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.

Details of Olympic torch’s trip to outer space

Medals or mosquitoes? Zika still talk of Olympic golf

Rory McIlroy
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Olympic qualifying for golf ends in seven weeks, at which time players will have to determine if medals outweigh mosquitoes.

For now, there is only concern.

Rory McIlroy was the latest player to say Zika was in the back of his mind. In an interview with the BBC after his Irish Open victory, he said he has been reading up on the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to serious birth defects. McIlroy is engaged, and he said they might be starting a family in the next few years.

“I have to monitor that situation,” he said.

Masters champion Danny Willett was the next to weigh in. Asked about it Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship, the 28-year-old from England said he was keeping on top of it. Willett’s wife, Nicole, had their first child just 11 days before he slipped on the green jacket.

“It’s not great, is it? There’s going to be 500,000 people watching the Olympics, and you have 11,000 athletes right in the heart of where it’s at,” Willett said. “If it turns out that it would be a massive threat to myself or to Nic or to the little man, then I probably wouldn’t go. Family comes first.

“But as it stands at the minute, I think everything should be OK.”

The Zika virus is in the news everywhere, which goes beyond the standard media outlets.

The International Golf Federation posted a two-page update on its website last month, and it is passing along Zika-related material from the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization to tours and player liaisons.

Andy Levinson, executive director of USA Golf, said Tuesday that updates from WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are posted in the weekly bulletins left in lockers and on the “Players Links” website, where PGA Tour players get other pertinent information they don’t want to miss – like tee times, and FedEx Cup points, and where to leave their courtesy cars.

Two weeks ago at The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s doctor was in player dining for one-on-ones on Zika.

Vijay Singh made a passing reference to Zika last month when the 53-year-old Fijian decided not to play. Marc Leishman of Australia also mentioned Zika, and for good reason. His wife nearly died last year of toxic shock syndrome and her immune system remains weakened.

The other players to pull out — Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel — cited a busy schedule or family priorities.

Ask a player a question, and there’s bound to be an answer, even if it’s not entirely informed. McIlroy said he was planning to get “injections” on Wednesday so that “I will be immunized for whatever — if I do get bitten by a mosquito down there.”

There is no vaccine for the Zika virus.

IGF executive director Antony Scanlon said he was in Rio de Janeiro a few weeks ago for meetings and saw workers spraying “an unbelievable amount of anti-mosquito” repellant around the various venues. He also repeated the timing — August is the tail end of winter in Brazil, and mosquitoes are not expected to be as prevalent.

Scanlon said he was most curious by the silence from the other side — the women.

“If anyone is at risk, it’s the ladies,” Scanlon said Tuesday from London. “We’ve heard nothing from them. I’m sure they’ve got concerns. And we’re distributing as much information as we can to the players.”

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said as much two weeks ago during an Olympic news conference. He said five or six players have asked him about Zika, though none has said it would keep her from Rio. In an email Tuesday, he said not much has changed.

“They have been receiving regular updates on the topic,” Whan said. “No player has suggested she is not coming (at least not to me). But it is certainly a concern.”

It could be another example that the Olympics mean more to the women, who rarely get a stage as large as this and have a stronger tradition of competing for country in what was the first truly global tour.

Various headlines made it sound as though McIlroy and Willett might skip the Olympics because of Zika, and while their answers allowed some wiggle room, the context of their statements suggested nothing has changed.

At least not yet.

“We’re down to go and hopefully they can give us some proper guidelines as to how to keep it at bay and keep it under control so that it doesn’t ruin what could be potentially a fantastic Olympics,” Willett said.

“Not as apprehensive as I once was,” McIlroy said about the Olympics. “As it gets closer, I am relishing the thought of going down there and competing for gold.”

This much is clear — golfers currently eligible for the Olympics are having to study more than hole locations and wind direction.

MORE: WHO: Olympics OK to go on

Russian Olympic champion positive in Beijing doping retest

Anna Chicherova
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London Olympic high jump champion Anna Chicherova is one of many Russians among 31 athletes overall who tested positive in recent retests of Beijing Olympic samples, according to Russian news agency TASS.

TASS named nine 2008 Olympic medalists among 14 Russian athletes, citing a Russian TV report, including eight medalists in track and field, with Chicherova being the superstar of the group.

“Perhaps it’s just a mistake,” Chicherova said, according to an Associated Press translation of a Russian TV report. “I can’t explain how my doping test gave a positive result. I’ve competed a lot since then and given hundreds of samples.”

Last week, the International Olympic Committee said 31 unnamed athletes from 12 nations across six sports failed drug tests in retesting of 454 samples from 2008 using the latest drug-testing methods.

Chicherova, 33, took high jump gold at the London Games and bronze in Beijing. She is one of two track and field athletes to earn an individual-event medal at the last five World Championships and last two Olympics. The other is Usain Bolt.

Chicherova, who has had no previously widespread reported doping history, would be one of Russia’s top Olympic track and field medal hopes in Rio, should the ban on Russian track and field athletes competing be lifted before the Games.

Russia is expected to learn if it will be allowed to send a track and field team to Rio on June 17.

“The Ministry of Sport is extremely disappointed to hear the speculation that Russian athletes are among those found to have violated anti-doping rules at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after re-testing their samples,” the Russian Ministry of Sport said in a statement through Burson-Marsteller public relations firm. “Any athletes found cheating should face corresponding sanctions.

“We have taken numerous steps to eradicate the issue of doping, and understand that the roots of the problem, particularly in athletics, go back to the past.”

MORE: Russia track and field boss: ’50-60 percent’ chance of Olympics