David Boudia

David Boudia, Troy Dumais lead U.S. into world diving championships; preview

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The world diving championships kick off Saturday at one of the great scenic venues in all of sports, the Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc in Barcelona, Spain.

You may remember the outdoor pool with a breathtaking view of the Catalan capital from the 1992 Olympics, where the late American Mark Lenzi won on the springboard and China’s Fu Mingxia prevailed on the platform, the first of her record-tying four individual Olympic diving golds.

Or the 2003 world championships, where recently retired Canadian Alex Despatie nailed one of the greatest dives in major championship history, his patented twister (backward 2 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists from the pike position) with a whopping 3.8 difficulty, for 107.16 points (9s and 10s) in the final round to win.

You may also recall it from a Kylie Minogue music video.

Here’s a refresher and a primer for the first major international meet since the 2012 Olympics:

What happened in London: China dominated but again fell short of sweeping, taking six of eight events.

One of those two non-China golds came in the marquee diving event of the Games, the men’s platform on the next to last day of competition. American David Boudia upset a defeaning crowd inside the London Aquatics Centre by defeating Great Britain’s Tom Daley (in addition to world champion and favorite Qiu Bo.)

USA Diving won four medals in London, its first medals since Laura Wilkinson‘s comeback gold at the 2000 Olympics.

The other three podiums came in synchro events — Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen (bronze) and Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston (silver) on the springboard and Boudia and Nick McCrory on the platform (bronze).

What’s happened since London: Start with Boudia, 24, who took time off to get married and appear as a judge on a celebrity diving TV show.

He returned to competition in May, taking silver at the USA Diving Grand Prix in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., behind a Chinese diver who did not compete individually at the Olympics.

Boudia then easily won trials a week later and notably nearly qualified the synchronized 3-meter springboard.

Boudia is tempering expectations given the layoff but said he will perform the same dives as he did in London.

What could be different from 2012 is the competition. Daley, he of the 2.4 million Twitter followers, was listed as doubtful due to a glandular problem by the BBC earlier this week. However, he’s in Barcelona and practicing but, like Boudia, will not compete in synchro.

Qiu, who cited an illness as a reason for settling for silver in London, is back boasting a new, higher difficulty dive. The 20-year-old leads a Chinese team hoping to sweep all 10 events as it did in 2011.

Dumais and Ipsen are the only other Olympic medalists on the 15-diver U.S. roster, but they are no longer synchro partners.

They parted mutually given Dumais, 33, isn’t yet committed to another full Olympic cycle and Ipsen, 20, is a rising junior at Stanford, 1,700 miles away from Dumais’ training base in Austin, Texas.

“I haven’t closed the door,” said Dumais, a four-time Olympian and five-time world championship medalist looking for his first worlds gold. “Hopefully he hasn’t closed the door.”

Dumais qualified for the synchro springboard with a new, even younger partner, incoming Texas freshman Michael Hixon.

Ipsen swept the trials one- and three-meter springboard events after doubling up at NCAAs in March.

None of the eight U.S. women’s divers have any worlds or Olympic experience, but keep on eye on Samantha Pickens, who won the NCAA one-meter springboard title for Arizona and then took the same event at trials, and Amy Cozad, who made the worlds team on the platform after finishing third at last year’s Olympic trials, where only the top two advanced to London.

Schedule: Universal Sports will have coverage beginning with Saturday’s synchro events.

Finals
Saturday: Women’s synchro springboard (11:30 a.m. ET)
Sunday: Men’s synchro platform (11:30 a.m.)
Monday: Men’s one-meter springboard (8 a.m.), women’s synchro platform (11:30)
Tuesday: Women’s one-meter springboard (8 a.m.), men’s synchro springboard (11:30)
Thursday: Women’s platform (11:30 a.m.)
Friday: Men’s three-meter springboard (11:30 a.m.)
Saturday, July 27: Women’s three-meter springboard (11:30 a.m.)
Sunday, July 28: Men’s platform (8 a.m.)

Sidney Crosby’s sister wants to play in Olympics

U.S. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN