Year in Review: Jordan Jovtchev proves age ain’t nothing

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OlympicTalk’s writers recount some of their favorite moments from the 2012 London Games. 

The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team was the overall youngest team competing in London this year and by almost all accounts, the most exciting. However, there were a few athletes on the floor who proved age is in fact, just a number.

Perhaps the most memorable of them was Jordan Jovtchev. At first glance of Jovtchev and his full head of grey hair he could easily be mistaken as the coach for team Bulgaria. Wrong. He’s a hardcore, superhuman, badass athlete who puts to shame believers of the mindset that most gymnasts careers can only last one Olympic cycle.

London marked Jovtchev’s record breaking sixth Olympics (again, sixth). The 39-year-old owns four Olympic medals and, in addition to being Bulgaria’s star gymnast, is also the president of the country’s gymnastics federation, conducting his business while on his cell phone… while training on the rings (file under: overachiever).

Yet the forecast for London was merely to be a farewell tour, with expectations incredibly low.

So low in fact that during the opening ceremonies a night almost all gymnasts choose to sit out because they have to compete the next day, Jovtchev chose to walk in the march of nations, with good reason, he was selected to carry the flag for Bulgaria.

The next day, during qualifications, Jovtchev stunned everyone when he qualified for the event finals on his signature apparatus: the still rings. What was supposed to be the last ever performance turned into an encore that had fans and media going wild. But Jovetchev can’t be bothered with such fuss. His response was more understated.

“I’m tired now. I didn’t even hope I would make the final, I just told Kras ‘I’m finished’ and now I’ve got to go again.” Awesome.

Jovtchev competed his set in the ring finals, and while a fifth Olympic medal was out of reach for the veteran, his final salute to the judges was met with one of the loudest ovations from the crowd. Oh wait, did I mention that he competed throughout the Games with a partially torn bicep and a fractured wrist?

Take notes, youngsters.

Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

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Kobe Bryant announces retirement but remains in contention for Rio team

Kobe Bryant
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Veteran basketball player and 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant has announced he will retire from professional basketball after the end of this season. However, ESPN reported that the chairman of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, said that Bryant “remains in contention for Team USA spot for Rio 2016.”

In the form of a poem titled “Dear Basketball” on the Player’s Tribune, Bryant wrote:

This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

Bryant played on the U.S. national team from 2007 to 2012. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he scored 20 points in the gold medal game to win gold over Spain. He helped the U.S. men to gold again in 2012, then said that it would be his last Olympics.

But he’s changed his tune in recent months. Bryant told the Associated Press in November that he’d like a shot at another Olympics.

“I would like to play,” Bryant said. “I think it’d be awesome. A beautiful experience.”

If he were selected and won again, Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony would become the first U.S. male basketball players to win three gold Olympic medals.

In the AP interview Bryant spoke glowingly of his Olympic teammates. “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” he said. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.”

He also said he believes he’d be an asset to the team, stating, “I feel like I can add value from a leadership perspective and a defensive perspective. I can still move extremely well defensively.”

Bryant’s age will likely be a concern, as his 38th birthday is just two days after the gold-medal game on August 21st, 2016.

Colangelo said that they will be looking at “all of our players” this season, and Bryant’s retirement announcement “doesn’t have any bearing” on whether he’d be selected for the 2016 Olympic team.

The 12 player team will be selected in June 2016.

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