Katie Ledecky

Olympic Year in Review: Summer Sports

Leave a comment

OlympicTalk takes a look back at the year in Olympic sports this week. Today, we review summer sports.

They called it the “fallow year” in track and field. Summer Olympic sports took a backseat in 2014 compared to the other three years in the Olympic cycle.

Track and field, aquatics and beach volleyball do not hold World Championships in even-numbered years. Two of the most stunning summer sports performances in 2014 — French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie breaking a 21-year-old world record and U.S. wrestler Jordan Burroughs‘ 69-match winning streak ending — occurred during the Winter Olympics in February and thus received far less attention.

Once the Sochi Olympics ended, the focus began turning to preparation for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Track and Field

Usain Bolt underwent foot surgery in March and ran a total of 400 meters in competition this year — two relay legs at the Commonwealth Games, a Brazilian beach race and the rare indoor 100 meters, after entering a Warsaw stadium in a Humvee with Polish basketball player Marcin Gortat.

If Bolt lined up against top-level competition this season, in particular the undefeated American Justin Gatlin, even the great Jamaican admitted he probably would have lost.

Gatlin, four years removed from a four-year doping ban, set personal bests in the 100m and 200m at age 32, emerging as the biggest threat to Bolt since Yohan Blake swept the 100m and 200m at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic trials.

The Olympic women’s 100m and 200m champions also had injury-affected seasons. Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce struggled with a leg problem and fell off the map entirely after mid-July.

Allyson Felix needed nearly one year to fully recover from a torn hamstring at the 2013 World Championships. She allayed concern in the final Diamond League meet, Sept. 5, by running the fastest 200m in the world since the London Games.

David Rudisha wasn’t at his record-breaking best in return from a knee injury. Jenn Suhr took a backseat in the pole vault to Brazil’s best Rio medal hope in track and field, Fabiana Murer. Mo Farah debuted in the marathon. That didn’t go well, either.

source: Getty Images
Meb Keflezighi won USA Track and Field’s male Athlete of the Year award. (Getty Images)

Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years in April, a victory with greater meaning given the twin bombings of 2013. In September, Kenyan Dennis Kimetto shaved 26 seconds off the marathon world record in Berlin.

American Tatyana McFadden recorded her second straight wheelchair marathon Grand Slam at the New York City Marathon in November, after winning a Sochi Paralympic silver medal in cross-country skiing.

Ashton Eaton took a break from the decathlon and focused on the 400m hurdles. He clocked a time that would have made the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the non-decathlon event. Expect him to return full-time to 10-event competition in 2015.

Eaton’s wife, Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, won the Commonwealth Games heptathlon title. They’ll aim for matching gold medals at the 2015 World Championships.

Rio 2016 track and field schedule released

Swimming

Swimming turned into a story of the Big Four in 2014.

Michael Phelps returned from a 20-month competitive retirement in April and was nearing his London Olympic form four months later. In September, Phelps was pulled over driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone and arrested on DUI charges. He was suspended for six months by USA Swimming, plus the 2015 World Championships, and spent 45 days seeking help in a program in Arizona.

Ryan Lochte returned too quickly from tearing an MCL in a November 2013 run-in with a fan. He retore his knee in April. Lochte won zero individual titles at the Pan Pacific Championships in August, his worst performance at a major international meet since he emerged as a threat to Phelps.

Missy Franklin completed her freshman year at California with an NCAA title in March. Out-of-nowhere back spasms derailed her at the Pan Pacific Championships.

Nobody impressed more than Katie Ledecky, who broke world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles before starting her senior year of high school. Ledecky was also the second-fastest woman in the 200m free in 2014, as she adds shorter distances to her repertoire, expanding medal possibilities at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics.

Internationally, Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, 20, emerged as the world’s best all-around swimmer, beating Phelps and Lochte in the 200m individual medley at Pan Pacs. Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu routinely won several events at two- and three-day meets, earning her “Iron Lady” nickname.

Katie Ledecky faces decisions in 2015, 2016

Gymnastics

source: Getty Images
Simone Biles joined Shannon Miller as the only U.S. women’s gymnasts to win multiple Olympic and/or World all-around titles. (Getty Images)

Texan Simone Biles continued her march toward Rio with the most successful single Olympics or World Championships ever by an American woman. Biles, 17, won four gold medals and one silver medal at Worlds in Nanning, China, in October. She was also scared off the podium by a bee.

On the men’s side, Japan’s Kohei Uchimura boosted his argument as the greatest of all time with his fifth straight World all-around title.

One member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic women’s team competed in 2014 — Kyla Ross, who took all-around bronze at the World Championships.

Gabby Douglas moved from California back to Iowa, then left coach Liang Chow for a second time, moved to Ohio and opted not compete in 2014. She hopes to return in 2015.

McKayla Maroney underwent knee surgery in March, due to coming back too early in 2013 from September 2012 surgery to repair a fractured tibia. She said she needed to have this year’s operation if she wanted to go to the Rio Olympics.

Aly Raisman attended her first U.S. national team camp since the Olympics in October.

Jordyn Wieber, who also hasn’t competed since the Olympics, said in July she’s “still deciding” if she will return to competition.

Aly Raisman motivated by London tiebreak in comeback

Basketball: The U.S. men and women swept the FIBA World Cup/World Championships, going undefeated through the tournaments and qualifying both teams for the Rio Olympics. The men, coached by Mike Krzyzewski, won without LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who could rejoin the squad in Rio. The women, coached by Geno Auriemma, included superstars such as Brittney Griner, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.

Beach Volleyball: Three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Olympic silver medalist April Ross won four FIVB World Tour events in their first full year together. Brazil’s Larissa and Talita partnered midway through the year and experienced greater success, setting up a potential two-team race for the 2015 World title. Americans Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal won three FIVB World Tour events and finished second in the year-end rankings.

BoxingClaressa Shields, the 19-year-old who won the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing gold medal in London, steamrolled to her first World Championship. Marlen Esparza joined her in winning gold.

TriathlonGwen Jorgensen completed the greatest season in the six-year history of the World Triathlon Series, winning five straight events, including the season-ending Grand Final in August.

Volleyball: The U.S. women upset top-ranked Brazil and then defeated China in the World Championships final to capture the biggest title in program history in Milan in October.

Olympic Year in Review: Winter Sports

Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Israel baseball turned to Shlomo Lipetz for the biggest out in program history

Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

Getty Images
2 Comments

Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA