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Year in Review: Murray takes Centre Court

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

In a way, the All England Club was a quieter, more subdued version of Wimbledon during the 2012 Olympics in London. The total number of fans on the grounds was kept lower that the month prior, for security purposes, and Centre Court had lost just a speck of its luster as swaths of seats went unclaimed from match to match during the Games.

But that wasn’t the case when Andy Murray took to the court. Britain’s favorite tennis son is always a crowd darling at Wimbledon, but his star power, his draw, and the plainly non-club, non-tennis-clap-polite fans came to life during Murray’s matches, carrying roars into Centre Court each round that were saved more for occasions like the 2008 Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final.

While Murray’s decisive triumph over Federer in the Olympics final will go down as one of the great breakout performances by a tennis player at any major event, it was his semifinal win over Novak Djokovic that truly brought the house down.

Djokovic had won two of their last three meetings, including another overlooked gladiatorial clash: a 7-5 in-the-fifth semifinal victory at the Australian Open back in January.

But in a 7-5, 7-5 victory, Murray had shed any demons of faltering against Djokovic and moved to a place he could hardly believe he was in: the gold medal match. After raising his arms in the air, Murray sat down for a minute in his chair letting the win sink in. It was then when he got up again, walking to the middle of the court and leaping into a jump-kick of a fist pump. Centre Court exploded.

“The atmosphere is unbelievable,” Murray told reporters after the win. “Different to pretty much anything I’ve been in before. I obviously played in big matches, night matches US Open we always said was the best atmosphere, but it’s not even close to what it was today. Obviously playing with the home support, that helps the atmosphere.

“But, yeah, that was unbelievable.”

IOC president: ‘No intention’ by any countries to pull out of Rio Olympics

Thomas Bach
AP
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LILLEHAMMER, Norway (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach said Friday that no countries intend to pull out of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro over concerns about the Zika virus.

Bach, speaking ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, said he has “full confidence” in the actions being undertaken by the Brazilian authorities and global health organizations to combat the outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus.

“There is no intention by [any] national Olympic committee to pull out from the Rio Olympic Games,” Bach said. “This does not exclude that we are taking this situation very seriously.”

Brazil has been the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, which has spread across Latin America and been labeled a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

Health authorities are investigating whether there is link between Zika infections in pregnant women and microcephaly, a rare condition in which children are born with abnormally small heads. The outbreak has raised concerns ahead of the Olympics, which are still six months away in August.

“We have full confidence in all the many actions being undertaken by the Brazilian and international authorities and health organizations,” Bach said. “We’re also very confident that the athletes and the spectators will enjoy safe conditions in Rio de Janeiro.”

Some athletes, most notably U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, have expressed fears about going to the Olympics. Solo said earlier this week that if the games were being held today, she would not go.

Bach said the IOC was working with national Olympic committees and the World Health Organization to monitor the situation. He reiterated that, because the games are taking place during the Brazilian winter, the colder conditions should mitigate the threat from mosquitoes.

“The World Health Organization has not issued a travel ban,” Bach said. “All the experts agree that the temperatures in the Brazilian winter time when the games are taking place in August … will lead to a very different situation.”

Bach’s comments echoed those of the IOC’s medical director, Dr. Richard Budgett, who told The Associated Press on Thursday that “everything that can be done is being done” to contain Zika ahead of the games, stressing that health authorities have not issued any travel restrictions for Brazil.

Bach is in Lillehammer for the second Youth Winter Olympics, where more than 1,000 athletes from 70 countries between the ages of 15 and 18 will compete in 70 medal events over 10 days.

MORE: Youth Winter Olympics broadcast schedule

Max Parrot, Julia Marino win Big Air at Fenway Park snowboarding

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Canadian Olympic snowboarder Max Parrot and American Julia Marino swept the first Big Air at Fenway Park events on Thursday night.

Parrot, who finished fifth in the Sochi Olympic slopestyle competition, had the highest-scoring run of all competitors in gusty conditions at the home of the Boston Red Sox.

He tallied a 96.25 in his second of three runs. The combined score of his first two runs — 183.5 — held up so that his last run was a victory lap.

Parrot gained attention in Sochi for being one of two Canadian snowboarders to call out Shaun White for pulling out before the slopestyle competition.

White didn’t compete Thursday. Olympic slopestyle champions Sage Kotsenburg (training crash) and Jamie Anderson (eliminated in qualifying) did compete, but not in the finals.

Big air, which debuts at the Olympics at Pyeongchang 2018, is most like slopestyle of the current Olympic snowboard disciplines. The key difference is that big air runs include one jump, while slopestyle is a course of several jumps and rails.

Earlier, American Julia Marino was the surprise women’s winner at Fenway, tallying a two-run total of 169.25. Marino, 18, was a forerunner who got into the field when U.S. Olympian Ty Walker withdrew.

Riders competed Thursday with wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour, NBC Sports’ Tina Dixon said. Their bibs flapped uncontrollably at the top of the 140-foot-high jump, nearly four times the height of the adjacent Green Monster.

“The wind definitely created a nervous factor for me, and I’m sure all the other riders, too,” Marino, a Connecticut native, said on NBCSN. “It was crazy windy up there. But the fact is the jump itself wasn’t as winded down below. … I’ve been to Boston so many times, and I’ve walked past this ballpark a ton. To be snowboarding here, it’s insane.”

Big Air at Fenway concludes Friday with ski big air, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra at 9 p.m. ET.

MORE: Shaun White explains ‘shock’ of missing X Games