Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt, Missy Franklin lead Olympians on most marketable athletes list

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Usain Bolt is the most marketable athlete in a sport whose biggest event is the Olympics for the fourth straight year, according to SportPro’s World’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes list.

Bolt came in at No. 6 on the list, which, in the past, has ranked athletes according to their marketing potential over a three-year period starting with the upcoming summer. It has looked at six categories — value for money, age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal.

Bolt, the six-time Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 100m and 200m, is gearing up for his fourth Olympic bid in 2016.

Bolt is the only athlete in the world to make the top six of SportsPro’s list each of the last four years. He was No. 1 in 2011.

Lionel Messi had also been in the top six in 2011, 2012 and 2013, but the Argentine soccer superstar fell to No. 11 for 2014.

Here’s what SportsPro had to say about Bolt this year:

“Bolt is one of a handful of globally renowned, universally respected pitchmen who can break through. There simply isn’t anyone anything like him, within his sport or without.”

Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is No. 1 on this year list, which includes 22 Olympians and two Paralympians:

4. Cristiano Ronaldo, Soccer
5. Grigor Dimitrov, Tennis
6. Usain Bolt, Track and Field
7. Neymar, Soccer (Neymar was No. 1 in 2012 and 2013)
8. Missy Franklin, Swimming
11. Lionel Messi, Soccer
14. Alex Morgan, Soccer
15. Novak Djokovic, Tennis
18. Ronda Rousey, Judo
20. Alan Oliveira, Paralympic Track and Field
21. Andy Murray, Tennis
23. Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing
28. Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Track and Field
29. Anthony Davis, Basketball
31. Victoria Azarenka, Tennis
34. Mami Sato, Paralympic Track and Field
37. James Harden, Basketball
38. Fabiana Claudino, Volleyball
39. Taylor Phinney, Cycling
42. Ben Ainslie, Sailing
45. Masahiro Tanaka, Baseball
46. Carmelo Anthony, Basketball
48. Caroline Wozniacki, Tennis
49. Martin Fourcade, Biathlon

The rankings have been done annually since 2010, though it’s hard to find the full list from five years ago.

No. 8 Franklin, who became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Swimming Championships last year, made her debut on the list in 2013 at No. 20.

Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn made the list each of the last three years but did not crack the top 50 for 2014. David Rudisha and Yuna Kim were also on the 2013 list and did not carry over.

Michael Phelps was No. 8 in 2011 and No. 28 in 2012 but has not made the list each of the last two years.

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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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