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.”

Olympians headline swimming’s Winter Nationals; Preview

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Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Nathan Adrian are among the Olympic gold medalists listed on the psych sheets for this weekend’s Winter Nationals in Federal Way, Wash.

Phelps’ lineup includes the 200m IM, 100m butterfly and 200m butterfly. At Summer Nationals in August, he clocked the fastest times in the world in each of those events.

“I already know what I can change in that event,” he told NBC Sports’ Carolyn Manno in a poolside interview immediately following his 200m IM.

Franklin is expected to swim the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 100m backstroke, where she is seeded second behind Natalie Coughlin, and 200m backstroke.

Coughlin will also see action in the 50m and 100m freestyles. She said earlier in 2015 that the 100m backstroke may enter her repertoire again, and at the Pan American Games, her 100m backstroke leadoff leg in the medley relay was the fastest she’s been since the 2008 Beijing Games at 59.05.

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Adrian will swim the 50m freestyle, where he is ranked first, and the 100m freestyle, where he ranks third. However, both men faster than him in the 100m freestyle field represent non-U.S. countries internationally.

Allison Schmitt is slated to compete with Franklin in the 100m and 200m freestyles, in addition to the 400m freestyle. Katie Ledecky, who has dominated U.S. women’s freestyle events at all distances, is not expected at the meet.

Notable international names competing at the meet, like those ranked above Adrian in the 100m freestyle, include:

  • Olympic bronze medalist Vladimir Morozov (Russia): 100m freestyle, 50m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, 100m backstroke
  • Olympic gold medalist Ous Mellouli (Tunisia): 400m freestyle, 1500m freestyle, 400m IM
  • Olympic gold medalist Grant Hackett (Australia): 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle
  • World champion Yulia Efimova (Russia): 50m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke, 200m IM
  • Pan American Games medalist Santo Condorelli (Canada): 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly

A live webcast of the meet will be available on, including noon E.T. prelims and 9 p.m. E.T. finals beginning Thursday, Dec. 3 through Saturday, Dec. 5. NBC will air coverage on Sunday, Dec. 6 from 1-2 p.m. E.T.

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Thomas Bach: Hamburg bid rejection is ‘missed opportunity’

Thomas Bach
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The rejection of Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Olympics marks a “missed opportunity” for the city and Germany, IOC President Thomas Bach said Monday.

Hamburg withdrew its bid Sunday after it was defeated in a referendum by voters in the northern port city. The vote was 51.6 percent against, and 48.4 percent in favor.

“The IOC of course respects the close vote by the citizens of Hamburg,” Bach said in a statement. “We regret the decision, which should be seen in the light of the very particular and difficult circumstances the referendum was held in. This is a missed opportunity for Hamburg and Germany.”

The vote came as Germany copes with an influx of migrants and refugees, a situation that Bach said “requires a great effort by German government and society and is causing widespread feelings of uncertainty.”

He also said the result may have been influenced by current doping and corruption scandals in sports. Without citing any by name, Bach alluded to the scandals surrounding FIFA, allegations of bribery involving Germany’s winning bid for the 2006 World Cup, and doping and corruption charges facing the IAAF and track and field.

“This is a pity,” Bach said, adding that the IOC applies strict anti-corruption rules.

The IOC president said the Hamburg vote was “greatly influenced” by the issue of how the games would be financed. Hamburg’s operating budget of 3.4 billion euros ($3.6 billion) was “very well balanced,” with the IOC planning to contribute $1.7 billion to the project, Bach said.

Hamburg’s withdrawal leaves four cities in contention: Rome, Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary. The IOC will select the host city in September 2017.

“The IOC is proud to have four strong candidate cities,” Bach said.

A spokeswoman for Angela Merkel said the German chancellor regretted the decision by Hamburg voters.

Merkel “took note of the results of the vote in Hamburg, and the chancellor finds this decision regrettable but of course she respects the will of the people,” government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin.

“That’s why referendums are held – to find out what the population wants, and obviously Hamburgers don’t want the Olympics,” Wirtz said.

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