Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin faces do or die in splash and dash

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IRVINE, Calif. — Natalie Coughlin has entered 12 Olympic events and won 12 Olympic medals. She has made the U.S. team for 12 straight major international meets, excluding her 2009 sabbatical.

She has 50 seconds in the pool Sunday to keep the latter streak going.

Coughlin, 31 and the oldest woman at the U.S. Championships, will swim the 50m freestyle — the splash and dash — on the final day of the meet.

It is her last chance to make the U.S. team for the biggest international meet of 2014, the Pan Pacific Championships. If she does not make the Pan Pacs team, she cannot qualify for the 2015 World Championships team, either.

Coughlin has said the 2016 Olympics are her hopeful goal, but would she reassess if she finds out Sunday she will be out of the two biggest meets between now and Rio de Janeiro?

“That’s not something I really want to think about right now,” Coughlin said outside the warm-up pool at Woollett Aquatics Center on Friday. “There’s really no point in thinking about it until it happens.”

Coughlin finished seventh in her only other event in Irvine, the 100m freestyle Wednesday, when top four would have made the Pan Pacs team.

The top two in the 50m free will definitely make the Pan Pacs team. Third place will likely make the team. Fourth is still possible.

The Pan Pacs roster is a set 26 women over all events, taking the top finishers across the board. The more swimmers who qualify in multiple events, the more roster spots open up for lower-placing swimmers.

Coughlin is the third-fastest American woman in the 50m free this year. Right on the bubble.

She knows the pressure, but she feels ready. The nerves will be calmed by her experience when she walks on the deck for prelims Sunday morning and, likely, the final Sunday night.

“It’s not my first rodeo,” Coughlin said.

Many thought Coughlin would retire after the 2012 Olympics, after she made her third Games by the skin of her suit at the Olympic Trials. She was sixth in the 100m free, squeezing into the Olympic relay team.

In London, she swam in the 4x100m free relay prelims but was not selected for the final quartet. Her teammates were third in that final, and prelim swimmers also earn medals.

So Coughlin won a bronze, tying fellow swimmers Jenny Thompson (Coughlin’s suite mate at her first Olympics in 2004) and Dara Torres with her 12th career medal.

Coughlin agreed she kept swimming after London due partly to unfinished business.

“I wasn’t happy with how London went,” she said. “I know that I’m better than the year that I had in 2012. I made the changes that I think are good for me.”

In Rio, Coughlin could become the first Olympian — Summer or Winter — to enter at least 13 Olympic events and win a medal in all of them. She is currently tied with Finnish distance legend Paavo Nurmi at 12.

She could also break her tie with Thompson and Torres for the most medals won by a U.S. woman.

“It would be great to win another medal,” Coughlin said. “Being tied with Jenny and Dara is pretty incredible.”

She switched coaches but not training bases after London. She left Cal’s women’s collegiate program coach, Teri McKeever, who helped guide her to those 12 medals. She joined Cal’s men’s coach, Dave Durden.

That means her intense training comes with men’s stars, too — Olympic 100m free champ Nathan Adrian and 2000 Olympic 50m free champ Anthony Ervin, who is the only swimmer older than Coughlin of nearly 1,000 at the U.S. Championships.

“I’m getting my butt kicked every day,” said Coughlin, who has shed her signature stroke, backstroke, and her experimental one, the butterfly, to focus only on sprint freestyles. “I’m drowning in waves.”

But the swimmer most ask Coughlin about is Missy Franklin, a rising sophomore at Cal under McKeever. Coughlin was a three-time NCAA Swimmer of the Year with McKeever at Cal from 2001-03.

Coughlin said neither Franklin nor any up-and-coming swimmers ask her for much sage wisdom. Coughlin was the same way.

“There’s a wonderful naivety when you’re young,” she said. “You generally don’t ask for advice. A lot of times younger swimmers have such an inherent confidence. That’s why they’re as good as they are.

“I’m always here for advice if anyone ever needs it. I know from when I was young, you never like unsolicited advice. You wait for when you’re asked.”

In Rio, Franklin could try to become the first female swimmer to win seven medals at a single Games, breaking a record jointly held by Coughlin.

If there’s anything Coughlin could help Franklin with out of the pool, it may be cooking.

“We were going back and forth on Twitter,” Coughlin, a noted foodie, said, remembering a Q&A when she took over a sponsor’s account and Franklin cheekily asked a question.

“She hasn’t taken me up on it,” Coughlin said. “The invitation is still out there.”

Mishaps emerge at U.S. Championships

Doping investigator ‘inundated with requests’ for more info on Russians

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Canadian lawyer who accused Russia of operating a state-run doping program is facing “a deluge of requests” for information on individual athletes implicated in his investigation.

Richard McLaren, who was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, issued a report that accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing doping among Olympic athletes in more than two dozen summer and winter sports.

The IOC rejected calls by WADA and other anti-doping bodies to ban Russia’s entire Olympic team from the Rio de Janeiro Games. Instead, the International Olympic Committee asked individual sports federations to determine which Russian athletes would be cleared to compete.

“My office has been inundated with requests for information on individual athletes,” McLaren said in a statement released late Friday from London, Ontario. “The (IOC) decision has resulted in a deluge of requests to provide information to the IFs (international federations); Russian national federations; the Russian Olympic Committee; the Russian Paralympic Committee and individual Russian athletes.”

McLaren said he has provided information to WADA that names athletes whose urine samples were part of a state-run cover-up.

“WADA in turn has shared this information with IFs,” he said.

More than 100 Russian athletes have been barred from the games so far – including the track and field team banned by the IAAF and more than 30 athletes excluded by other federations since the release of McLaren’s report. Russia’s entire weightlifting team was kicked out Friday.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Friday that 272 of the country’s original 387-strong team had been approved by international sports federations to compete in Rio.

The IOC has said that any Russian athlete with a prior sanction for doping would not be allowed into the games. Anyone implicated in McLaren’s report would also be excluded, the IOC said.

McLaren said his mandate has been extended to finish the investigation and “identify any further athletes that might have benefited from such manipulation to conceal positive doping tests.”

Until now, he said, the focus of his investigation was to look into evidence of a “state-dictated program which used the Moscow and Sochi laboratories to cover up doping.”

“It has not been to establish anti-doping rule violation cases against individual athletes,” McLaren said, adding that it was not his job to process doping cases against individual athletes.

“I have, however, received a considerable amount of reliable evidence, which clearly implicates individual athletes in the state-dictated program described in the report,” he said. “That evidence includes documents supported by the testimony of confidential witnesses and in some cases additional forensic and analytical evidence from the examination of sample bottles and their contents.”

McLaren said his ongoing investigation includes developing evidence which may be used in the future to sanction individual athletes.

“At this stage, I will not release any of the specific information I currently have concerning any athletes,” he said. “To do so would compromise the ongoing investigation.”

MORE: Entire Russian weightlifting team banned from Olympics

Martin Kaymer motivated by Olympics in PGA Championship run

SPRINGFIELD, NJ - JULY 28: Martin Kaymer of Germany plays his shot from the seventh tee  during the first round of the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on July 28, 2016 in Springfield, New Jersey.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
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SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — The chance to compete at the Olympics can’t come soon enough for Martin Kaymer.

While the top four players in the world and 21 men overall will not be part of the Rio Games, the 31-year-old German has been thinking about it all summer.

Calling out Michael Phelps as one of the best Olympians he wants to see and meet, Kaymer sounds as though he’s looking forward to going to Rio as much as his ongoing run at the PGA Championship.

Rio isn’t so much as distraction, rather a motivation.

“It is so, so, inspiring, and I really look forward to go, experience that, and I don’t know how I will feel,” Kaymer said. “I’m sure it’s going to take a couple weeks after that to reflect on all your experiences.”

Going to Rio has inspired Kaymer’s latest hot streak. He shot a 4-under 66 in the opening round on Thursday and followed with a 69 in the second round to reach 5 under.

The two-time major champion, birdied three of his last four holes Friday.

“I think I placed myself in a very good spot,” Kaymer said. “Who knows where the leader is going to be by the end of the day. I shot a good score yesterday, a very good round today. So it’s a good position to be in in a major championship.”

After his opening round on Thursday, Kaymer said he is looking forward to seeing the best athletes in their sports at the Olympics — and not only the Germans.

“I watched Lionel Messi a couple times when Barcelona played against Bayern Munich and I went to the stadium, just to see the class, the natural talent of an athlete, is amazing,” Kaymer said. “You know, you can work as hard as you want but you are never going to get there.”

Kaymer said especially Phelps has an invitation to come watch him play at Rio.

“He can walk inside the ropes, I’m sure,” he said. “That is just so great to watch them and just – sometimes it’s funny how good the athletes are. Because you compare yourself, how bad you are, because obviously you tried the sport, and I look forward to that.”

Kaymer went into this week at No. 51 in the world ranking, having not won since 2014.

Interestingly enough, it’s in the even-numbered years when Kaymer has played some of his best golf and 2016 is starting to look up after two promising rounds at Baltusrol.

“I’m more the kind of player who has some really nice highs in my career, and then I have some time to enjoy it again,” Kaymer said. “Then all of a sudden, you know, you create a little bit more inspiration from something, and then you play better again.”

In his first appearance of 2008, Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and then added a win in his homeland at the BMW International Open.

In 2010, Kaymer won his first major – the PGA Championship – after he won a three-hole playoff over Bubba Watson.

One of Europe’s heroes in 2012, Kaymer made a 6-foot putt on the last hole at the Ryder Cup to defeat Steve Stricker and secure the last point needed to achieve a stunning comeback and retain the Ryder Cup.

In 2014, Kaymer dominated at Pinehurst No. 2 for an eight-shot victory in the U.S. Open, one month after winning The Players Championship against the strongest and deepest field in golf. Kaymer joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win a U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Players Championship and WGC event before their 30th birthday.

“I think in general, you grow, not only as a golf player but as a person, as well, and through that success, through the two major wins that I had, I think you grow a lot more,” Kaymer said. “You take things a little bit more – you value them a little bit more, and therefore, somehow it calms me down.”

After struggling in the first part of the 2016 season, Kaymer is headed into the weekend rounds at the PGA Championship back on the upswing.

MORE: Bubba Watson, U.S. golfers get pep talk from Olympic legend Dan Jansen