Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s illness puts potential South Africa Olympic bid on backburner

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A South African member of the International Olympic Committee said the nation will bid on an Olympics, but right now the focus is on Nelson Mandela, according to Around the Rings.

Mandela, 94, the former South African president, has been hospitalized for a month with a recurring lung infection. The latest report from The Associated Press on Tuesday was that he was in critical but stable condition and breathing with a respirator.

“We definitely will be bidding, but we don’t know which one,” IOC member Sam Ramsamy told Around the Rings. “We have to work that out. But with the situation with Mandela everything is put on the backburner. Without government support we can’t do it.

“My personal view is 2028,” Ramsamy said of when South Africa could bid for the first Olympics in Africa. “I think most of the cities are already lining up (for 2024) with Paris, a city from the USA looking at it and Qatar definitely.”

The United States Olympic Committee sent letters to more than 30 U.S. cities in February to gauge interest in a potential bid for 2024. It’s believed around 10 have either signed on or are considering it. The USOC hopes to narrow that list in December and decide on if to bid for 2024 next year.

Qatar is the controversial host of the 2022 World Cup, which could be moved from the U.S. summer to the winter to keep temperatures down. If so, it could run into or near the dates of the 2022 Winter Games.

South Africa became the first African country to host the World Cup in 2010. The nation was barred from the Olympics from 1964 to 1988 because of apartheid. It returned in 1992 and had its most successful Games since in London with six medals, including three gold.

“We could be a very good challenger to (the 2024 suitors), but we won’t decide until after September,” Ramsamy said.

On Sept. 7, the IOC will vote on the host of the 2020 Olympics. The finalists are Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo.

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John Shuster, 30 pounds lighter, rallies for 4th Olympic curling berth

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John Shuster is going to a fourth Olympics. It’s one more chance to prove Urban Dictionary wrong.

Shuster, 30 pounds lighter since his second straight Olympic failure in Sochi, led a team that beat Heath McCormick‘s squad at the U.S. Olympic Trials finals in Omaha on Saturday night.

Shuster, Tyler GeorgeMatt Hamilton and John Landsteiner lost the opener of a best-of-three finals series on Thursday.

They came back to deliver in a pair of must-win games, 9-4 on Friday night and 7-5 on Saturday, after spending each day at the Omaha Zoo.

The new-look Shuster — leaner and, at least this weekend, clutch — would astonish those who know him by scenes at the last two Olympics.

After taking bronze in 2006 as a role player, he led the last two U.S. Olympic teams to 2-7 records in 2010 and in 2014. Last place in Vancouver, where he was benched after an 0-4 start. Next to last place in Sochi.

After the last Olympics, the former bartender from Chisholm, Minn., was left off USA Curling’s 10-man high performance team.

He took it as motivation to get in shape.

Shuster, a father of a 2- and a 4-year-old who once said, “If I don’t have pizza three or four times a week, I’m not happy,” now totes meal replacement shakes. He’s starting to enjoy Olympic lifting.

Shuster, George, Hamilton and Landsteiner, all absent from that USA Curling high performance list, formed their own team. They became Team USA in their first season together and represented the Stars and Stripes at worlds in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Their results — fourth, third and fifth —  marked the best string of U.S. men’s or women’s finishes at that level in a decade.

Shuster is set to join Debbie McCormick as the only Americans to curl at four Olympics. The sport was part of the first Winter Games in 1924, then absent as a medal sport until 1998.

“I don’t think it’s about the four Olympics for me,” Shuster said on NBCSN. “What this is about — and what I’m about — is getting my teammates to now. I have two new Olympians on this team, and I know how special that is.”

George, the 35-year-old vice skip for Shuster, led a team that lost to Shuster in the 2010 Olympic Trials final. The liquor store manager from Duluth, Minn., is going to his first Winter Games.

As is the 28-year-old Hamilton, whose younger sister qualified for PyeongChang earlier Saturday.

Landsteiner, a 27-year-old corrosion engineer, played with Shuster since 2011, including in Sochi.

Alternate Joe Polo can go 12 years between Olympic appearances after taking bronze on that Torino team.

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MORE: U.S. Winter Olympic Trials broadcast schedule

Katie Ledecky wins race by 54 seconds, breaks record

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Katie Ledecky is back at Stanford and back to pulverizing distance races.

The sophomore and five-time Olympic champion won a 1,650-yard freestyle by 54.45 seconds at a meet at Texas A&M on Saturday night.

The runner-up was in a different heat; Ledecky won her heat by 1:02.16.

Ledecky lowered her own American record, clocking 15:03.31. She had the previous mark of 15:03.92 set last Nov. 20.

Ledecky had every swimmer lapped in the 25-yard pool before the halfway point and ended up lapping everyone twice.

The men also raced a 1,650 on Saturday. The winner clocked 15:18.95, which was 15.64 seconds slower than Ledecky’s time.

Full results are here.

The 1,650 is the longest race on the NCAA program, while the longest race at the Olympics and world championships is the 1500m.

The No. 2 woman all-time in the 1,650 is triple 2008 Olympic medalist Katie Hoff, a full 21.04 seconds slower.

Ledecky owns the 1500m world record, too, 13.4 seconds faster than any other woman in history.

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MORE: Michael Phelps’ discussion with Katie Ledecky after 2017 Worlds