Phelps, Felix named top American athletes

Leave a comment

While Shaun White was doing his best to undermine the ideals of Olympism Monday, top flight athletes Michael Phelps and Allyson Felix were honored by the USOC for their achievements in London. Both were named the best U.S. athletes of the Games for their respective genders.

“Through their commitment to excellence on and off the field, these athletes represent our country with incredible grace and composure,” chief executive Tom Blackmun said in a statement he presumably dusted off from 2008. “Their outstanding achievements are an inspiration to all Americans.”

Phelps won four gold medals in London to bring his career total to 18, twice that of any other athlete in history, and Felix finally broke through to win gold in the 200m after finishing second in the event in back-to-back Olympics, then threw in gold in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays for good measure.

The women’s eight rowing crew, which hasn’t lost in six years and led wire-to-wire in London, was awarded best team, and athletes Raymond Martin and Jessica Long were also recognized for their achievements during the Paralympics. None have since tried to kick anyone while fleeing a hotel. It can be done.

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting, which says she is moving to MMA but won’t set a debut fight for at least a year.

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison hasn’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Earlier this month, Harrison reiterated that she had offers on the table to sign a mixed martial arts contract, with interest from at least three “big” promotion companies.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for her debut.

“I’m interested in MMA in an aspect where competitors are treated as competitors and not as celebrities or as showmen,” Harrison said earlier this month, while emphasizing her admiration for Rousey. “I’m not interested in being a talker or someone who is all about the show.”

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight