Visa Presents Michael Phelps, The Most decorated Olympian of All Time

AP names Michael Phelps its top male athlete of 2012

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After Michael Phelps swam the last race of his career on Aug. 4, he announced to the assembled media – the press conference room was so crowded it felt like all of the writers and camera operators were treading water in the same lane, elbow to elbow – that he was retiring.

He had 22 Olympic medals, more than anyone else.

He had finished the 2012 Games with six medals – four gold and two silver.

There was nothing else Phelps could do. All of his goals, he said, had been accomplished.

But Phelps was just one male Olympian who had an incredible 2012. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt put on a spectacular show at Olympic stadium and successfully defended the two individual titles he won in Beijing – the 100m and 200m dash – along with the 4x100m relay.

Outside of the Olympics, LeBron James – who was Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year – won an NBA title with the Miami Heat.

But to the Associated Press, no single male athlete had a better year than Phelps. The wire service announced Thursday that Phelps was the recipient of its Male Athlete of the Year award. James finished second in the voting and Bolt was third.

“Obviously, it’s a big accomplishment,” said Phelps, who also won the award in 2008 after his eight-for-eight performance at the Beijing Olympics. “There’s so many amazing male athletes all over the world and all over our country. To be able to win this is something that just sort of tops off my career.”

Phelps spoke with the AP from his new home away from home – the golf course. With competitive swimming behind him, Phelps’ new favorite hobby is golf. He’s currently filming episodes of “The Haney Project,” a Golf Channel show in which celebrities work with golf instructor Hank Haney to improve their game. The show will air starting in February.

Aside from becoming a better golfer and winning more awards, here’s a sampling of what else Phelps has been up to since hanging up his competitive Speedo (we say “competitive” because Phelps told us last month that he still swims on his own time):

Our take (or hope): Phelps returns to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, wins two individual races (100m butterfly, 200m IM) and all three relays, and wins the AP award for a third time.

Tori Bowie runs fastest 100m ever this early in a year; Diamond League recap

Tori Bowie
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Tori Bowie, primarily a long jumper until two years ago, began to make her case as Olympic 100m favorite in the Diamond League season opener in Doha on Friday.

Bowie won in 10.80 seconds, the fastest-ever time this early in a year. The clocking matched the soft-spoken Mississippi native’s personal best.

Bowie was the world’s fastest woman in 2014, her first season as a full-time sprinter, and earned the World Championships 100m bronze medal last August.

At Worlds, she finished behind Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers.

In Doha, Bowie beat Schippers (10.83) and Worlds fourth-place finisher Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.91) with a .7 meter/second tailwind, easily within the legal limit of 2.0.

“I’m a much better runner now than I was last season,” Bowie said, according to the IAAF.

Fraser-Pryce, the two-time reigning Olympic and World champion, bettered 10.80 three times last year, including a 10.76 to win the World title.

Fraser-Pryce was not in Doha and hasn’t raced a 100m yet this year but is entered in a Jamaican meet Saturday.

In other events Friday, Caster Semenya notched her first Diamond League win since 2011, taking the 800m in 1:58.26, the fastest time in the world this year.

Semenya, who won the 2009 World title and 2012 Olympic silver, is best known for a gender-testing controversy of 2009 and 2010. The South African struggled since the London Games, failing to make the 2015 Worlds final, but on Friday breezed into the lead with about 60 meters left and opened a comfortable winning margin of .88.

“I can’t say there have been many changes in my training or my attitude,” Semenya said, according to the IAAF.

Semenya’s resurgence has come since a July decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that suspended for two years an IAAF ruling in 2011 that regulated women’s testosterone levels for competition eligibility.

Semenya has performed well at various times before the 2011 ruling, during the regulation period and now without the regulation.

In the 110m hurdles, Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt took sixth place in 13.37 seconds in his first Diamond League race since a Sept. 1 kidney transplant. Jamaican Omar McLeod prevailed in 13.05, the fastest time in the world this year.

Beijing Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt won a 400m in 44.41. Merritt took silver at 2015 Worlds behind South African Wayde van Niekerk, who clocked 44.11 in Bloemfontein earlier Friday.

Ameer Webb looked like a man who will make his first Olympic team in the 200m, winning in a personal-best 19.85 seconds. Webb, 26, had not broken 20 seconds until this year. He’s now done it in consecutive meets.

The Doha 200m did not include World medalists Usain BoltJustin Gatlin or Anaso Jobodwana. Webb’s time on Friday would have taken bronze at Worlds and ranks him No. 3 among Americans since the London Olympics. Only Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt have been faster in that span.

The Diamond League continues in Shanghai on May 14.

MORE: U.S. sprinters past, present trade relay barbs

Doctor auctions Michael Jordan’s Olympic shoes, Dream Team ball

Michael Jordan shoes
Heritage Auctions
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As the team physician for the Dream Team, Dr. David Fischer was up close with the most star-studded team ever assembled as they rolled through the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Nearly 25 years later, Fischer has decided to let other fans and collectors share that experience.

Fischer has put almost all of the memorabilia he acquired during that historic summer up for auction, providing a rare chance for people to get their hands on some unique pieces from the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team that helped the NBA reach into households the world over.

“This was such a unique team,” Fischer told The Associated Press. “It was the greatest sports team ever put together. There are other basketball fans and collectors out there. It’s just a good time to let other people enjoy them.”

The team was assembled to reclaim the U.S.’ place atop the basketball hierarchy after the Americans finished third in the Seoul Games in 1988. For the first time, NBA players were allowed to compete for the United States, and the result was a collection of talent unlike any other.

Michael Jordan just reaching the height of his powers. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and David Robinson in the primes of their careers. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird nearing the end of theirs. The group inspired a young generation of players, captivated a global audience and had opponents asking to take pictures at center court before the game started.

“Every shoe that I handle, every basketball brings back a very vivid memory of the exact time and circumstances around that,” Fischer said.

Fischer has made available for bid a pair of game-worn, autographed shoes from nearly the entire roster, the Dream Team Olympic championship ring he was awarded after they won the gold medal, a host of other memorabilia signed by the entire team, including basketballs and photographs and the gold medal from the Tournament of Americas qualifying event that took place prior to the Olympics.

Despite the crush of marketing surrounding the team at the time, Jordan, Bird, Magic and the rest of them were only together for a short summer run, which makes the most collectible items involving the team harder to come by.

“With players of this caliber, their stuff is not coming to market anytime soon,” said Chris Ivy, the director of sports memorabilia auctions for Heritage Auctions, the auction house that is handling the process.

What makes Fischer’s collection potentially more valuable, Ivy said, was what collectors call provenance. In an age of skyrocketing values for sports memorabilia, collectors and auction houses can sometimes have difficulty validating the authenticity of an item. But because Fischer was a member of the team and is the original owner of the items, the authenticity is unquestioned.

“There were a lot of people that were seeking material from the team at the time and I’m sure some of it made it out there,” Ivy said. “But having it come from someone like this is great. I don’t expect Barkley or Magic or Jordan or Bird or players of that caliber to be offering their personal material anytime soon. So this is a great opportunity.”

The auction has already started online at http://www.ha.com and will continue until 10 p.m. on May 13, at which point anyone who has placed a bid on an item will be able to participate in an “extended bid” process. Once a bid has stood for 30 minutes, the item will be awarded to the winner.

Ivy estimated that the entire package of items could fetch between $150,000-200,000. The most sought after items, Ivy said, figure to be Jordan’s game-worn shoes, Fischer’s Olympic ring and a special basketball signed by the entire team that was only given to members of the team.

“I have to live with the reality they are going to belong to someone else,” Fischer said. “Whatever the value is, that’s determined by the people that want to buy them, not by me.”

MORE: Larry Bird, Kim Zmeskal remember Olympic bus meeting in 1992

Dream Team
AP