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.”

Chris Froome adds world champs medal to historic season

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Chris Froome added his first individual world championships medal to the most successful year of his incredible career.

The four-time Tour de France winner took bronze behind Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and Slovenian Primoz Roglic in the time trial in rainy Bergen, Norway, on Wednesday.

Dumoulin, the Olympic time trial silver medalist and Giro d’Italia winner, covered the 19-mile course in 44 minutes, 41 seconds. Roglic, a former ski jumper, was 57.79 seconds slower.

Froome, who owns two Olympic time trial bronze medals, was 1:21.25 behind. The top American was Tejay van Garderen in 26th.

Full results are here.

Froome, though possibly tired from sweeping the Tour de France and Vuelta a España this summer, benefited from the layout, which featured a two-mile climb to the finish.

He improved from seventh going into the final climb to make the podium by 7.27 seconds.

That summit all but dashed the hopes of German Tony Martin going into the race. Martin won his record-tying fourth world time trial title last year but is not a great climber. He finished ninth.

In Bergen, Froome was bidding to become the second cyclist to win the Tour de France and the world time trial title in the same year. Spaniard Miguel Indurain achieved the feat in 1995, the last of his five straight years winning the Tour.

The time trial debuted at worlds in 1994.

He also hoped to join Eddy Merckx (1974) and Stephen Roche (1987) as the only men to win multiple Grand Tours and a world title (either road race or time trial) in the same year.

The world championships continue Friday with junior and U23 road races. The next elite event is the women’s road race on Saturday. The weeklong championships conclude with the men’s road race Sunday.

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Michael Phelps still has ‘no desire’ to come back

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Michael Phelps says he has “no desire” to return to competitive swimming, but he is eager to stay involved with the sport and cheer on those who follow in his enormous wake.

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press while promoting a healthy pet food campaign, Phelps said he is excited about the birth of his second child and numerous opportunities away from the pool.

It was around this time four years ago when Phelps got serious about ending his first retirement, but he now seems content with his decision to step away again after the Rio Olympics.

His wife, Nicole, is about four months pregnant. The couple already has a 16-month-old son, Boomer.

“I’ve got no desire, no desire to come back,” the 32-year-old Phelps said flatly.

Phelps has attended a handful of swimming meets since the Rio Games, where the winningest athlete in Olympic history added to his already massive career haul by claiming five gold medals plus a silver. A few months ago, he conceded to the AP that he was eager to see how he would feel about a possible comeback after this year’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Turns out, it had no impact.

Phelps said watching others compete “truly didn’t kick anything off or spike any more interest in coming out of retirement again.”

He is eager to follow the development of his heir apparent, Caeleb Dressel, who emerged as the sport’s newest star by winning seven gold medals at Budapest. The 21-year-old Floridian joined Phelps and Mark Spitz as the only swimmers to accomplish that feat at a major international meet.

“I’m happy Caeleb decided to go off this year instead of last year,” Phelps joked. “I’m kind of happy to see him swimming so well when I’m not there.”

With Dressel and Katie Ledecky now leading the American team, the U.S. is expected to remain the world’s dominant swimming country heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Even without Phelps.

“It’s time to kind of move on,” he said, “and watch other people come into their own.”

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