Golden Goggles Preview, part 1

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USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles are Monday night in New York, and we’re expecting everyone from Michael Phelps (hopefully adorned in all 22 medals) to Ryan Lochte (hopefully not wearing a shirt under his jacket) to show for the event that honors the best athletes and performances in American swimming each year. But before that, a few predictions: here’s how NBC swimming writer Jason Devaney, Olympic trials swimmer (turned NBC online producer) Ryan Hurley, and OlympicTalk’s Matthew Kitchen decided to vote for this year’s awards. Click here for Part 2.
**Breakout Performer nominees
Camille Adams, Haley Anderson, Katie Ledecky, Breeja Larson, Scott Weitz

Jason: Katie Ledecky – Most people didn’t know who Katie Ledecky was in 2011. She was considered a contender at the Olympic Trials and she ended up winning the 800m freestyle by six seconds. In London, the 15-year-old beat reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Rebecca Adlington by more than four seconds. And she was a half second shy of the world record! C’mon people, vote for Katie.

Ryan: Katie Ledecky – In 2011 she won U.S. Junior Nationals, in 2012 she won gold at the London Olympic Games.  The fearlessness with which the 15-year-old Olympic rookie swam, against an incredibly talented and experienced 800m field, was truly awe-inspiring.

Kitchen: Katie Ledecky – Everything they said. For my money, no one was more impressive in London than Katie. It was the most exciting swim race of the Games.
**Perseverance nominees
Tyler Clary, Anthony Ervin, Jessica Hardy, Davis Tarwater

Jason: Jessica Hardy – Ultimately I went with Hardy over Clary because she endured a difficult ordeal after test positive for a banned substance in 2008. She wasn’t allowed to compete in Beijing, was suspended for a year, and was branded a cheat. However, it was eventually ruled that Hardy did not knowingly ingest the substance, clenbuterol. Hardy made the London team and won two medals (gold and bronze).

Ryan: Tyler Clary – Clary took a bath this year after his (misinterpreted) comments about Phelps’s work ethic. After countless second and third place finishes behind Phelps and Ryan Lochte, Clary finally earned his gold medal.

Kitchen: Davis Tarwater – I get the struggle Hardy went through to get back in the pool after being banned in Beijing, but Tarwater’s journey arguably defines “perseverance.” After barely missing qualifying for three straight Olympics (with a retirement thrown in for good measure), a scratch by Michael Phelps in the 200m finally got Davis to London. He made the most of it, helping the team win gold in the relay.
**Coach of the Year nominees
Bob Bowman, Todd Schmitz, Teri McKeever, David Salo, Gregg Troy

Jason: Todd Schmitz – Bob Bowman coached Michael Phelps, Teri McKeever led the U.S. women’s team in London to 14 medals, and Gregg Troy’s four swimmers, including Ryan Lochte, won a combined nine medals. But this award has to go to Todd Schmitz, the genius behind 17-year-old Missy Franklin. Schmitz coached her to five medals in her Olympic debut, including four gold. She also broke two world records.

Ryan: Teri McKeever – With the entire U.S. Women’s Team swimming so well across the board in London, McKeever deserves credit for setting a high bar.  She guided a relatively young group to 15 total medals – 8 of which were gold, compared to only 2 in Beijing.

Kitchen: Bob Bowman – You could argue that coaching Phelps is hardly coaching, but from all the reports we heard about him being lazy for three years (and for how much golf he’s played since London) I imagine getting Phelps motivated after Beijing was his hardest task. Bowman got Phelps over the losing hump after the first race, helped him to win six more medals, and coached Allison Schmitt to five medals just for fun.
**Best Relay Performance nominees
Women’s 4x200m free relay, men’s 4x200m free relay, women’s 4x100m medley relay, men’s 4x100m medley relay

Jason: Women’s 4x100m medley – The Women put together an all-star team that included Missy Franklin, 100m/200m backstroke winner; Rebecca Soni, 200m breaststroke champion and 100m breaststroke silver medalist; Dana Vollmer, 100m butterfly winner; and Allison Schmitt, 200m freestyle gold medalist. They joined forces and broke the world record to win the race for the U.S. for the first time since 2000.

Ryan: Women’s 4 x 100 medley – In the toughest category to pick, the women’s medley out-touched the men’s, mainly because  they set a new World Record.  Both teams won gold, and featured four individual medalists in London, but Franklin, Soni, Vollmer and Schmitt have the edge here.

Kitchen: Men’s 4x100m medley – I could not be more impressed by the what the women did in the 4x100m medley, but the men’s medley team included individual gold medalists Matt Grevers and Nathan Adrian, and capped Phelps’s career with one more gold, the 18th of his career. You’re just not going to beat that.

Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in World Cup season opener

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 22: Mikaela Shiffrin of USA in action during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Giant Slalom on October 22, 2016 in Soelden, Austria (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s bid for a first outright World Cup giant slalom victory was denied by World Cup overall champion Lara Gut on Saturday, opening what could be a season-long battle between the two.

The Swiss Gut dominated to win the first race in Soelden, Austria, by 1.44 seconds over Shiffrin combining times from two runs. It marked the second-largest women’s margin of victory in Soelden history.

“It’s a big relief to walk away from today with a podium,” Shiffrin said. “It’s always great to win, but I’m starting off on the right foot. I can be happy with that, but I know I can do better.”

Italian Marta Bassino was third. Full results are here.

“I put myself so much under pressure until this morning,” said Gut, who led Shiffrin by 1.42 seconds after the first of two runs. “Sometimes, it’s horrible. You get into the race, and start thinking instead of just skiing. I’m happy I had a fast first run because the second run was just a fight.”

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion, shared victory with Austrian Anna Veith in Soelden in 2014 and finished second to Italian Federica Brignone last year.

Lindsey Vonn and Veith, both coming back from season-ending knee injuries, skipped Soelden.

Gut and Shiffrin could be the top World Cup overall title contenders with Vonn focusing on speed events and Veith’s readiness uncertain. Shiffrin had finished fifth, sixth and fourth in the overall standings before placing 10th last season, when she missed two months due to a right knee injury.

Gut, 25, won six races across four disciplines last season, showing the kind of all-around prowess that Shiffrin can’t yet match. Shiffrin is the world’s best slalom skier and showed she is elite in giant slalom on Saturday, but she has scant experience in downhill, super-G and super combined races.

“Lara’s given us a good pace to chase,” Shiffrin said. “When she comes down, and she’s that far ahead and just taking every gate like it’s the last gate she’s going to ski, it’s really cool to see.”

The men open their season in Soelden on Sunday (4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, NBC Sports app; 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The women next race a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 12.

Shiffrin has won 11 straight slaloms dating to 2015, including her last eight World Cup slaloms, the longest streak since four-time Olympic champion Janica Kostelic won 10 straight from 1999 through 2001.


Ashley Wagner tops Skate America short program

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HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) — Ashley Wagner topped the Skate America short program Friday night with 69.50 points, building on her second-place finish from last season’s world championships.

Japan’s Mai Mihara, making her Grand Prix Series debut at 17, was second at 65.75, and U.S. champion Gracie Gold third at 64.87.

The free skate will determine the champion Saturday at Sears Centre Arena (live on NBC and the NBC Sports app at 4:30 p.m. ET). Full results are here.

Wagner performed with a fierce and determined style, delivering a technically solid and entertaining program to “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurhythmics.

“I capitalized on the momentum (from worlds) going into the summer,” said Wagner, the 2012 Skate America winner. “It inspired me to train even harder than I had been because it showed me that my training got me onto that podium. It motivated me and made it a realistic goal to get onto that Olympic podium, and I can almost taste it. It’s a totally new season. I’m hopefully a different athlete from that Worlds event and I think it’s just about building on that from here on out.”

Mihara fell during her warmup, which she said relaxed her during her performance.

“I think for my first Grand Prix event, I did a good job,” she said.

Gold, coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the world championships, fell on her triple flip, but otherwise was solid in her performance to a tango.

“I had a hiccup on the triple flip, but I went after everything,” Gold said. “I just need to keep working on the program and just keep getting it out there.”

Gold said the months after the world championships were difficult and affected her training.

“It was a pretty hard summer,” she said. “I had trouble getting going and getting my feet under me for some reason. I felt I had let myself down. No one else felt the intense shame that I felt, but it was just so internal that I had trouble getting back out there. But as soon as I got the momentum going, I’ve been feeling excellent.”

Three-time World champion Mao Asada of Japan, hampered by a knee injury, was fifth.

In pairs, Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took a commanding lead program with a score of 75.24. Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who missed last season with a knee injury to Denney, were second at 67.29, and Canadians Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau followed at 66.49.

Tarasova and Morozov, fifth at the world championships, received high marks on their opening triple twist as well as their lifts, spins and footwork.

“Today we have a short program we did well,” Morozov said. “We have a personal best and were glad to have this moment.”

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