First member of 2016 U.S. Olympic team should come from Pan American Games

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The first athlete to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic team will likely qualify from the Toronto Pan American Games, a quadrennial multi-sport competition whose Opening Ceremony is Friday.

Two sports at the Pan Am Games have direct qualification to the Rio Olympics for individual athletes — modern pentathlon and table tennis.

The first Pan Am event with individual Rio Olympic spots on the line is the women’s modern pentathlon July 18. The U.S. athletes entered are two-time Olympian Margaux Isaksen and Sammy Achterberg.

The three highest finishers will qualify for the Rio Olympics with a maximum of one Olympic qualifier per nation.

Isaksen is the defending Pan Am champion who finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics. She’s ranked No. 9 in the world and finished 22nd at the World Championships in June, behind three other athletes in the Pan Am provisional field. However, one of those three, and the only one ranked higher than Isaksen, has already qualified for the Rio Olympics.

The men’s modern pentathlon is July 19. U.S. athletes entered are 2012 Olympian Dennis Bowsher and Nathan Schrimsher.

In 2011, Bowsher finished fourth overall at Pan Ams.

Bowsher went on to finish 32nd in the 2012 Olympic modern pentathlon. The last U.S. man to earn an Olympic modern pentathlon medal was in 1960.

Schrimsher is ranked No. 59 in the world. Bowsher is No. 65. Guatemala, Mexico, Chile and Cuba have higher-ranked athletes in the Pan Am Games provisional field, and Argentina has an athlete ranked No. 62. So Olympic qualification for an American man is no sure thing.

In table tennis, the Pan American Games men’s and women’s individual champions, crowned July 25, qualify for the Rio Olympics.

The top ranked U.S. table tennis player at the Pan Am Games is 2012 Olympian Lily Zhang, who is the top ranked woman in the Pan Am field at No. 94 in the world. There are no U.S. men ranked in the top 300 in the world.

Zhang shared bronze at the 2011 Pan Am Games as a 15-year-old. The defending champion is unrelated Canadian Mo Zhang.

In all, the U.S. Olympic team included more than 500 athletes in 2012, so this is just the start of the roster building.

Watch Rio Olympic Park move from construction to completion

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the men’s modern pentathlon was July 18 and the women’s was July 19.

Top curling video and social media moments

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For nearly three straight weeks, curling dominated the Olympic airwaves, and while the U.S., Sweden and Canada all came away with gold medals, there were still plenty of highlights away from the ice.

In the mixed doubles tournament, fans were introduced to Team USA’s #HamFam, Matt and Becca Hamilton, who became instant sensations. Matt was even confused for some other celebrities, as people tried to nail down exactly who he looked like.

And he got to “meet” his hero, Aaron Rodgers… of course only through Twitter (for now!)

 In the women’s tournament, fans were introduced to Japan’s “sunshine team,” who were all all smiles on the way to their bronze medal win.

Three Stars from men’s hockey at the Olympics

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NBC Olympics staff selected three special performers from the enitre men’s tournament at the Olympics.

FIRST STAR
Eeli Tolvanen, Finland: The 18-year-old winger was the undisputed breakout star of the men’s tournament. Even though Finland was eliminated in the quarterfinals, Tolvanen’s tally of nine points still ranked second overall as he averaged nearly two points per game. He scored in his Olympic debut and also tallied two assists against eventual silver medalist Germany. He followed that up with two scores against Norway. Tolvanen paced his team past an energized South Korean team in the qualification playoffs, assisting in Finland’s opening three goals. After a sizzling Olympic performance, Tolvanen could be on his way to the NHL to help the Nashville Predators chase the Stanley Cup once again.

NBCOlympics.com: OAR defeat Germany to win hockey gold 

SECOND STAR
Nikita Gusev, Olympic Athletes from Russia: The Vegas Golden Knights prospect tallied four goals and eight assists in just six games throughout the 2018 Winter Games. He also struck twice when it mattered most, helping OAR force OT in the gold-medal game. Trailing 3-2 in the final frame and playing shorthanded, Gusev was able to sneak a backhanded shot into the back of the net to knot the score with less than a minute remaining. Then, in the extra session, it was Gusev who made a beautiful cross-ice pass to set up the golden goal by Kirill Kaprizov.

NBCOlymipcs.com: Canada claim bronze with 6-4 over Czech Republic

THIRD STAR
Ryan Donato, United States: The 21-year-old Boston Bruins prospect was bright spot for Team USA despite the disappointing finish. The sniper lifted his team to a crucial preliminary-round victory over Slovakia, grabbing both goals in a 2-1 victory. He came back to haunt Slovakia again with two more scores in the qualification playoffs, and though the United States’ tournament came to an end in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic, Donato notched one last goal in the 3-2 loss to finish with a team-leading five goals and six points. Donato, along with fellow collegiate athletes Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway, surprised many with their contributions on the ice. If management had known of their game-changing impact in advance, the American roster might have included more NCAA players.