Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, mulls skipping Beijing Games

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Natalie Geisenberger of Germany, the two-time defending women’s Olympic luge champion, is considering skipping the Beijing Games because of her dissatisfaction with the way athletes were treated by Chinese officials when training there earlier this season.

Geisenberger made the revelation Wednesday in an interview with German regional broadcaster BR.

It would be a massive void in the women’s Olympic luge field if Geisenberger does not attend. She generally is considered the greatest women’s luge athlete ever, has a total of four Olympic golds — two individual, two team — and her 50 World Cup singles wins are by far the most in the sport’s history.

She hasn’t made a final decision, and Germany is not expected to announce its Olympic team until the first weekend of January.

“The conditions that we experienced there speak in favor of not necessarily going back there again,” Geisenberger told BR.

She is racing this weekend in a World Cup race in Altenberg, Germany.

Geisenberger spent several days in quarantine after arriving in China for a three-week training and racing period in November. She got there on a charter flight that carried basically the entire International Luge Federation circuit to China for those events, then wound up being among the sliders identified as a potential close contact to someone who was aboard that flight and tested positive for COVID-19.

Despite testing negative daily, Geisenberger said rules put in place by Chinese officials mandated that she would not be allowed out of her room for several days other than for training sessions. She said food dropped off outside her door wasn’t to the standard that elite athletes need or want. Conditions improved slightly after she complained to FIL officials and asked why athletes were not treated better, she said.

The only reason Geisenberger hasn’t ruled out a return to China is the lure of the Olympics. If she competes, she’ll have a chance of matching German Georg Hackl’s feat of three consecutive singles Olympic golds.

“With these experiences, definitely not for a World Cup or world championships,” Geisenberger said. “And, I simply have to say, I’m thinking it over about the Olympics … whether I would do that to myself again.

Germany is the most dominant luge country in the world. Two-time Olympic men’s champion Felix Loch has said he’s not considering a boycott, though his father — German national team coach Norbert Loch — said he, likes Geisenberger, wants better conditions.

MORE: Geisenberger, Loch author comebacks to the top of luge

“My demand is that the IOC regulates in its leadership how the athletes are dealt with,” Norbert Loch told German reporters Wednesday.

Geisenberger is the reigning World Cup overall champion, reclaiming her crown last season after sitting out the 2019-20 season while pregnant with her son. She is only seventh in this season’s overall standings, in large part because she finished 26th in the season-opening race in China. Geisenberger crashed in her first run of that two-run race, an unenjoyable end to an unenjoyable stay in China.

With the exception of the season she sat out, Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 13 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.

“It would be a very, very hard step because the Olympic Games are the biggest thing for an athlete,” Geisenberger told BR.

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Summer McIntosh breaks 400m individual medley world record, extends historic week

Summer McIntosh

Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh broke her second world record this week, lowering the 400m individual medley mark on Saturday.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old who trains in Sarasota, Florida, clocked 4 minutes, 25.87 seconds at the Canadian Championships in Toronto.

She took down Hungarian Katinka Hosszu‘s world record of 4:26.36 from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Saturday, McIntosh had the fourth-fastest time in history of 4:28.61.

“It’s always nice to set world records,” McIntosh said.

On Tuesday, McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record, becoming the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an individual Olympic event since Katie Ledecky in 2013.

McIntosh also this week became the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 200m individual medley and the eighth-fastest woman in history in the 200m butterfly.

In each of her four races this week, she also broke the world junior record as the fastest woman in history under the age of 19.

She is entered to swim the 200m free on the meet’s final day on Sunday. She is already the eighth-fastest woman in history in that event.

McIntosh, whose mom swam the 1984 Olympic 200m fly and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 400m free at age 14.

Last summer, she won the 200m fly and 400m IM at the world championships, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

This summer, she could be at the center of a showdown in the 400m free at the world championships with reigning world champion Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia. They are the three fastest women in history in the event.

Around age 7, McIntosh transcribed Ledecky quotes and put them on her wall.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

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Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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