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

Gwen Jorgensen
Talbot Cox
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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

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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