Michael Phelps

Card tricks and black eyes: Our Golden Goggles recap

Leave a comment

NEW YORK – It was a magical night at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards Monday night, the organization’s annual gala that recognizes the top performances of the year.

The usual suspects were in attendance – Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and a whole lot more. There were also a few non-swimmers in the audience and on the stage to present awards – Donald Trump was the one who stood out the most. And there was magician and endurance artist David Blaine.

Backstage after the awards were all given out, Blaine stole the show.

The guy who has willingly been encased in ice for more than 63 hours, held his breath for more than 17 minutes and, most recently, was hit with one million volts of electricity for 72 hours straight, was up to his old habits at New York City’s Marriott Marquis – card tricks. He started off by doing an elaborate trick with Phelps that lasted a good four or five minutes. Phelps was completely floored when the card he was thinking off ended up written on a sharpie Blaine had handed to him moments earlier.

Then Blaine moved on to Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer and did another trick. Franklin was speechless when a folded up card appeared under her watchband … and again when Blaine made the card change its number and suit in an instant.

“Who are you?” a mystified Franklin asked.

Click here for a complete recap of the night (sneak preview: Phelps and Franklin took home the night’s top awards).

A few other thoughts and observations from the evening:

– It was a no-brainer to start the night by playing the U.S. Olympic swim team’s music video of “Call me Maybe.” It’s still our favorite of the “Call me Maybe” parodies on YouTube.

– Phelps is currently filming episodes of the Haney Project, a Golf Channel reality show that features celebrity golfers trying to become better golfers under the direction of coach Hank Haney. We asked Phelps who is tougher: Haney or his longtime swim coach, Bob Bowman.

“They are exactly the same,” Phelps said. “They have the same amount of passion and they’re just going to force it out of you.”

– We chatted with Jessica Hardy and her fiancé Dominic Meichtry on the red carpet about an unfortunate mishap last week that resulted in Meichtry giving Hardy a black eye. The pair was training together in the pool (Meichtry swims for the Swiss national team) and they collided in the middle of the lane after a miscommunication about whether they were swimming side by side or in a circle pattern. Hardy was left bloodied and with a colorful circle around her eye. “The first thing I said when it happened was, ‘Oh no, the Golden Goggles.’ Hardy was able to apply enough makeup that the mark was invisible.

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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