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‘Next Olympic Hopeful’ searches for new crossover Olympians

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DENVER (AP) — America’s got talent, and the leaders at the U.S. Olympic Committee are turning on the TV cameras to find it.

The quest for gold and America’s insatiable appetite for reality television are merging this summer with an Olympic scouting camp — titled “The Next Olympic Hopeful” — that will ultimately be packaged as part of a two-hour broadcast on NBCSN in August.

Instead of earning a final rose, eight athletes from an original cast of 100 will find themselves competing for spots on future U.S. Olympic teams.

“For a few years, we’ve been thinking a lot about talent transfer. High-level athletes around the country playing one sport or another who may not make it to the top of that sport,” said Alan Ashley, the USOC’s chief of sport performance. “This is a chance for them to look at Olympic sports, to transfer over and get involved.”

Lest we all start jumping off the couch and warming up, there are a few caveats:

— In the first phase of the project, the USOC is looking only for athletes for cycling, rugby and the sliding sports of bobsled and skeleton.

— The USOC is in search of “elite” athletes, and is focusing much of its attention toward college rosters.

— The individual sports have lofty requirements to even be considered for the initial tryout roster of 50 men and 50 women: For example, a rugby hopeful would need to squat around two times his or her weight for three repetitions; a man trying out for bobsled or skeleton would need to broad jump nearly 11 feet (at most NFL scouting combines, about a dozen players reach that distance).

The idea of crossover athletes at the Olympics nothing new, of course.

Patriots special teamer Nate Ebner is one of three players to wear NFL uniforms who went on to earn a spot on the U.S. rugby team in the reintroduction of that sport to the Olympics last year.

And track stars (see Lolo Jones), football players (see Herschel Walker) and people who do both (see Willie Gault) have long been crossing from their original sports to ride bobsled in the Winter Olympics.

But where the individual sports organizations and athletes were often left to discover each other on their own in the past, now they’ll get some institutional help from the USOC, which will host the 100 candidates at the Olympic Training Center in July for a week’s worth of workouts. They’ll be searching for eight athletes — one man and one woman for each of the four sports — to become eligible for financial, training and medical services as they prepare to compete for their spot on the Olympic team in their sport.

“It’s great the USOC is jumping into this,” said Darrin Steele, the CEO of USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “From Day 1, we said, ‘Hey, we’re perfect for it.’ We know it’s not a golden ticket onto the team. It’s a screening process. It’s throwing a very wide net and trying to appeal to athletes who might not realize what the possibilities are.”

Make it or not, they will get air time.

Team USA will feature the camps on its social websites. Then, NBCSN will swoop in with a two-hour recap of the action, complete with — of course — an announcement of the eight winners.

Steele says he’s not against using a bit of showbiz in the name of success.

“I don’t see it as an issue,” he said, “because the only way you make our team is if you’re able to help us win.”

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced four months pregnant in 110-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

In a Wonder Woman top, she gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative for people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. … I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

In the men’s 800m, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

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Lilly King to be less vocal on Yuliya Efimova topic this summer

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Expect to see Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova resume their breaststroke rivalry at the world championships next month.

It will look very different than in Rio, when King became a vocal opponent of doping and directed some of her words at the formerly suspended Russian Efimova.

“This summer, I’m not going to talk about everything that happened last summer,” King said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “I spoke my piece. I’ve said everything I need to say.”

Her focus needs to stay in the pool, where she must finish first or second at the USA Swimming National Championships next week to make it to worlds (broadcast schedule here).

King said in May her goal is to break world records at worlds in Budapest in July.

She may need to in order to defeat Efimova like in Rio.

Efimova has the fastest 100m breast time in the world this year, a 1:04.82 set on Sunday. The national record put her No. 3 on the all-time list (and .09 faster than King’s winning time in Rio).

King is in third place this year at 1:06.20, though she spent all winter focusing on NCAA competition in 25-yard pools.

In Rio, King said Efimova shouldn’t have been allowed to compete given her doping history.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1, 2016, and was absolved along with other athletes.

King memorably finger-wagged at an image of Efimova on a TV in the ready room before her 100m breast semifinal and relegated the Russian to silver the following the night.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last November, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

King struggled with her newfound fame after she returned home last summer, sobbing in a winter meeting with her University of Indiana coach, Ray Looze, according to the Indianapolis Star:

It was so hard to do normal activities in her hometown – go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant – that she considered wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her likeness was on a bingo card at a fall festival, so people purposely looked for her. When in Evansville now, she said, she looks at the ground so no one will recognize her. After an initial wave of attention on IU’s campus, she can walk around without interruption.

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