USOC

Katie Ledecky, Kyle Snyder named U.S. Olympic athletes of the year

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Katie LedeckyKyle Snyder and the women’s national hockey team earned best-of-the-year honors at the Team USA Awards on Wednesday night.

NBC will air coverage of the awards Dec. 23 from 5-6 p.m. ET.

Ledecky won Female Athlete of the Year for the third time after marking her largest medal haul ever at a major international meet — five golds and one silver at the world championships in Budapest in July.

She beat out finalists Mikaela Shiffrin (first World Cup overall title), Helen Maroulis (won her five world matches by a combined 53-0 en route to repeat gold), Lindsey Jacobellis (fifth world snowboard cross title) and Heather Bergsma (two golds, one bronze at speed skating worlds).

Snyder became the fourth wrestler to earn Male Athlete of the Year after repeating as world champion by beating Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev in the 97kg freestyle final, dubbed the Match of the Century.

Snyder handed the Russian Tank, the Olympic 86kg champion, his first loss in nearly four years in August.

The other men’s finalists were swimmer Caeleb Dressel (seven golds at worlds), pole vaulter Sam Kendricks (world title, undefeated year), biathlete Lowell Bailey (first American to win an Olympic or world biathlon title) and skier McRae Williams (world gold, X Games silver in slopestyle).

The women’s hockey national team earned Team of the Year for the first time since it won the first Olympic women’s hockey title in 1998.

The U.S. women nearly boycotted the world championship due to a pay dispute. They reached an agreement with USA Hockey three days before the tournament. Despite little prep time, they went undefeated in Plymouth, Mich., beating rival Canada 3-2 in overtime in the April final.

The other team finalists were women’s water polo (fifth world title) and bobsledders Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones (world champions).

Paralympic Athletes of the Year went to track and field athletes Tatyana McFadden and Mikey Brannigan and the men’s sled hockey team.

Coaches of the Year went to national freestyle wrestling coach Bill Zadick and Para Nordic skiing coach Eileen Carey.

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October. Chen is the only undefeated skater this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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VIDEO: Italian curlers go nuts after clutch shot qualifies for Olympics