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.

Helen Maroulis dominates for world title after making history in Rio

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Helen Maroulis, after becoming the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic wrestling title, had quite a year.

She grappled in a cage with Conor McGregor. She lifted Teddy Roosevelt. The Maryland native cracked steamed crabs with Cal Ripken Jr. And spent three months in Norway.

Then, she came back to competition. And dominated once again.

Maroulis won the world title at 58kg on Wednesday, mercy ruling all five of her opponents by a combined 53-0 margin and finishing the day with a torn thumb ligament.

“This was really special to me because I didn’t just go to Rio, do things right there and then come back and everything crashed and burned,” said Maroulis, who has won three straight global titles (the Olympics sandwiched by two worlds). “I heard people say everything in the book [after Rio]. Maybe I just had a good day or this or that. Three years in a row, I achieved the goal I set.”

The 25-year-old took seven months off after Rio — her coach told her that she might lose worlds because of it — but looked and felt reinvigorated on Wednesday.

“I was, like, counting down the days before Rio, like don’t focus on vacation after. I was so overwhelmed and tired,” Maroulis said. “But this, I’m like, man, I love this. I could do this all over again.”

She improved to a 78-1 record since taking bronze at the 2014 Worlds. Remember, Maroulis went 1-30 in her first year as a wrestler at age 7.

She’s the only American man or woman to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in at least 30 years, doing so in 2015 and again Wednesday.

Maroulis, after a hard struggle to cut weight to 53kg for Rio, moved up two divisions (11 pounds) this year. By the numbers, she faced an easier road to gold.

Saori Yoshida, the three-time Olympic champion whom Maroulis dethroned at 53kg in Rio, and 58kg superstar Kaori Icho, the only woman to win four Olympic golds in an individual event, both sat out this year for Japan.

The top 58kg seed at worlds, Olympic silver medalist Valeria Koblova of Russia, bowed out of her opening match with a left knee injury.

Maroulis plowed the remaining field, winning her first four matches Wednesday by mercy rule to reach the final by a 42-0 point margin.

Also Wednesday, 20-year-old Becka Leathers took bronze at 55kg in her senior worlds debut.

Worlds continue through the rest of this week. Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox goes Friday, and Olympic champions Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Snyder close out the competition Saturday.

A full broadcast schedule is here.

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Dream Team, Shaq lead FIBA Hall of Fame inductees

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The Dream Team, Shaquille O’Neal and Toni Kukoč headline the FIBA international basketball Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

A ceremony will be held Sept. 30 at FIBA headquarters in Switzerland.

The Dream Team enters the hall on the 25th anniversary of its unforgettable run at the 1992 Barcelona Games, where it went 8-0 and won by an average of 43.8 points per game.

The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air every Dream Team game from the Olympics next week. A full schedule is here.

That team included two players who are already FIBA Hall of Famers — Michael Jordan and David Robinson, who both won multiple Olympic gold medals.

O’Neal was left off the Dream Team in favor of Christian Laettner as the single college player to round out the 12-man roster otherwise made up of NBA All-Stars.

But O’Neal went on to lead Dream Team II as MVP of the 1994 World Championship. He paced the U.S. in points (18 per game), rebounds (8.5 per game) and field-goal percentage (71.3).

O’Neal then played on the 1996 Olympic team that won gold in Atlanta, starting three of eight games. The U.S. was loaded at center with Hakeem Olajuwon, who led the Houston Rockets to 1994 and 1995 NBA titles, and Robinson, the 1995 NBA MVP.

Kukoč, best known as a member of Jordan’s supporting cast on the late 1990s Chicago Bulls teams, won a world title with Yugoslavia and two Olympic silver medals for Croatia.

He was MVP of the 1990 World Championship, where Yugoslavia beat the U.S. in the semifinals and the Soviet Union in the final.

Kukoč made his Olympic debut at age 19 at Seoul 1988, then was part of a star core of Croatian teams with the likes of Dražen Petrović and Dino Radja in the 1990s.

FIBA Hall of Fame Class of 2017:

TEAM
Dream Team (USA)

PLAYERS
Mickey Berkowitz (Israel)
Pero Cameron (New Zealand)
Toni Kukoč (Croatia)
Razija Mujanovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Shaquille O’Neal (USA)
Valdis Valters (Latvia)

COACH
Dusan Ivkovic (Serbia)

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