Katie Ledecky

USOC names Sportsman, Sportswoman, Team of the Year awards

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Swimmer Katie Ledecky, Alpine skier Ted Ligety and tennis players Bob and Mike Bryan were named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athletes of the Year on Thursday.

Ledecky, a high school junior, won four gold medals at the World Swimming Championships in Barcelona in August, sweeping the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle a year after she won the Olympic 800m free.

She broke world records in the 800m and the 1500m and added a fourth gold as part of the 4x200m free relay.

Ledecky and Ryan Lochte will lead the U.S. swim team at the Duel in the Pool, a Ryder Cup-like meet pitting the U.S. against European All-Stars, on her break between semesters at (Bethesda, Md.) Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart.

Ledecky is first swimmer to win Sportswoman of the Year since Natalie Coughlin, who shared the award with Nastia Liukin in 2008. Lindsey Vonn won in 2009 and 2010, and Allyson Felix won for 2011-12.

Ledecky among Golden Goggle award nominees

In February, Ligety became the first man in 45 years to win at least three gold medals at the World Alpine Skiing Championships in Schladming, Austria. Ligety won the super-G, giant slalom and the super combined one year before the Sochi Olympics.

Ligety, 29, also won his fourth World Cup season title in the giant slalom and finished a career-high third in the overall standings behind Marcel Hirscher of Austria and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

Ligety is the first Alpine skier to win Sportsman of the Year. Recent winners include Michael Phelps (2008, 2011-12), Todd Lodwick (2009) and Evan Lysacek (2010).

Ligety’s biggest goal for 2013-14 not the Olympics

The Bryan brothers won team of the year after completing the “Bryan Slam,” holding all four men’s doubles tennis majors (and an Olympic gold medal) at the same time following their 15th career major title at Wimbledon in July.

The Bryans were upset in the U.S. Open semifinals, two wins away from becoming the first doubled team to win a calendar-year Grand Slam since 1951. The twins, 35, also clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking in August, the earliest that’s ever been done.

Three-time Olympians, they went from quarterfinalists in 2004 to bronze in 2008 to gold in 2012. Mike won another bronze in mixed doubles in 2012.

The Bryan brothers are the third tennis winners of a USOC Athlete of the Year award, joining Pete Sampras (1997) and Jennifer Capriati (2001). Steve Holcomb‘s four-man bobsled team won the Team of the Year in 2009 and 2010, and the U.S. Women’s Eights Rowing Team won it for 2011-12.

Bob Bryan’s Olympic gold medal ‘not even a circle anymore’

The Paralympic awards were earned by wheelchair racer Raymond Martin, handcyclist Monica Bascio and the 4x100m track and field relay team.

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More Olympic distance-running medalists banned for doping

Gamze Bulut
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MONACO (AP) — Turkish runner Elvan Abeylegesse has been banned for doping and stands to lose two Olympic silver medals.

The IAAF says Abeylegesse tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol in a retest of a sample she gave at the 2007 World Championships.

She has been banned for two years and had her results wiped out from 2007-09.

Abeylegesse won Olympic silver medals in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2008 Beijing Games and silver in the 10,000m at the 2007 world championships.

The IAAF also said it had imposed a four-year ban on another Turkish runner, Gamze Bulut, for a violation of its biological passport program. Bulut won 1500m silver at the 2012 London Olympics.

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Maria Sharapova not fully committed to 2020 Olympic run

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The rumors and reports have been out for months, but asked directly, Maria Sharapova wasn’t immediately quite sure how to answer when asked about going for the 2020 Olympics.

“Ooh, I don’t, umm,” Sharapova said, laughing lightly, sitting across from retired U.S. Olympic soccer champion Julia Foudy at a conference in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Tuesday (video here). “It’s a question I’ve been asked, and I’d love to sit here today and say yes, in three-so years that is where I want to be. But it’s hard. It’s hard to look that far, also being a woman that’s also [turning] 30 years [old in three weeks]. I want to have a family. I want to be a mother. Those are definitely long-term goals of mine. But of course to compete in another Olympics, that’s an athlete’s dream. I’d love to be a part of that.”

Sharapova is set to return from her 15-month meldonium ban next month. What stings the most about her suspension?

“Something was taken away from you that you’ve done so passionately since you were a little girl,” she said. “Although I’m at a stage and an age in my career and in my life where you’re closer to the end than you are to the beginning, you always want to end your career or a chapter in your life on your terms and in your voice. And to be in a moment where you feel or you felt like it could have ended on someone else’s voice and someone else’s terms was very difficult to accept. That’s why I fought so hard for the truth to be out. You don’t realize how much you love something and how much something it means to you until you lose it for some time. It gave me a chance also to live.”

Sharapova joked about going to Coachella last year.

“There’s 120,000 people doing drugs that I’m not aware of?” she said, laughing. “And completely being out of my element. I was like, OK? … I’m skipping Coachella this year, because I got my day-job back.”

The fans’ reaction when she gets back on the competition courts?

“I don’t know if there’s much that I can control,” she said.

Earlier this month, her agent reportedly said he thought that Sharapova will play through the 2020 Tokyo Games if healthy.

Sharapova will be 33 years old come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, two years older than any previous Russian Olympic tennis player. She will likely have to be ranked among the top four Russians in the world in spring 2020 to qualify for the Games outright.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said Tuesday. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility.

One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

Two women’s players, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, have achieved the singles career Golden Slam — winning all four majors and the Olympics. Sharapova, beaten by Williams 6-0, 6-1 in the London 2012 final, is a Tokyo title away from joining them.

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