Morgan Hurd looks to regain momentum at gymnastics’ American Cup

Morgan Hurd
AP
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Morgan Hurd smiles while talking about her most disappointing moment in gymnastics. It’s the 18-year-old’s way of deflecting the pain — more mental than physical — that was tough to shake after she failed to make the 2019 world championship team.

A shaky first day at the selection camp last October left her scrambling. She never caught up. When the six-woman team was announced, and Hurd found herself named as a non-traveling alternate, she couldn’t get home to Delaware fast enough.

“My coach was like, ‘We need to leave,’ and I was like, ‘All right,’” Hurd says, before adding with a laugh, “And then, this was after my breakdown of course.”

She’s kidding. But only a little. A busy summer that included competing three times in less than a month — a massive workload at the sport’s top level — had left her drained. Yet during the selection camp she had recovered, which made missing the cut only more difficult.

“I was coming back into peak shape, and for that to just kind of go down the drain and not used was really heartbreaking for me,” Hurd said.

The 2017 World all-around champion briefly shut down in the aftermath. Her seemingly boundless energy vanished. She wasn’t injured. She was devastated, the symptoms manifesting themselves when she returned to training.

“My whole body just kind of felt like fatigued and it just didn’t want to do anything,” she said. “Like my whole body just felt lethargic and heavy and it was so hard to just like do basic things.”

Not so much anymore. Hurd pulled herself out of the funk by Thanksgiving, pushed by the upgrades coach Slava Glazounov challenged her to incorporate into her routines, routines she’s eager to show off in Milwaukee on Saturday at the American Cup (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

The invitational is the first high-profile event leading to the Olympics, a chance for Hurd to regain some of the swagger she lost during the hectic summer of 2019.

Looking back, Hurd has no regrets. The opportunity to compete at the Pan American Games in Peru — which happened between the U.S. Classic in late July and the U.S. Championships in mid-August — was too good to pass up.

“The experience was one that comes around once every four years,” Hurd said. “I had so much fun even though honestly I didn’t do my greatest, I wish I did better but the whole experience as a whole was great for me.”

Hurd helped the Americans win a team gold medal, but she didn’t compete in an any of the event finals thanks to international rules that only allow the top two qualifiers from a country to advance.

Things didn’t go much better at the U.S. Championships a week later. A miscue on floor during the first day dropped her well off the pace in the all-around, though she did recover to finish fourth, earning a silver on uneven bars in the process.

It was good. Just not quite good enough for Hurd, a perfectionist who admits she’s never quite satisfied even if she’s one of only two active women’s gymnasts on the planet not named Simone Biles with a world all-around gold medal in her trophy case.

Ask Hurd what inspires her on those days when she doesn’t feel like going to the gym, and her answer is remarkably self aware.

“The fear of letting people down,” she said. “Because I’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, I just want to lay in bed right now.’ But then I’m like, ‘I don’t want to disappoint Slava by not coming to practice.’ And then I think, ‘Oh, karma, I missed that one practice, that’s why you’re not on the Olympic team.’ So it’s fear that drives me I guess. That sounds so bad.”

Hurd insists that it’s not. It’s just the way she’s wired. This is the same athlete who used to cut in line during practices at First State Gymnastics in Newark, Del., if her teammates aren’t working at a pace that suited her. That same passion hasn’t dissipated. If anything, it has deepened.

Regardless of whether or not she makes the Olympic team, Hurd has already deferred the start of her college career — she’s committed to Florida — until January 2022 because she wants to make a run at the 2021 World Championships.

It’s something Glazounov brought up last year, dropping occasional hints as a way of stirring the fiery competitor within Hurd, who delights in confounding expectations.

When someone on Twitter pointed out Hurd was tied with 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kyla Ross for the seventh-most world championship medals (five) by an American woman, it was all the motivation she needed.

“I want to climb those ranks,” she said.

A hopefully busy 2020, however, awaits. With her trademark glasses and 4-foot-9 frame, Hurd gets that she doesn’t look like one of the world’s top athletes. She jokes that because of her height she might get into acrobatic gymnastics once her artistic career is over.

That’s for down the road. For now there is the pursuit of an Olympic spot, one being chronicled as part of an intimate documentary series on the difficulty of reaching Tokyo. It can get kind of uncomfortable having cameras around, but Hurd is getting used to it. The last six months have been difficult at times, but in a way, maybe it’s just setting the stage for story of redemption.

“That’s it,” she said with a laugh. “All this is for the show.”

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MORE: Kayla DiCello, debuting at American Cup, eyes junior-to-Olympics jump

Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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