Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell

Rory, McDowell ask the IOC to step in

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Golfer Rory McIlroy and his Northern Ireland countryman Graeme McDowell have been between a rock and a 400-year old conflict ever since a reporter asked which country the world No. 1 was planning to represent – Great Britain or Ireland – when golf returns to the Olympics in 2016.

It’s a choice the IOC affords the two golfers given their heritage, but it’s not one they necessarily relish.

“We’re kind of in a unique scenario in Northern Ireland,” McDowell told reporters in Shanghai of the opportunity to play under either flag. “We have one foot on each team. I think it’s going to be a lot easier if someone makes the decision for us.”

McIlroy earlier admitted that he’s “always felt more British than Irish” before backlash forced him to retreat from his comments and post on Twitter that he hasn’t decided which team he’ll play for seeing as how the Olympics are still four years away.

Irish Olympic committee president Pat Hickey then said the 23-year-old medal favorite would be in “the pole position” for the honor of flag bearer if he committed to competing for Ireland, but so far McIlroy has kept his mouth shut and his eyes on the upcoming three years of golf ahead.

McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open, said the choice is particularly tough for him since he comes from a mixed-religion family: his Catholic mother would probably prefer he play for Ireland while his Protestant father would likely hope he dons the Union Jack.

“But then I always kind of sit on the fence because that’s exactly the only place I can sit,” McDowell concluded. “Let’s say that I’d play for whatever team we have come 2016.”

Photos: Final Five meet the President, First Lady

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29:  U.S. first lady Michelle Obama(L) rests her elbow on the head of Olympian Simone Biles (2nd L) as President Barack Obama (R) speaks during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and the first lady welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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The U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team spent extra time at the White House on Thursday after President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman did the splits with Obama, and even lifted vegetable dumbbells with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Gabby Douglas, who had her wisdom teeth removed earlier this week, did not attend the event.

MORE: Simone Biles discusses her future

Katherine Reutter ends early retirement

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 26:  Katherine Reutter of the United States celebrates the silver medal in the Ladies 1000m Short Track Speed Skating Final on day 15 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at Pacific Coliseum on February 26, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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When Katherine Reutter retired in 2013 at the age of 24, she never thought she would return to the ice. Three hip surgeries and two major back injuries left the two-time Olympic short track speed skating medalist in constant pain.

But now Reutter is scheduled to compete this weekend at the U.S. Speedskating Short Track World Cup Qualifier at the Utah Olympic Oval.

“You wouldn’t expect somebody who has been as injured as I have to be back at their best,” Reutter said in a telephone interview from Utah. “I feel like I’m getting close.”

Reutter only started contemplating a comeback last November, after being inspired by attending a World Cup race as a member of the U.S. Speedskating Athlete Advisory Council.

She began a regimen of yoga twice a week and daily 30-minute walks when she returned to Milwaukee, where she was working as a coach for the Academy of Skating Excellence.

“I started off really, really slow,” she said. “I started to work out the amount that a normal person probably should.”

Pain free, Reutter began skating during the practices that she was coaching.

“I noticed the days I came home really happy were the days where I had skated,” she said.

Reutter only started to truly believe that she could return to skating competitively when she clocked times that she described as “pretty darn good” a training camp in Salt Lake City in May and June.

She has learned to listen to her body. After experiencing pain when she scheduled twice-daily workouts six days per week, she scaled back to four or five days per week.

“I don’t really have the option to overtrain like I used to,” she said.

Reutter’s goal this weekend is to earn a placement for the ISU World Cup, which begins Nov. 4-6 in Calgary. Eventually, she would like to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But Reutter would be happy just being, well, happy.

“I am trying to live life to its happiest every single day,” she said, “and speed skating allows me to do that.”

Reutter recently changed her Twitter bio to say “comeback queen.”

“So far I’m the only one who calls me that,” she said, laughing. “I suppose people could get on board eventually”

MORE: Five athletes to know before the 2018 Winter Olympics