Esther Williams, Godmother of Synchro-Swimming, passes away

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Champion swimmer and Hollywood star Esther Williams, best known for her “aqua-musicals” of the 1940s, passed away Thursday in LA. She was 91.

Williams was never able to compete in the Helsinki Olympics, due to the outbreak of World War II that led to the cancelation of the 1940 and ’44 Games, but she’s often credited with the IOC adopting synchronized swimming into its program in 1984, and served as a TV analyst for its inauguration.

“The life she had goes without saying,” her spokesperson and close friend for more than 15 years, Harlan Boll, told NBC News. “She stood out among other people. She’s the godmother of synchronized swimming and is the reason it became an Olympic sport.”

Williams was invited to join the Los Angeles Athletic Club when she was just a teen, and at one point held the national record for the women’s 100m freestyle race. When the Games were canceled for the war, Williams shed her amateur status and worked with five-time Olympic champ and Tarzan star, Johnny Weissmuller, in a water show for the 1940 Worlds Fair.

She was subsequently hired by MGM in 1941 at 19 years old, and went on to star in acquatic-themed films like Bathing Beauty, Million Dollar Mermaid, and more than twenty others with stars like Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Ricardo Montalbán, and Mickey Rooney. Williams is one of only ten American women to have their careers inducted into the Smithsonian Institution.

In February, the International Swimming Hall of Fame announced the “Esther Award,” which recognizes “outstanding achievements in the film and entertainment industries that promote a positive image of swimming as a key to fun, fitness, good health, a better quality of life and an essential water safety and lifesaving skill.”

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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