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.

Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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Olympic cycling champion running for Congress

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein is the latest to announce he’s running for the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Dent.

Dent, a former state senator, is a centrist Republican who has held the seat since 2005. He’s retiring after his term expires next year.

Nothstein, who won sprint silver in 1996 and gold in 2000, is the only American track cyclist to win an Olympic title at a fully attended Games.

Two Republican state representatives, Ryan Mackenzie and Justin Simmons, previously announced they’re running for Dent’s 15th District seat.

Democrat Bill Leiner, a former Lehigh County commissioner, is also running.

Dent’s district includes Allentown and all of Lehigh County, and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republicans in 2011 stretched the district almost 90 miles to the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania to make it more Republican.

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