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Gwen Jorgensen On Breaking The Silence Around Periods In Sports

Player waving after winning/ JWS
Player waving after winning/ JWS

Gwen Jorgensen is a professional distance runner and former triathlete. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Jorgenson won the USA’s first-ever triathlon gold medal. She spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her current partnership with Wasserman and Orreco, which looks to help athletes understand their periods effects on their athletic performance. (To read an overview of the partnership, click here.) 

How did you first hear about the partnership and what was your reaction? 

I remember Wasserman reached out and just said, “Wasserman’s been working with Orreco about their periods and how it affects performance.” And I was really intrigued and curious. I’ve always been a big proponent about getting your period. And I think when I was growing up, there was this stigma of like, “Oh, if you don’t get your period, it’s a good thing.” And so, I was very interested, very intrigued, curious, but I was also a little doubtful.

But honestly, my partnership with them has surpassed and exceeded all my expectations. And I want everyone to have their own little Dr. Georgie in their circle. It’s been incredible. I’m a mom and a female athlete, and as an athlete I was once told that I could manipulate my period by going on birth control so that I wouldn’t be on my period during race days because otherwise you’ll perform worse. It came from a male figure who was kind of a coach. And that never really resonated with me well. And so, talking to Dr. Georgie and just hearing like, “No, we can do things like sleep and manipulate nutrition to actually perform on any day of your cycle.” I love that, and I love seeing the impact of that, and I think that’s a really great message for women.

How knowledgeable were you already about the science regarding how the menstrual cycle affects athletic performance? 

I would say I wasn’t super knowledgeable. I knew little things about why some women need to go on hormonal birth control, but I never knew the science behind it. I’d heard women talking about why they cooked certain foods during different phases in their cycle, and I remember being really intrigued by that, but I didn’t really research it.

What’s most surprising about the science/or what’s the biggest insight that you’ve learned?

There’s been so many, it’s hard to pick one. For me personally, it was interesting because Dr. Georgie asked me if I got any symptoms, and I told her, no, I’m great. I don’t really get any symptoms. But she asked me to start tracking them anyways, and it turned out, I actually had a lot of symptoms. And I was like, “Well, yeah, but I just feel blessed because they’re not debilitating. I can live my life and it’s fine if I get a cramp, etc.” For me, I never talked about them as symptoms because I thought they were minimal. So that was really neat for me to learn and go through and have her acknowledge, “Those symptoms that you’re getting, maybe they’re not stopping you from doing what you’re doing, but we can make them even better, so you can perform even better on every day of your cycle.”

Some of the biggest things I learned were around nutrition. I feel like the, “You eat more fatty fish and berries around your fourth and first phase and eat more carbs during the training in phases three and four, then carbo-load in phases one and two” — things like that are interesting. I had some different coaches throughout my career who have wanted me to fast and to have some fasted runs or things like that. And to know that maybe during certain phases that might not be good, but during other phases of my cycle, it may be better — learning things like that has been really interesting.

More and more athletes and teams are discussing the need to track the menstrual cycle in order to maximize performance, but what needs to happen to bring this conversation into the mainstream? 

I think there’s some people on our team who are more shy about it or don’t want to talk about it. But right now I’m part of the Bowerman Track Club, and Shalane Flanagan just became a coach. She’s always been super good about making it very known. Like, “If you aren’t getting your period, speak up, saying something to us.” Because that’s an indicator of something going wrong.

And so that’s a good thing. But I feel like to help take it to the next level, coaches need to have a really good open line of communication about periods. I think there’s a lot of females with male coaches, and I think it’s just like, “Oh, we shouldn’t talk about that.” But it needs to be more prevalent. And I think it needs to be talked about more between athletes and their coaches. The coaches that I’ve loved are experts at getting me ready to be my best on race day. They’re not afraid of having other people join the circle, right? So I have a sports psychologist. I have a nutritionist. I have a strength coach. Everyone is an expert in their field. And I think it’s important to have somebody like a Dr. Georgie in that circle, as somebody who’s an expert on my period and how it relates to my performance. I think it should be normal to say, I have a nutritionist, and I have a period coach.

One of the things I’ve loved about Dr. George is that we don’t have to change our training. We can mitigate symptoms through things like getting more rest or having certain foods or doing some yoga during certain times of your cycle so that you’re ready to perform on any day of your cycle. I think that’s super important for people to know. This isn’t like, “Oh, you can’t perform on day 20 of your cycle.” It’s not like that at all. It’s more, “No, we want to get you so that every day of your cycle, you’re ready to be a hundred percent.” And that’s something that is just so cool to be able to learn about and to be able to know I’m flying up to the start line and no stone has been left unturned. I know that no matter what day of my cycle I am, I can perform.

Do you see this partnership with Orreco as being part of a broader effort to normalize the discussion?

Yeah. I mean, we need to normalize periods, bottom line. We just need to normalize them, and menstruating, and females. And I think there’s not a lot of studies that have been done on females, and it’s sad. And I think what Orreco and FitrWoman and Dr. Georgie and everyone’s doing is going to bring it more to the forefront. But it definitely is going to take a lot of effort and time and getting the word out and letting people know this is important and sports science is not just about male athletes, it’s about female athletes as well.

How has this experience with Orreco changed or impacted your training?

Honestly my training isn’t actually changing that much, which is what I actually love about this partnership. But it’s everything outside of what you would typically consider training that’s changing. So my nap schedule, my resting, the foods I focus on and those sorts of things are changing, and that’s been something that’s been super cool to see then how that actually transforms into better training. And it’s not perfected. I still have monthly calls with Dr. Georgie and we’re like, “Okay, what went well this month?”

Sometimes there’s a new symptom that pops up and we’re like, “Okay, we’ve never seen this before. Why do we think that is? Did you have a down week? Did you train super hard? What are the factors?” That’s why I think, going back to earlier when I said, “Maybe we need a period coach.” Because it is something that’s ever-evolving and ever-changing.

Was there anything else that you wanted to bring up that I didn’t mention at all?

I think it’s just so important to normalize periods and know that, if you’re an athlete, it’s not okay if your period stops. Know that it’s good to talk about these things and everyone gets different symptoms and we can overcome those and become better athletes if we are able to do the right things and keep focused on the process.

Caitlin Clark stuns in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports. It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation and shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing him a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her best line of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns start NWSL season winless, in uncharted territory

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage and remaining winless through its first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before. Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, answers need to be had from head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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