Ryan Lochte

Recovered Ryan Lochte ready for full slate at Nationals

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IRVINE, Calif. — Ryan Lochte makes statements with his swimming and his fashion. When the 11-time Olympic medalist showed up at the U.S. Swimming Championships pool on Tuesday, his white T-shirt did a lot of talking.

“If you have a lane,” it read across his chest.

“You have a shot,” across the back.

That’s been an issue for Lochte since he won four medals, three golds, at the season-climaxing World Championships in Barcelona last summer. Three months later, he tore his left MCL and sprained his ACL after a teenage girl ran to him, he caught her and they both fell on Nov. 2.

Lochte, who switched training bases from Gainesville, Fla., to Charlotte one month before the mishap, has raced sparingly since. He returned too quickly for a meet in February and then found out he retore the knee in April.

The fun-loving newly minted 30-year-old opened his pre-meet press conference with the following straight-faced statement:

“My knee has been hurting a lot lately, and I think I’m going to pull out of Nationals and just call it an end of the year,” he said, pausing only slightly for effect. “No, just joking.”

Lochte has his usual full slate of events lined up for the U.S. Championships beginning Wednesday, a qualifying meet for the the two biggest international meets between now and the Rio 2016 Olympics. Those are the Pan Pacific Championships, Aug. 21-24 in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

He’s entered in six events, including all four that Michael Phelps plans to swim.

Truthfully, Lochte said his knee is 100 percent. He raced at a meet in July for the first time in three months, swimming against Phelps in three finals and getting beaten by Phelps in all three.

That return came as a shock to doctors. Lochte wasn’t expected to get back into the pool until a couple weeks ago, but he’s been swimming for two months.

“They said I should be in like a science book because of the way I recovered so quickly,” Lochte said.

Lochte said in April that he considered retiring during grueling injury rehab and the toughest several-month stretch of his career, which spans three Olympics. It was Phelps’ return from a 20-month break that helped motivate him to come back.

Lochte expanded on the rough times Tuesday.

“My body is not getting any younger, I’m falling apart,” said Lochte, the sixth-oldest swimmer out of nearly 1,000 at this week’s meet. “So there was a lot of doubt of ever being the same swimmer, but you know, everything happens for a reason, and maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe this is what I needed. Maybe this is the rest I needed going into 2016.”

Will Rio de Janeiro be ready for 2016 Olympics?

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban