Gwen Jorgensen
Talbot Cox

Gwen Jorgensen, Olympic triathlon champion, to focus on track trials

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Gwen Jorgensen isn’t letting go of her marathon goals. Her timeline is just changing.

Heel surgery forced Jorgensen, who converted to distance running after winning the Rio Olympic triathlon, to pass up the Feb. 29 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and focus on the track and field trials in June in the 10,000m and, probably, the 5000m.

She made the decision after recent talks with her coach, Jerry Schumacher, following a difficult recovery from late May surgery to correct Haglund’s deformity.

“The decision was basically coming to the conclusion with Jerry that, if I went to the marathon trials, I would just be hoping to qualify instead of confident in my abilities,” said Jorgensen, who returned to workouts four weeks ago and is up to 70 to 80 miles a week in training, but not the 100-plus necessary ahead of a 12-week marathon build-up. “I talked to Jerry, and I said, look, I still want to do the marathon. That’s where my heart is, but I also don’t want to do it if we don’t think I’m going to be ready. He thinks that I’ll be ready for the track trials.

“I believe I will make the team on the track.”

Jorgensen was arguably the most dominant triathlete in history in the Rio Olympic cycle, winning a record 13 straight top-level events — going undefeated for nearly two years — en route to becoming the first U.S. gold medalist in the event.

Then in 2017, she had baby Stanley and, having accomplished every triathlon goal, announced a sport switch with a goal to win the Olympic marathon.

She moved from Minnesota to Oregon. She ran one marathon, placing 11th in 2:36:23 in Chicago in October 2018 after a weeklong fever. Then she began feeling heel pain. She tried to train through it but hasn’t raced since.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent recovered, but I walk around and I no longer have a limp,” said the 33-year-old Jorgensen, who still hopes to win a World Marathon Major or an Olympic marathon, but now in the Paris Olympic cycle. “I have a lot more good days than bad days.”

Meanwhile, U.S. female marathoning boomed the last few years. Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon (and since retired). Des Linden won the Boston Marathon (and hasn’t committed to racing trials).

Jordan Hasay, Sara Hall, Emily Sisson and Kellyn Taylor, all bidding for their first Olympic team, broke into the top nine on the U.S. all-time marathon list.

Jorgensen has never focused on the track as a professional athlete, but there is more of an opening for an Olympic spot than on the roads.

The U.S.’ two fastest 10,000m runners in this Olympic cycle, Sisson and Molly Huddle, are both expected to race the marathon trials. Generally, runners who make the Olympic marathon team pass on the track trials. But stars who don’t finish in the top three at marathon trials often turn to the 10,000m, and there are several accomplished women who will not make the marathon team of three.

Jorgensen is optimistic. Largely because Schumacher, who leads the successful Bowerman Track Club, believes in her. Also because of her seventh-place finish at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships 10,000m, which she entered as a complement to her marathon work, coming off an altitude stint that she called the worst training of her life and having been affected by recently stopping breast feeding.

“I remember going into that thinking, I’m not prepared, I shouldn’t do this race,” Jorgensen said. “I was actually kind of happy how that race went.”

Jorgensen said Schumacher has not told her when she will return to racing. She will have altitude training in early January, which usually means a meet in mid-February.

One thing Jorgensen is sure of: she will not return to the sport that she dominated as recently as three years ago.

She said she never considered it in the difficult last year. Not once when she did swim and bike workouts because her heel would not allow her to run. Not when asked by her husband, Patrick Lemieux. Nor when asked by other family members.

“The answer is always, I’ve never thought I wanted to go back to triathlon,” she said. “Which is good. It means I made the right decision in wanting to do this.

“In triathlon, I reached my potential, I achieved all my goals, and in running I haven’t.”

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MORE: 2019 U.S., world marathon rankings

Penny Oleksiak edges Simone Manuel, Regan Smith sizzles again in Knoxville

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Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel nearly duplicated their Olympic gold-medal tie. The Canadian Oleksiak edged Manuel by .03 in the 100m freestyle at a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday night.

Oleksiak clocked 53.41 seconds, coming back from .37 behind Manuel at the 50-meter mark. The two tied for the Rio Olympic title in an Olympic record 52.70 seconds four years ago. Oleksiak was the surprise, a 16-year-old who came into the Games ranked eighth in the world for the year.

Since, Manuel swept the 2017 and 2019 World titles. Oleksiak was sixth at 2017 Worlds and withdrew before the 100m free at 2019 Worlds. She ranked 21st in the world last year. Oleksiak’s time Sunday was her fastest since 2017.

Full Knoxville meet results are here. The Pro Series’ next stop is Des Moines from March 4-7.

In other events Sunday, world-record holder Regan Smith won the 200m backstroke in 2:05.94, the fastest time ever outside of a national championships or major international meet. Smith, 17, achieved the same feat on Saturday in the 100m back, where she also broke the world record at last summer’s worlds.

Madisyn Cox won a matchup of the three fastest U.S. women in the 200m individual medley in 2019. She clocked 2:09.88, beating Alex Walsh by a half-second and Melanie Margalis by .54.

It was Cox’s fastest time since she took bronze at the 2017 World Championships. She missed the 2019 Worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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Mikaela Shiffrin among favorites eliminated early in parallel giant slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin was upset in the round of 16 of the first World Cup parallel giant slalom by unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Direz, who went on to earn her first win on Sunday.

Shiffrin had the fastest qualifying time but was bounced in the second round of head-to-head racing in Sestriere by Direz. Direz, 24, came into the day with a best career finish of seventh.

Direz was 16th-fastest in qualifying, 1.02 seconds behind Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Direz edged Shiffrin by .13 in their head-to-head run. Shiffrin appeared to be at a disadvantage being put on the red course, which produced just three winners among 20 one-run matchups.

“It is fun; I think I like the parallel GS actually more than the parallel slalom, but it’s a little bit difficult,” Shiffrin said. “I think there’s still a lot of work we have to do, and FIS [the International Ski Federation] has to do to really make the race as even as it can be because for sure you can see, there’s always a faster course. But today it’s like they’re not even the same course at all. Especially in the last four, five gates on the blue course, you can even see just looking up the hill that it’s straighter than the red course.

“Today I would say it’s a day where the luck [of which course you draw randomly] really plays a role.”

Direz eventually beat Austrian Elisa Moerzinger in the final. Direz was on the blue course for three of her four one-run rounds. Full results are here.

Higher-ranked racers used to be have their choice of courses in the parallel format.

“Maybe that wasn’t fair, either, but I think there must be a way to make it something that is more even, but at the same time, yeah, I don’t really have the answers on how to do that, either,” Shiffrin said. “It’s still in its infancy, this event.”

Shiffrin has a track record of success in parallel slaloms and similar city events, winning five of her last six starts. But the parallel GS proved problematic for the world’s best in slalom.

Swiss Wendy Holdener and Slovakian Petra Vlhova were also eliminated before the quarterfinals after being second- and third-fastest in qualifying. Holdener was also on the red course. Vlhova lost in the round of 32, when skiers were taking runs on both the blue and red courses.

Sestriere marked the last weekend of technical races (slaloms/giant slaloms) until mid-February. The next three weekends feature downhills and super-Gs. Shiffrin is expected to travel to Bansko, Bulgaria, for the first set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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