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Golden Goggles Preview, part 2

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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 1.

**Best Female Performance nominees
Rebecca Soni: 200m breast, Katie Ledecky: 800m free, Missy Franklin: 200m back, Dana Vollmer: 100m fly

Jason: Rebecca Soni, 200m breast – I almost resorted to throwing the nominees in a hat and randomly picking one. Eventually I settled on Soni because she broke the 200m breaststroke world record in London. Twice. On consecutive nights. Soni touched the wall in 2:20 in her semifinals swim, then after telling the media she wanted to break it again, broke it again, cruising to the wall in 2:19.59 to win gold.

Ryan: Rebecca Soni, 200m breast – She broke the world record twice in as many nights, and was the first female ever to go under 2:20 in that event.  In a race between only her and the clock, Soni won both times.

Kitchen: Katie Ledecky, 800m free – Soni’s performance on both nights was incredible, but let me reiterate: Katie blew away the competition by four seconds, beat the reigning Olympics champ by six seconds, broke the American record, was a half second off the world record, and is only 15-years-old. It was hands down the most impressive performance.

**Best Male Performance nominees
Nathan Adrian: 100m free, Matt Grevers: 100m fly, Michael Phelps: 200 IM, Ryan Lochte: 400 IM, Tyler Clary: 200m back

Jason: Michael Phelps, 200m IM – Phelps. No, Lochte. Wait, Phelps. Maybe Lochte. That was my thought process as I tried to decide who should win this award. Ultimately I chose Phelps’s victory in the 200m IM because he won the best race of the Olympics, and with the victory became the first person to win the same event at three consecutive Games. Lochte was more dominating, but the 200m IM was a better race.

Ryan: Nathan Adrian, 100m Free – Adrian’s underdog win in the 100m freestyle in London represented the essence of the Olympic Games.  It wasn’t only that Adrian swam the perfect race, but also his utter joy and the disbelief of becoming an Olympic champion that made it such a memorable performance.

Kitchen: Nathan Adrian, 100m Free – I spent the last two months before the Olympics hearing all about how cute Ryan Lochte was, but when Adrian’s smile beamed following his 100m free victory, the new motto for the girls became “Lochte who?” That, plus the fun, the speed, and the excitement 0.01 second finish made Adrian’s performance one of the best and most memorable of the Games for me.

**Female Athlete of the Year nominees
Allison Schmitt, Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni

Jason: Missy Franklin – Tough call, but Missy gets the nod here. The 17-year-old was the first U.S. woman to qualify for seven events at the Olympics. She won five medals – four gold and a bronze. She broke the 200m backstroke world record and was on the 4x100m medley relay team that lowered that world record. Franklin was one of the most hyped athletes leading up to the Games, and she did not disappoint.

Ryan: Missy Franklin – There was an incredible amount of hype around Missy Franklin leading up to the London Games.  She never let it get to her, and she never lost the smile on her face.  The end result was four gold medals and a bronze, and the unanimous feeling that Franklin lived up to all of the expectations.

Kitchen: Missy Franklin – I won’t bore you with any more details… let’s just say I think Cal has a pretty good shot at yet another national championship when Missy joins the team in Berkeley next year.

**Male Athlete of the Year nominees
Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers

Jason: Michael Phelps – A no-brainer. Phelps won six medals (four gold) and became the most decorated Olympian of all time with a career total of 22 medals (18 gold) before retiring after his final swim in London. He split his two head-to-head races with teammate Ryan Lochte in London. Not much more can be said.

Ryan: Michael Phelps – I’m an avid Lochte supporter (with the shades to prove it), but Phelps takes the honor because of how he rose in the face of adversity after a slow start at his last Olympics.  He ended the competition with a streak of four straight gold medals.  Not a bad way for a champion to go out.

Kitchen: Michael Phelps – I looked for some  interesting, obscure moment to convince myself that one of the other guys is worthy of the award, but stats don’t lie. Phelps won the most medals of any athlete for the third straight Olympics and now has twice as many gold medals as any other athlete in history.

Kate Hansen retires from luge, eyes Running of the Bulls

Kate Hansen
AP
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The last luge competition of Kate Hansen‘s career came at the Sochi Olympics. The one before that, she became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup race in 17 years.

Not a bad way to go out.

Hansen has retired and will not attempt an Olympic encore in two years.

“I won’t go back to [competing in] luge,” Hansen said in a phone interview, coming to a firm decision the last several months. “As much as I miss my team, I miss my people, I miss traveling, I’m just feeling good about where my life’s at. I’m feeling fulfilled in a lot of different ways.”

She may be done speeding down an icy chute at 80 miles per hour, but she’s not done challenging herself. Hansen’s bucket list includes a trip to Pamplona, Spain, next year to participate in the Running of the Bulls.

She placed 10th in Sochi while also gaining fame for her warm-up dance routine while listening to Beyoncé and pranking the world with her wolf-in-the-athletes-village video.

“I never cared if I won or lost; I never cared about racing,” Hansen said. “Results, like they got me through the day-by-day, but my favorite part was being able to travel the world and make best friends all over.”

She’s still involved in the sport. Hansen will be the analyst on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra‘s broadcast of the World Luge Championships on Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET.

“It’s really cool to use my craft that I’ve been working on half my life in a setting outside of competition,” Hansen said. “To still be a part of it is really fulfilling.”

Hansen, 23, sat out the last two seasons to concentrate on studying public relations and business at BYU (and backpack around Europe, Ecuador and Peru). She’s one year from her degree.

On March 27, 2014, Hansen was sought out by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ social media while attending a game to perform on their Dance Cam.

One month later, she threw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Dodgers game, met the right people and was offered a job with the club.

“Stars aligned,” Hansen said. “I would’ve never been able to take that job if I had been training.”

Hansen carries a microphone to help with an on-field pre-game show and in-game promotions (as she does at BYU). It helped her re-connect last summer with Jimmy Kimmel, with whom she pulled off the wolf-video prank in Sochi.

She hopes to be offered an ESPN internship for this summer after finding a delicate way to include her viral Sochi fame on her application.

“I embarrassed myself in front of the whole world,” she joked. “I definitely don’t lead with that.”

Hansen is also working on checking items off her bucket list, such as fixing up a motorcycle, reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s five books and wearing hoop earrings.

Hansen and her older sister plan to celebrate their birthdays in 2017 with a trip to Spain. They’re inviting anybody who wants to join them in the Running of the Bulls.

“I feel like after I went to the Olympics, if I have enough confidence, I can do anything,” Hansen said.

MORE: Update on every U.S. Olympic medalist from Sochi, two years from Pyeongchang

Wolfgate 2014

A photo posted by Kate Hansen (@k8ertotz) on

Two more fencers qualify for U.S. Olympic team

Alexander Massialas
AP
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Nowhere is the U.S. more deep in fencing than in men’s foil, with four of the top 10 in the world.

Two of those four qualified for the Rio Olympics based on rankings updated after a competition last weekend — world No. 1 Alexander Massialas and No. 6 Gerek Meinhardt.

Expect No. 5 Race Imboden and No. 10 Miles Chamley-Watson to join them on the Rio team, qualifying by mid-April. That quartet also made up the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s foil team.

They are the 19th and 20th members of the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. View the complete roster here.

Imboden and Chamley-Watson are now battling to see who will be the third individual U.S. men’s foil fencer in Rio, with the fourth going to the Games as a possible competitor in the team event only.

Though Imboden is ranked higher internationally, it’s Chamley-Watson who controls his own destiny as he is better-placed in U.S. Fencing rankings that determine the Rio roster.

Since 2014, Massialas, Meinhardt and Imboden have all been ranked No. 1 in the world at one time or another. Chamley-Watson is a former world No. 2 and the only U.S. man to earn a World or Olympic title (2013 Worlds) in any fencing event.

Massialas took silver and Meinhardt bronze at the 2015 World Championships. Imboden reached the round of 16. Chamley-Watson lost in the first round to German Peter Joppich, a four-time World champion.

At the London Olympics, Massialas and Imboden were eliminated in the round of 16 and Chamley-Watson in the round of 32.

Meinhardt, who competed at Beijing 2008 as the youngest U.S. Olympic fencer ever, joined them in the team event, where the U.S. fell in the semifinals and the bronze-medal matchup. All were age 22 and younger at the London Games.

With four of the top 10 in the world, the U.S. could go into Rio as the favorite in the team event, though it fell in the 2015 Worlds quarterfinals to eventual champion Italy.

U.S. women’s sabre fencers Mariel Zagunis and Ibtihaj Muhammad qualified for the Olympics the previous weekend.

VIDEO: Chamley-Watson takes fencing to New York City streets