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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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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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