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Katelin Guregian’s last call in rowing — help the U.S. women’s eight regain its crown

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Katelin Guregian jokes that she had 20 different addresses in the last eight years as the coxswain of the decorated U.S. women’s eight. That’s not that uncommon in rowing, where the best of the best often live with host families near the national team center in Princeton, N.J.

Guregian, who in the last Olympic cycle guided the American program to a third straight gold medal and sixth, seventh and eighth straight world titles, will move again after this summer.

She has lived apart from her husband, fellow Rio Olympic rower Nareg Guregian, for two and a half years. Nareg now works for Visa, based in California. She turns 33 a week after the Olympics and wants to start a family.

“Absolutely it’s my last Olympics,” Guregian said in November, adding that she wants to make Tokyo her last regatta of any kind. “Rowing, you have to give everything in order to be successful. For me, it’s not sustainable to keep giving everything for another quad. Even this quad, there have been some times where I’ve been like, oh man, not this again. You can’t have that thought. You can’t voice that thought. It’s like, OK, I’m ready. It’s someone else’s turn.”

Guregian, an Orlando native, crashed into a dock in her debut as a coxswain. The hull cracked in two places, and the boat had to be sent back to the manufacturer to be repaired.

She went on to cox the men’s team at the University of Washington. Then succeeded two-time Olympic champion Mary Whipple at the stern of the U.S. women’s program, extending the golden reign from 2013-16.

U.S. coach Tom Terhaar still remembers the end of the Rio Olympic final. Guregian, 5 feet, 4 inches and 110 pounds, violently splashed her arms into the water at about 1,995 meters of a 2,000-meter race.

“And some of the other athletes going, well, I guess we crossed the finish line,” Terhaar said with a laugh. “She was probably too excited to even speak, and that was the way she could express it.”

But Guregian’s favorite memory was in the meat of the six-minute cauldron: the third quarter from 1000m to 1500m. The grittiest part of a race, she likes to say. The U.S. went from third to first and never looked back.

“The only thing I said [to the team] was, ‘We are the United States women’s eight,'” Guregian remembered, conjuring Whipple’s call during the Beijing 2008 final that started this Olympic run. “We were here for this, and this is what we want, and we are here for each other, and we’re here for the women that came before us, was enough to help us execute our race.”

That kind of statement showed what made Guregian a special coxswain.

“She isn’t sitting back there critiquing and setting herself apart from the performance,” Terhaar said. “She’s completely in it, completely one of them. … It’s never they. It’s always we.”

The U.S. women’s eight, dubbed a dynasty throughout the Rio Olympic cycle, since experienced major defeat for the first time in more than a decade. The Americans were fourth at worlds in 2017. After gold in 2018, they earned bronze this past summer with two other returning members from Rio (one of them coming out of retirement).

“That’s such a crummy feeling,” Guregian said. “My role on the team is two-fold because I’m helping people understand what they need to do in order to never be in that position again, but I’m also trying to convey to everyone, don’t overthink it.”

Guregian does more than that. She cuts her teammates’ hair. She is also mentoring Leigh Warner, the 2018 Stanford graduate and coxswain-in-waiting for the next Olympic cycle. Together, they created a jocular Instagram — @launchtalks — to “deal with the stresses of training.”

“I want to be part of [Warner’s] journey so that if she’s successful in 2024, I will feel like I have part of that,” Guregian said. “I will feel pride and ownership in her success, even though it’s not me executing.”

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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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