U.S. Olympic swimmers to compete for national titles

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More than 15 members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic swim team are in Austin, Texas this week for the AT&T Winter National Championships.

Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin, who recently competed at the Minneapolis Grand Prix, headline the list of swimmers. Others include Allison Schmitt, Matt Grevers, Nathan Adrian, Jessica Hardy and Ricky Berens.

The Thursday-Saturday meet will be contested in a short-course yards format at the University of Texas, which means the times will differ from those at the Olympics – they’ll be lower than those long-course marks because yards are shorter than meters. Also, short-course times are typically faster because of the benefit of pushing off the walls.

So it’s no stretch to say that we’ll see some low times in Austin this week.

Many of the swimmers are using the meet as preparation for the Short-Course World Championships, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey Dec. 12-16. In Franklin’s case, the Nationals meet is a the prelude to her final high school season after the 17-year-old decided to swim for Regis Jesuit her senior season.

One swimmer we’re anxious to watch this weekend is Garrett Weber-Gale, who lives and trains in Austin. He famously won gold with the 4x100m freestyle relay team at the Beijing Olympics (read: Jason Lezak and the greatest relay swim in history) but at the 2012 Olympic Trials, Weber-Gale fell short of his goal to make the London team in the 50m and 100m freestyles and the 4x100m freestyle relay. The founder of AthleticFoodie.com, Weber-Gale recently said he’s focusing on the Short-Course Worlds for now but left the door open for what he’ll do the next three years leading up to the 2016 Olympics.

Watch prelims and finals live from Austin at USASwimming.com, and be sure to catch NBC’s coverage Sunday from 2-3 p.m. ET.

The secret messages Lindsey Vonn wrote on her Olympic race suit

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SCHEDULE UPDATE: Vonn will will return for the final women’s downhill training run on Monday at 9 p.m. ET. LIVE STREAM

Look closely at Lindsey Vonn.

When NBC cameras zoom in on the two-time Olympic medalist, viewers will notice that she wrote a couple of messages on her uniform in permanent marker.

On the thumb of her right glove, Vonn has the word “believe” in Greek. It mirrors a tattoo she has on the inside of a finger.

“Signifying my last Olympics [in 2018] and just need to believe in myself,” Vonn said to NBC’s Nick Zaccardi.

On her helmet, Vonn has the initials “D.K.” and a heart. It is meant to honor her late grandfather, Don Kildow.

Kildow, who served in the Korean War from 1952-54, died on Nov. 1. Watch to learn more about Vonn’s special relationship with her grandparents:

Hard falls at Olympics, but no hard rules about concussions

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — At the bottom of the Olympic aerials landing hill, where crashes are common and the term “slap back” is part of the everyday lingo, skiers spend almost as much time figuring out how to protect their heads as they do working on all those flips and spins.

“We learn how to fall,” U.S. jumper Jon Lillis said.

Elsewhere around the action-sports venue, that’s not so much the case.

Concussion dangers lurk everywhere — from the iced-over deck of the halfpipe, to the steeply pitched landings on the slopestyle course, to the careening twists and turns of the snowboard cross track, to the aerials course, where “slap back” is the term for when a skier’s head slaps backward against the snow. But at the Olympics, there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding who diagnoses head injuries, and no hard-and-fast protocol that athletes must clear to be allowed back on the slopes after a concussion.

“A bit concerning,” says neurologist Kevin Weber of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Because you worry that athletes in other sports that may not be as popular as football are getting, I wouldn’t say ignored, but the concussions they’re getting are under-scrutinized.”

Read the full story at NBCOlympics.com