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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.

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban