An Olympic dynasty encounters the coronavirus

Emily Regan
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Olympic champion rower Emily Regan decided to go public with what she is convinced was a coronavirus infection. Her message: If it can happen to me and my teammates, it can happen to you.

Regan and 11 more U.S. female rowers either tested positive for the virus or were presumed to have it due to symptoms in the spring. Three-time Olympian Megan Kalmoe also posted that she had the virus in March and was sick for two weeks.

All 12 rowers in the Olympic selection pool had trained, before showing symptoms, at the national team center in Princeton, N.J. All 12 recovered, said Matt Imes, U.S. Rowing high performance director.

The Princeton center is best known for producing the greatest American sports dynasty over the previous three Olympic cycles.

The U.S. women’s eight rowing team won all 11 Olympic or world titles between 2006 and 2016, a run that bettered the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams. The streak finally snapped in 2017. A key storyline over the next year will be whether the Americans can regain the top spot and extend their Olympic streak to four straight titles.

Now, it will also be about a program, which includes the eight and smaller boats, returning from a frightening spring.

Regan and coxswain Katelin Guregian are the only Americans who were in the eight boat for the Rio Olympics and all of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 World Championships.

Regan, in a lengthy Facebook post, wrote that she and teammates between ages 23 and 37 came down with coronavirus symptoms days after a U.S. national team staff member tested positive in late March.

“As most of my teammates started to recover from their acute COVID symptoms, I started noticing a fever on April 1st,” wrote the 32-year-old Regan, a four-time world champion dating to 2011. “That was Day 12 of my quarantine.”

On April 3, Regan woke from a 12-hour sleep with breathing pain and full-body aches.

“Like I had done something really wrong while I was practicing the day before,” wrote Regan, who, like her teammates, had been training on her own since New Jersey’s stay-at-home order on March 21. All 12 rowers began showing symptoms after leaving the Princeton training center due to the stay-at-home order, Imes said.

Regan’s fever intensified, ranging from 100.4 to 101.7.

“I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without needing to sit down and take a nap,” she wrote. “Not only did I sleep for 12 hours that night, but I also took a 3 hour nap. I was too weak to make myself food that entire day until I forced myself to make pancakes that night because I knew I had to eat something.”

After two days of the worst symptoms, it took Regan the rest of April to be able to train normally again.

She went through periods of rowing on a machine at the pace of an average high school girl. She felt like she carried an extra 50 pounds while working out.

“As of today, over 3 months after my symptoms went away, I am working on getting back into the shape I was in in early February and March before all of the setbacks,” she posted on July 7. “I have teammates who were dealing with complications from COVID for over 2 months.”

Regan did not take a coronavirus test, but a later antibody test came back positive.

Imes said Monday that three female rowers tested positive and nine others were presumed positive, confirming a Buffalo News report.

“We had reduced our group size and stopped rowing in team boats,” Imes said, according to the newspaper. “We stopped rowing in eights and fours. We reduced it down to two people or less. We were doing social distancing. We had taken our training outside. We weren’t utilizing the boat houses as much. We were doing what we thought was prudent and following all the guidelines and actually doing more than what was asked of us at the time.”

Regan considered herself a low-risk individual. She can’t remember her last time at a bar or other crowded place. For much of the last decade, she focused on being in the best possible shape to be selected for one of the strongest U.S. Olympic programs.

“If you don’t think the virus is that big of a deal because you are young, healthy, or fit,” she wrote, “please consider my story.”

MORE: Katelin Guregian’s last call in rowing

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Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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

Ironman Kona World Championship
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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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