Natalie Geisenberger makes history at ‘House of Speed,’ wins third straight luge singles gold

Natalie Geisenberger of Team Germany celebrates winning the Women's Luge Singles - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 4
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Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger made history Tuesday at the Winter Olympics’ “House of Speed,” winning her third consecutive gold medal in the women’s luge singles.

The 34-year-old Geisenberger became first female luge athlete to win three straight and the fourth woman overall to win three straight gold medals in an individual event at the Winter Olympics, joining figure skater Sonja Henie of Norway, and speed skaters Bonnie Blair (USA) and Claudia Pechstein of Germany. Also of note this week, Dutch skater and six-time Olympic gold medalist Ireen Wuest won her third career gold in the 1500m, adding to her titles from 2010 and 2018.

She also broke out of a tie for most gold medals in Olympic luge history, after having won four previous gold in singles and the team relay in both 2014 and 2018. German doubles duo Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendl will compete for their fifth gold medal on Feb. 9.

MORE WINTER OLYMPICS COVERAGE: Lindsey Jacobellis wins Team USA’s first gold in fifth Winter Olympics

But Geisenberger’s greatest takeaway was the fact that she accomplished such feats as a mom to son, Leo, who turns 2 in May.

“I’m a five-time Olympic champion, but it is the first time as a mother – it’s just great,” said Geisenberger, who also won singles bronze in 2010, and took a year off to have Leo. “Training was done around my child. I think we did a really pretty good job as a family. To have another gold is just amazing and a very special moment.”

Geisenberger was a picture of consistency in Beijing, posting the two fastest and second-fastest times across four runs at the National Sliding Center. She recorded the fastest combined time of 3:53.454 to finish 0.493 ahead of 22-year-old teammate Anna Berreiter, who was making her Olympic debut.

“I knew, ‘OK, you have the medal, it is silver,’ then just all the pressure getting down from my shoulders, knowing I’m silver medalist at my very first Olympics,” said Berreiter regarding her tearful celebration at the finish line. “I was just super happy, and all the emotions came through my mind.”

Russian Olympic Committee’s Tatyana Ivanova took bronze in 3:54.507, earning her second Olympic medal in her third Olympic appearance after winning silver in the 2014 team relay.

Geisenberger’s win marked Germany’s seventh consecutive gold medal in women’s singles and the third consecutive Winter Games at which Germany has finished 1-2 in the event. With six medals, Geisenberger matches Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler for the most medals in luge, and she’s got a chance to increase her haul in the upcoming team relay on Thursday.

“I look forward to the team event,” said Geisenberger, who’ll be aiming for medal No. 7. “I have, again, a chance to perform here so I’m excited, (but) tomorrow I have to relax a little.”

Germany is the gold-medal favorite in the team relay, which is expected to consist of Geisenberger and Johannes Ludwig, who helped the team win gold in 2018, and two members to be announced Wednesday.

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The NBC Olympics Research team contributed to this report. 

Watch Natalie Geisenberger compete in the luge team relay at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

Event Date / Start Time (U.S. Eastern Time) Date / Start Time (China)
Luge Team Relay 2/10/22 8:30 AM 2/10/22 9:30 PM

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2022 Winter Olympics Schedule – How to watch every women’s event

Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”