Wambach, Morgan nominated for Player of the Year

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American soccer stars Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan have both been nominated for the FIFA player of the year after dominating performances that led to America’s third straight Olympic gold medal.

The two women are aiming to be the first American to take the award since Mia Hamm won back in 2002. Wambach and Morgan combined for 50 international goals this year and led the world’s best team to an undefeated 13-0-2 record this season.

Also on the list is Brazil’s Marta, who has been nominated every year since 2005 and won the award five consecutive times. America’s former coach Pia Sundhage, who now leads the national team in her native Sweden, was nominated for coach of the year.

“What a tremendous honor for all of us,” Wambach said. “And even more so to be recognized with Alex, someone who compliments me in almost every way on the field.”

Noticeably absent from the nominees is Canada’s Christine Sinclair, who scored an Olympic record six goals, including three in an devastating extra-time semi-final loss to the U.S., but was suspended by FIFA for comments made to and about the referees after the game.

“It’s a travesty,” Canadian coach John Herdman told the National Post. “A player who can score a hat trick in a semi-final and lead her country to the first medal since 1936, the first time Canada’s ever been on a [soccer] podium at one of these events.. and she can’t get in the top three.”

“There’s something wrong somewhere. But… you don’t want to be pointing fingers at people. It is what it is.”

USA! USA!

Russia to finish Youth Olympics with most medals

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Russia clinched the top spot in the Youth Olympic medal standings, two days before the Closing Ceremony in Buenos Aires and eight months after it was excluded from the PyeongChang Winter Games for its doping problems.

The Russians have 52 medals with 25 golds so far, distancing the rest of the world.

1. Russia — 52 total, 25 gold
2. China — 36 total, 18 gold
3. Mixed NOCs — 36 total, 12 gold
4. Japan — 34 total, 14 gold
5. Italy — 31 total, 10 gold
10. U.S. — 15 total, 4 gold

China and Russia went one-two in total medals at the first two Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 and Nanjing, China in 2014. The U.S. has never topped a Youth Olympic total medal table, be it Summer or Winter Games.

The U.S. has, however, earned the most total medals at the last six Summer Olympics, beginning with the 1996 Atlanta Games.

The Youth Olympics, for athletes ages 14 to 18, do not emphasize medal counts (plus have many medal events where athletes from different nations compete on the same team). The Games include many Olympic events and some that are not on the Olympic program, including break dancing, where a Russian who goes by Bumblebee earned gold last week.

The next Youth Olympics are the winter version in the IOC base of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2020, followed by the summer version in 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, the first Olympic Games of any kind to be held in Africa.

The Youth Olympics conclude with the last full day of medal competition on Wednesday and the Closing Ceremony on Thursday.

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Aliya Mustafina returns to gymnastics worlds, year after giving birth

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Aliya Mustafina, an all-around medalist at the last two Olympics, made Russia’s team for next week’s world gymnastics championships, 16 months after giving birth to daughter Alisa.

Mustafina, 24, is joined by one Rio Olympic teammate, Angelina Melnikova, and three world championships rookies (plus Olympian Daria Spiridonova as an alternate), according to Russia’s gymnastics federation.

Mustafina is the last non-American woman to win an Olympic or world championships all-around, back in 2010 in her first year as a senior gymnast. A series of injuries followed, including surgeries on both knees and her left ankle.

She missed the 2015 Worlds with back pain but rebounded for a medal of every color in Rio (uneven bars gold, team silver and all-around bronze, just as she had done at London 2012).

Her seven total Olympic medals are tied for the most by a Russian woman since the fall of the Soviet Union with retired gymnast Svetlana Khorkina.

Viktoria Komova, the 2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist who has also struggled with injuries, is not on Russia’s team for worlds in Doha. She last competed at a global championship in 2015, sharing the uneven bars title with three other gymnasts.

Mustafina joins a list of distinguished moms to return to the top level of gymnastics, including Oksana Chusovitina, who began competing in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and, seven Olympics later, is still competing at age 43 (for Uzbekistan).

The most decorated Olympic gymnast, Soviet Larisa Latynina, earned 12 of her 18 medals after becoming a mom.

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