.

The 32-year-old also noted the U.S. women’s national team’s new contract — struck in 2017 as the entire roster was ready to boycott the world championship — which includes maternity protection.

Duggan, who didn’t play last year and last suited up for Team USA at the PyeongChang Olympics, declined to detail specifics of how the maternity protection applies to her.

“But I think that the plan that we have in place with USA Hockey is a really great one for players on pregnancy leave,” she said by phone Thursday ahead of being honored by the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis at the 34th Great Sports Legends Dinner in New York on Monday.

Duggan and the Lamoureux twins, who returned on ice to national team activity in August, would not be the first moms on a U.S. Olympic hockey team.

Duggan remembers her first worlds, in 2007, when Jenny Potter competed less than three months after having son Cullen.

“I admire her still, to this day, for doing that,” said Duggan, whose due date is one day after the 10th anniversary of the Olympic final that she and Potter played together in Vancouver. “I don’t think back then, as a 19-year-old kid, I was in the mind frame of thinking ahead of being in this position, but I do certainly remember Jenny being an absolute trailblazer in that respect.”

Potter actually played at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympics as a mom. Her daughter, Madison, is a freshman swimmer at Notre Dame.

For Duggan to similarly return for an April worlds after a winter pregnancy might be too tight of a turnaround attempt. “But we’ll see,” she said.

Duggan is already older than any previous U.S. Olympic female hockey player. If she comes back to make the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, she would tie the record for U.S. Olympic hockey appearances that Potter shares with others.

In September 2018, Duggan married fellow Olympic champion Gillian Apps, who earned gold for Canada in 2006, 2010 and 2014, beating Duggan’s U.S. teams in the latter two finals.

Together, they own four Olympic gold medals and 10 world titles. They have not decided if their child, sex not yet known, would represent the U.S. or Canada down the road.

“It’ll be a heated debate,” Duggan said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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