Maggie Voisin

Ski halfpipe, slopestyle teams include youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since 1972

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The youngest U.S. Olympians in recent history include gold medalists Michael PhelpsKatie Ledecky and Tara Lipinski, who were all 15 years old for their Olympic debuts.

Maggie Voisin will beat them by a matter of days in Sochi.

Voisin, who turned 15 on Dec. 14, was one of six additional freestyle skiing athletes nominated to the U.S. Olympic Team on Tuesday. The three slopestyle skiers, two halfpipe skiers and one ski cross racer join the athletes who already clinched berths via objective criteria.

Here’s the full list of U.S. Olympians in ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle and ski cross:

Ski Halfpipe
Aaron Blunck
Lyman Currier
Torin Yater-Wallace — new nomination
David Wise
Maddie Bowman
Annalisa Drew — new nomination
Brita Sigourney
Angeli VanLaanen

Yater-Wallace was named after not competing in any of the five Olympic selection events. He broke two ribs in a practice crash in Breckenridge, Colo., on Dec. 14, a few weeks after suffering a collapsed lung.

Yater-Wallace likely earned his spot as the reigning world and Winter X Games silver medalist. If healthy, he’ll be a gold-medal contender with Wise, who is the reigning world and Winter X Games gold medalist.

Ski Slopestyle
Bobby Brown
Joss Christensen — new nomination
Nick Goepper
Gus Kenworthy
Keri Herman
Julia Krass — new nomination
Devin Logan
Maggie Voisin — new nomination

Christensen was named after winning the final Olympic selection event. He was chosen to the team over the last two world champions, Tom Wallisch and Alex Schlopy.

Voisin is the youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since 1972, when two 14-year-old speed skaters competed — Kay Lunda and Connie Carpenter-Phinney. She’s the youngest U.S. Winter or Summer Olympian since 1996, overtaking Phelps, who was 15 years and two months old in 2000.

Ski Cross
John Teller — new nomination

Teller, 30, will hope to win the first U.S. medal in ski cross, which joined the Olympic program in 2010. He is the reigning world bronze medalist and just missed the 2010 Olympic Team, which included fellow converted Alpine skiers Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett, who were eliminated before the quarterfinals.

Teller has also been an auto mechanic and high school football coach. The U.S. did not send any women to the 2010 Olympics in ski cross and did not qualify any for Sochi, either.

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Brazil’s best tennis player: ‘tough to dream’ of Rio Olympic medal

Thomaz Bellucci
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Thomaz Bellucci admits playing at a home Olympics brings at least some pressure.

“To well represent Brazil,” the Sao Paulo native clarified at the U.S. Open in New York last month. “It’s tough to dream about having a medal.”

The 27-year-old Bellucci is the only Brazilian tennis player, man or woman, ranked in the world top 50. He sits at No. 31, having this season reached his first ATP final since 2012 and winning it at the Geneva Open in Switzerland in May.

Brazil’s Olympic Committee set a target of 27 to 30 medals in Rio, after earning 17 at London 2012. The added glory likely won’t come from tennis, a sport in which a Brazilian has never stood on an Olympic podium.

“For the Olympics, I don’t feel too many pressure,” Bellucci said, “because even if I play in Brazil, I know there are many players more favored than me because [Roger] Federer‘s going to play, [Novak] Djokovic, all these guys have so much more pressure than me because they have more chance to have a medal.”

Olympic tennis gained greater significance on the busy tour calendars among top players with recent Games.

On the men’s side, every medalist from 2008 and 2012 had already reached at least one Grand Slam final in his career. That group of six included Federer (2012 silver), Djokovic (2008 bronze), Rafael Nadal (2008 gold) and Andy Murray (2012 gold).

But if Bellucci and the Brazilians look back, they can find unexpected, inspiring runs. In 1996, Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni came to the Atlanta Games ranked No. 95 in the world, having never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

The charismatic Meligeni, a lefty who sometimes played wearing his cap backwards, reached the final four in Stone Mountain, twice playing for a medal, and hitting a tweener on the penultimate point of his semifinal against Spain’s Sergi Bruguera.

He lost both medal-round matches, including the bronze match to Indian Leander Paes, who won the U.S. Open mixed doubles last month with another 1996 Olympic singles tennis player, Swiss Martina Hingis. Hingis is attempting to return to the Olympics next year for the first time since 1996.

In 2004, Chile’s Nicolas Massu won singles and doubles gold in Athens having never reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam in singles.

Bellucci debuted at the Olympics in 2008 and hasn’t won a single Games match. He rose from a No. 85 overall ranking in Beijing to No. 42 going into the London 2012 Olympics, where he forced then-Wimbledon semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to three sets. Bellucci and partner Andre Sa were the only doubles pair to take a set off Americans Bob and Mike Bryan at London 2012.

“Beijing I was very surprised, because I was very young and had no idea,” Bellucci said. “In London, I had a very tough draw against Tsonga. Let’s see if I can have more luck in Brazil to have a better draw.”

Not even the great Gustavo Kuerten could sniff an Olympic medal. The three-time French Open champion — the only Brazilian man to win a Grand Slam — couldn’t do better than the quarterfinals in 2000 and 2004.

The analysis of Bellucci in the scope of Kuerten, who is of a similar tall, thin build, has silenced in recent years.

“They used to say that when I was young, when I was starting to play well,” said Bellucci, whose four ATP titles came on Kuerten’s favorite surface, clay, while the Rio Olympic tournament will be on hard courts. “They want to compare me and Guga [Kuerten], but anyway they are not comparing anymore because Guga is so much bigger than me.”

As much as Bellucci tries to keep expectations low, he urges that his sport is one of the most popular in Brazil.

“I think soccer, for sure, is No. 1 and then volleyball is second and then tennis, I think,” he said. “I think we have more people playing tennis than volleyball because I think all the ages can play tennis.”

MORE TENNIS: Martina Hingis waits on Federer, Wawrinka to decide on Rio 2016

Oscar Pistorius’ family upset with delays in possible release

Oscar Pistorius
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SOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius‘ family criticized South African authorities on Tuesday for delays in deciding whether he should be released from jail and moved to house arrest, saying his rights were being “undermined” because of the publicity surrounding his case.

The family also reacted to parole officials’ recommendation that the double-amputee runner undergo psychotherapy, saying he was already receiving “regular and ongoing” psychotherapy from both his personal and prison psychologists.

The Pistorius family spoke out in a written statement after his early release — which had been granted in June — was canceled Monday and ordered to be reconsidered.

“This experience leaves us with the uncomfortable conclusion that the public, political and media hype that was allowed to develop around Oscar’s trial has undermined his right to be treated like any other prisoner,” Pistorius’ family said.

The family expressed concerns over the “legality” of canceling Pistorius’ release.

Pistorius was approved to be released on Aug. 21 after serving 10 months of his five-year manslaughter sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In a fairly common procedure in South Africa for offenders sentenced to five years or less, he would have been moved from jail after one-sixth of the sentence to serve the remainder under correctional supervision at home.

But the justice minister intervened two days before Pistorius was to leave jail and ordered a review on a legal technicality, saying the parole board met two months too early. After a seven-week delay, officials reviewing Pistorius’ case on Monday sent it back to that original parole board to consider all over again.

“We cannot understand … why the matter is now to be referred back to the parole board that has no reason to make a different decision from the one that was made in the first place,” the Pistorius family said.

MORE PISTORIUS: Pistorius’ top rival wants him to race again