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U.S. women’s eight, once unbeatable, goes into Olympics as world bronze medalist

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The U.S. women’s eight goes into the 2020 Olympics as the three-time defending gold medalist. The boat also goes to the Tokyo Games as the world bronze medalist, looking its most vulnerable in a decade.

New Zealand, which has never earned an Olympic women’s eight medal, won the world title by 2.72 seconds in Austria on Sunday. The U.S. was 5.02 seconds behind in third after six minutes of racing over 2,000 meters.

The Americans won all 11 Olympic and world titles between 2006 and 2016. That streak was snapped in 2017, when the U.S. took fourth in a reset year with three members of the Rio Olympic eight team returning. That year, the Americans were 2.85 seconds behind world champion Romania.

This year’s crew also included three Rio champions — coxswain Katelin Guregian, two-time Olympic champ Meghan Musnicki (out of retirement) and Emily Regan. It replaced two rowers from the 2018 boat that rebounded for a world title.

Also Sunday, Kara Kohler took bronze in the single sculls. Kohler, 28, also earned bronze at the 2012 Olympics in quadruple sculls.

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Bradley Wiggins returns to competition in new sport

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Bradley Wiggins is returning to competitive sport for the first time since retiring from cycling, with the 2012 Tour de France champion taking part in British Rowing’s indoor championships next month.

British Rowing said Friday that Wiggins, 37, will compete in a 2000m race in the Dec. 9 event at the velodrome where cycling was staged during the London Olympics.

Wiggins retired from cycling in December after winning a fifth Olympic gold in Rio. He has since enjoyed rowing on an indoor machine for fitness, sharing images of his workouts on social media.

Wiggins this week said he was put through “living hell” over the past year while U.K. Anti-Doping investigated allegations of wrongdoing in cycling, which centered on the contents of a medical package delivered to Wiggins at the 2011 Dauphine Libere race in France.

No charges will be brought by UKAD and Wiggins denounced what he perceived as a “malicious witch hunt.”

Wiggins is the most decorated British Olympian with eight medals and the first Brit to win the Tour de France.

He hinted at rowing ambitions in his 2012 book, “My Time.”

“I would love to try to be a rower at the next Olympics, in a lightweight four or something,” he wrote then. “It would be impossible to do: go down, lock, stock and barrel, live in Henley, train and try and be at the next Olympics in a rowing boat. It’s never going to happen, but it would be a different challenge. Imagine that, going and winning the coxless lightweight four: Olympic gold in rowing, four years off. Unfortunately there is now way I could do it.”

Wiggins brought it up again at a corporate event in Manchester in June, according to the Daily Mail.

“I took up rowing when I retired just to keep fit, but my numbers started getting quite good, so I’ve started taking it up professionally now and getting coached seven days a week,” he said, according to the newspaper. “I’m doing the British Championships in December, and I’m going to see how far I can take it, maybe a sixth Olympic gold?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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U.S. women’s eight 11-year winning streak ends at World Rowing Championships

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The U.S. women’s eight team ended their 11-year winning streak with a fourth-place finish at the World Rowing Championships, which wrapped up today.

For over a decade, the squad has gone undefeated at the major international championships, winning three Olympic titles (2016, 2012, 2008) and eight world championship gold medals from 2006 to 2015.

At the 2017 World Championships held in Sarasota, Florida, however, the home country’s boat crossed the finish line behind new champions Romania, as well as silver and bronze medalists Canada and New Zealand. The U.S. team’s time of 6:09:250 was nearly three seconds behind Romania’s winning time of 6:06.400

It was also far slower than the world record time of 05:54.160, which the U.S. women’s eight set in 2013.

Only three members of the current lineup, which consists of eight rowers and one coxswain, were part of that 2013 team. The same three, Katelin Guregian, Emily Regan and Lauren Schmetterling, are also the only members who were on the gold-medal-winning squad at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The U.S. picked up two silver medals in other events on the last day of the World Championships.

Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek finished second in the women’s double sculls, which is the U.S.’s highest-ever finish in the event at a world championships. The oldest crew in the event, O’Leary and Tomek placed behind gold-medalists New Zealand, with Australia following to claim the bronze medal.

The U.S. men’s eight also earned a silver medal, while the world record holders from Germany lead the entire race en route to winning gold. It was the first world championship medal for a U.S. men’s boat since 2014.

The men’s eight has been coached this season by Mike Teti, who led the U.S. team to gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Before today’s race, he told Team USA of his young squad, “I think all the boats have undergraduates in them and some recent [college] graduates. It’s a good baseline to start the quadrennial with. I think the team will improve over the next three years.”

Dariush Aghai, a member of the team, told World Rowing after the race, “Feels great to medal today, got a great bunch of people here. We’ve only been together a short time as well. The last 500m I just zoned in to our cox and we managed a sprint.”

Overall, Italy won the medal table with nine total medals: three gold, three silver and three bronze. Rounding out the top three was New Zealand with seven and Australia with six medals.

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