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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.

Hanyu, Miyahara into Grand Prix Final with wins at NHK Trophy

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu won the NHK Trophy in front of a home crowd in Japan in spectacular fashion – setting three world records – and qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the process.

He followed up his short program world record with a record setting free skate of 216.07 and a combined overall score record of 322.40.

China’s Boyang Jin finished second overall followed by Japan’s Takahito Mura. The U.S. Grant Hochstein finished fourth after an eighth-place finish in the short program.

Though the results are still unofficial, the men’s field in Barcelona will likely include no U.S. men, a streak that has continued since 2012. Max Aaron is eighth in the standings, but would be invited if he finished seventh overall. More on that the qualifying process here.

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Japan’s Satoko Miyahara took the ladies’ competition over the U.S.’ Courtney Hicks, who finished second in her first career Grand Prix circuit medal, and countrywoman Mao Asada, who finished third.

Ashley Wagner was fourth, the lowest place she could have to give her a berth to Barcelona. Wagner has earned a medal at every Grand Prix Final since 2012 (silver in 2012, and bronzes in 2013 and 2014).

Again, the overall standings are unofficial, but Miyahara, Asada, and Wagner should join Gracie Gold, Evgenia Medvedeva, and Elena Radionova in the Grand Prix Final.

Russia finished off the podium entirely in the ladies’ field – Alena Leonova and Anna Pogorilaya finished eitghth and ninth while Maria Artemieva finished 11th.

The last time no Russian women were on a Grand Prix podium – the final or otherwise – was in the 2012-13 season, where it happened a handful of times. Russian women have been featured on every Grand Prix circuit podium since the 2012-13 season, where they only missed out on Skate Canada, the Rostelecom Cup, the NHK Trophy, and the Grand Prix Final from that season. Names like Olympic gold medalists Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaya, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Elena Radionova, Pogorilaya, Leonova, and 2015 world junior champion Evgenia Medvedeva all contributed to that streak.

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U.S. pairs champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim earned a trip to Barcelona with a bronze medal in Japan. Leading the field in their ninth straight international win was Canadian pair Meaghan Duhamel and Eric Radford followed China’s Yu Xiaoyu and Jin Yang.

7 more Kenyan athletes banned for doping

Emily Chebet
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Two-time cross-country world champion Emily Chebet was among seven Kenyan athletes banned for doping Friday, another indication that the country has a serious problem of cheating among its famed distance runners.

Chebet, the cross-country world champion in 2010 and 2013, was banned for four years after testing positive for the diuretic and masking agent furosemide, the Kenyan athletics federation said.

The list of sanctions announced by Athletics Kenya included bans for the two runners that failed doping tests at the world championships in Beijing in August. Joyce Zakary and Koki Manunga, who were provisionally suspended at the worlds, also received four-year bans for furosemide.

There has been a recent spike in doping cases in Kenya and more than 40 athletes have now failed tests since 2012. Kenyan track officials are under scrutiny after allegations of doping cover-ups, and separate accusations of embezzlement of money at the national federation.

This week, a group of athletes stormed the federation headquarters in Nairobi demanding the resignation of top officials over the doping scandals and corruption allegations.

Along with her two cross-country world titles, the 29-year-old Chebet was a bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Her ban was backdated to July 17 and she will be unable to compete until July 16, 2019.

The doping cases of Zakary, a 400-meter runner, and Manunga, a 400-meter hurdler, undermined Kenya’s impressive display at this year’s worlds, where the country tied with Jamaica for the most gold medals with seven. They failed targeted tests carried out by world athletics body the IAAF in Beijing, enhancing suspicions that doping in Kenya is widespread.

Zakary set a national record of 50.71 seconds at the worlds before her failed test. The two were banned until Aug. 24, 2019.

The other four athletes banned on Friday were Agnes Jepkosgei, Bernard Mwendia, Judy Jesire Kimuge and Lilian Moraa Marita.

Jepkosgei was banned for four years for testing positive for the anabolic steroid metabolite norandrosterone. Mwendia was given a two-year ban for norandrosterone. Kimuge was banned two years for the norandrolone and Marita two years for the blood-booster EPO.

A World Anti-Doping Agency panel that recently reported on a systematic program of doping cover-ups in Russia said that Kenya also has a serious doping problem. That has spurred speculation that, like Russia, Kenya could face a blanket ban from international competition.

The IAAF has opened investigations into allegations that track officials in Kenya were involved in covering up positive doping tests. In a separate investigation, the IAAF is also looking at accusations of corruption against top officials at Athletics Kenya after they were questioned by Kenyan police over the alleged embezzlement of around $700,000 of the federation’s money.

One of the officials accused, AK Vice President David Okeyo, is a member of the IAAF’s decision-making council. The athletes protesting at Athletics Kenya this week demanded that Okeyo and AK President Isaiah Kiplagat step down.