Missy Franklin wins AAU’s prestigious Sullivan Award

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London swimming phenom Missy Franklin took home the Sullivan Award, given to America’s top amateur athlete each year by the AAU, at a ceremony in Florida Tuesday night.

“This award means a lot to me because of how much I’ve given up to be amateur,” Missy said during her acceptance. “I absolutely love being an amateur athlete, and to be a part of something so special that honors that is amazing.”

Though listed as a Regis Jesuit High School swimmer, Franklin is a bit better known for the five Olympic medals she won last summer in London to become the most decorated American female athlete at a single Games. But the humble young champion seemed to be more excited about the people who had won the award ahead of her, including famous Swimming USA teammate Michael Phelps.

“I’m looking at awards won before me, and there’s Tracy Caulkins and Bruce Jenner and Peyton Manning,” Missy added. “It’s incredible. All these athletes have won the award. It’s such an honor. I can’t believe my picture’s going up next to theirs.”

Franklin, who beat out Oregon all-around athlete Liz Brenner and weightlifter Darren Barnes for the award, turns 18 next month will start her two-year collegiate career at Cal Berkeley this fall before shedding her amateur status ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Ligety exits quietly, Hirscher brilliant again

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Marcel Hirscher, the Austrian ski god, is finally having his moment. King of the World Cup tour for the past seven seasons, on Sunday Hirscher won his second Olympic gold, in the giant slalom.

Hirscher had won a grand total of no Olympic medals, nada, zip, zero in two prior Games. Now he might — could, should — win three here at PyeongChang. The slalom, another Hirscher specialty, is due to be run Thursday.

To watch Hirscher ski is to watch one of the great athletes of our — or any — time. Like being courtside in Chicago to see Michael Jordan back in the day. At Wimbledon for a Roger Federer volley. At the Water Cube in Beijing in 2008 when Michael Phelps was swimming the butterfly.

In Sunday’s race, Kristoffersen finished second, 1.27 seconds back of Hirscher. Pinturault finished third, 1.31 behind.

American racer Ted Ligety used to own this event: the Sochi 2014 giant slalom gold medalist, he was world champion in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Pinturault took Sochi 2014 bronze.

Considering his relatively low slalom ranking and the pounding that slalom demands, Sunday’s GS was — just like that, that quickly, that quietly — likely the final race of Ligety’s outstanding Olympic career.

“This is probably it for me at these Games,” he said after run two, adding that he is planning to head back to Europe, to race the remainder of the World Cup season.

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Olympic ice dance figure skating preview

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While Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir already have a gold medal in PyeongChang from the team event, they’re back to regain their 2010 Olympic ice dance title.

The short dance is Sunday, February 18 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com and the free dance is Monday, February 19 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.

Here are some names to know before the event kicks off:

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Team USA

Credentials: Reigning U.S. national champions, first Olympic appearance is 2018

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Team USA

Credentials: Three-time Worlds medalists, two-time U.S. national champions, 2014 Olympians, 2017 Grand Prix Final bronze medalists

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Team USA
Buzz about Chock and Bates: They’re a couple on and off the ice, and say that’s given a new perspective to their athletic careers. They weren’t a couple when they competed together at the 2014 Olympics, so they believe this experience will be all the more special for it.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canada
Credentials: 2010 Olympic champions, two-time Sochi 2014 silver medalists, three-time world champions, eight-time Canadian national champions.

Read the full ice dance preview here and watch figure skating highlights and streams