Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice retires from swimming via video

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Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice chose a unique way to retire, announcing the end of her career via video spliced with childhood photos, career highlights and portions of the 2012 pop rock hit “Hall of Fame” by The Script featuring will.i.am.

Rice had not swum competitively since the 2012 Olympics.

“I never wanted to make a comeback, so the decision that I wanted to make was definitely final,” Rice said in the video published Tuesday. “Coming to that point today and not continuing my swimming career, it’s sad.”

Rice, 25, won triple gold at the 2008 Olympics, sweeping the individual medleys and as part of the Australian 4x200m freestyle relay team, all in world record times.

“A complete shock and the best moment I could have ever experienced,” Rice said. “It would have been really easy to walk away after Beijing and call it a day there. But I just felt like I had so much more to prove as an athlete. Had I known what I was going to go through [between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics] with three shoulder operations and a load more ups and downs, I probably would have [retired], but I’m so glad that I really stuck through it.”

Rice finished fourth in the 200m individual medley and tied for sixth in the 400m individual medley at the 2012 Olympics. The shoulder injuries hampered her form leading into her second Olympics.

“London was really tough,” Rice said. “There were so many things that went wrong for me in that preparation. It was like I was trying so hard to make everything so perfect, and everything went wrong.”

She said in 2011 that she would likely retire after the London Games but took her time to officially call it a career.

After nearly a year off, she gave herself a deadline of late 2013/early 2014 to get back in the water to contend for a spot on Australia’s Commonwealth Games team later this summer. The Australian trials for the Commonwealth Games concluded over the weekend. She did not participate.

“Coming off the Games, I really didn’t want to make a rash decision on my career and whether I was going to keep swimming or not, because I was still too emotional about the whole preparation I had just been through,” said Rice, who had roles on Australia’s “Today” Show and “Celebrity Apprentice” during her break. “I felt a lot of pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations and fulfill their answers, but I knew that I really had to take the time for myself to get to the point where I knew 100 percent what I wanted to do.”

Rice’s expected retirement came on the same day that nine-time Olympic medalist Ian Thorpe‘s agent said he thought Thorpe would never swim competitively again.

Rice and Thorpe were two pillars of Australian swimming during the height of their rivalry with the U.S. over the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Thorpe was the most decorated Australian men’s swimmer in 2000 and 2004. Rice won more golds than any other Australian women’s swimmer in 2008.

“I definitely feel like I’m losing a part of myself, but I’m really excited for what’s to come,” Rice said. “It’s safe to say that that’s the new goal, a new passion for me is to prove myself out of the water.”

Catching up with Dara Torres

Kerri Walsh Jennings’ next partner is a familiar one

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Kerri Walsh Jennings is slated to play with with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh this summer, after she and Olympic bronze medal teammate April Ross split last month.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion with Misty May-Treanor before that bronze in Rio, and Branagh, who made the Beijing Games quarterfinals with Elaine Youngs, are entered in an FIVB World Tour event in Croatia the last week of June.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are both 38 years old and briefly paired in 2010 when May-Treanor was uncertain about making a run for the London Olympics. When May-Treanor told Walsh Jennings she was all-in for London, Walsh Jennings split from Branagh.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are hoping to play together through the World Tour Finals in late August, according to Volleyball Magazine.

That includes the world championships in Vienna, Austria, in late July and early August.

It’s not known if they will have the combined ranking points to earn an outright worlds spot. They could also receive a wild card for worlds. Entries will be announced next month.

Walsh Jennings, a mother of three, has said she hopes to play in the 2020 Olympics at age 41, when she will be older than any previous Olympic beach or indoor volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.

Branagh returned to competition this year after a one-year break to have her second child. She has played few international events since 2012 and last won internationally in 2010 (with Walsh Jennings).

Ross, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and 2009 World champion, is now partnered with Lauren Fendrick, who played with Brooke Sweat in Rio. Ross, 34, said she will figure out her long-term partner plans for Tokyo 2020 after this season.

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Catching up with Ross Powers

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Ross Powers, now 38 years old and 15 years removed from his Olympic snowboarding title, is still out with halfpipe riders on the snow five days per week.

The difference now is that Powers is coaching. He runs the snowboarding program at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where he graduated from in 1997.

Powers spoke with OlympicTalk before last season, reflecting on 20 years of snowboarding in the Olympics, Shaun White and how he likes coaching.

OlympicTalk: The PyeongChang Winter Games will mark 20 years since snowboarding’s debut in Nagano. What was it like competing in the first Olympic halfpipe?

Powers (who won bronze in Nagano at age 19): It seemed kind of like a regular World Cup. We were up in the mountains. At the time, it was a really good halfpipe, but we ended up competing in some bad weather, some rain. I didn’t realize until I left Japan and got home how big the Olympics were. But looking back, it was a special time. And I really learned from the ’98 Olympics, like if I get this chance again, I’m going to go there, I’m going to do it all. I’m going to go to Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, watch as many events as I can and just make the most out of the Games.

OlympicTalk: The Nagano halfpipe was about half the size of today’s superpipes (394 feet long with 11 1/2-foot walls vs. 590 feet with 22-foot walls in Sochi). Could today’s snowboarders compete with you guys back in 1998?

Powers: It was so different. At the time, I want to say it was the biggest pipe we rode, but compared to today’s standards, it’s small. The weather was tricky. I think a lot of those guys [today] could ride it, but it’s so much different than today’s halfpipe for sure.

OlympicTalk: In 2002, when you led a U.S. men’s halfpipe medal sweep, the rider who just missed the Olympic team was a 15-year-old Shaun White. What do you remember about him?

Powers: You kind of knew he was going to be the next guy. Where he took our sport and certain tricks. One thing that really impressed me about him is he’ll train really hard for an event, show up, even if the conditions are bad, he’s planned this trick he wants to do, and he’ll try it no matter what. Most of the time he’ll give it a go and land it. That actually hurt him in Russia [White attempted but couldn’t perfect the YOLO Flip 1440 in Sochi] because he probably could have stepped down a notch, gotten a medal and maybe even won the event.

OlympicTalk: Did Shaun ever beat you before you retired?

Powers: I had my run from 1998, ’99, ’00, ’01, all those times that I was doing really well. I tried to make the 2006 Olympics in Italy. I was the alternate, so I just missed that. He was definitely beating me up through those times.

OlympicTalk: Did you travel to the Torino Olympics as an alternate?

Powers: I did, yeah. I traveled over there and actually watched my buddy [Seth] Wescott win the gold in boarder cross. That night, he was like, you should try boarder cross. That kind of got me into doing that my next few years after that.

[Editor’s Note: Powers almost made the 2010 Olympic team in snowboard cross, even finishing third in a December 2009 World Cup.]

OlympicTalk: Which is tougher, coaching or competing?

Powers: I would say it is tougher coaching than competing. You just have so many responsibilities and so much work. The nice thing about coaching, though, compared to competing, is you can kind of push yourself and have fun [riding] on certain days but then also sit back and really work with the athletes on all other days. So when you’re feeling it, you can push yourself. So it’s not like an athlete, where you have to push yourself.

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