Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Olympic champions hit New York talk shows (video)

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Meryl Davis shivered. Charlie White clenched his hands.

How did it feel to be Olympic champions? Freezing cold at The Rink at Rockefeller Center on Wednesday morning.

The first U.S. Olympic ice dance gold medalists started a hectic day of appearances with their first skate on American ice since their Sochi triumph. They performed in costume to their “My Fair Lady” short dance music as flurries began to fall in 27 degrees.

They’ve skated at the famous rink before, but chills aside, it meant more this time.

“Doing it as an Olympic champion,” White said afterward in a TODAY Show green room, “it’s just a different level.”

Davis and White’s planner called for trips from the Rockefeller rink to Kathie Lee and Hoda to a Visa appearance to a Ralph Lauren store autograph signing to a Stephen Colbert interview.

They’ve managed to fit in sleep this week — “here and there,” White joked — amid going to the Closing Ceremony in Sochi on Sunday night, flying to Moscow overnight for a special skate in the Russian capital Monday and then to New York on Tuesday. They’re slated to get home to Detroit, finally, on Thursday.

“The last week, a little over a week now, has just been a whirlwind,” Davis said. “It’s an experience that we’re trying not to miss a moment of.”

It’s a different mindset than they took after winning Olympic silver four years ago.

“It was hard for us to not think ahead right away,” Davis said of 2010. “We need to do this, we need to do that to get to the next level. We’re in a different place at this point. We’re in the moment and the present as opposed to thinking ahead.”

In 2010, Davis and White competed in the World Championships one month after the Vancouver Olympics wrapped, taking their second straight silver to Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

They haven’t decided if they will compete in this year’s World Championships in Saitama, Japan, beginning March 28. They will talk that over after they get back to Michigan.

They’re already committed to the 20-city “Stars on Ice” tour starting April 4 in Fort Myers, Fla. There’s also been speculation about a “Dancing With the Stars” appearance, boosted by show mainstay Derek Hough helping choreograph Davis and White’s short dance.

“We would be so honored to be part of a show that has brought so much attention to dance and really opened up the culture in the U.S.,” White said.

The attention is on Davis and White for now. Some of their favorite words of wisdom on handling the golden life came from 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton.

“His only advice was to enjoy the moment, soak it all in,” White said. “Our lives have changed forever.”

Davis and White were among the last U.S. Olympic champs to tour the Big Apple.

Alpine skiing slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin made her rounds on Monday before returning to Europe for the rest of the World Cup season.

Her highlight came on “The Tonight Show,” where she played a game of “Catchphrase,” teaming with actress Reese Witherspoon against host Jimmy Fallon and Usher.

***

Ted Ligety, who won giant slalom gold, went on “The Late Show” with David Letterman on Tuesday and discussed the snow conditions in Sochi as well as his future.

Ligety said he’s all in for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, mentioning that he’s seven years younger than Bode Miller, who won a bronze medal in Sochi.

“As long as I’m having fun doing it, feel like I’m competitive, then I feel like I might as well do it,” Ligety said.

***

Perhaps slopestyle snowboarding gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg has all of them beaten, though. Take a look at this spot from Conan O’Brien.

The 14 best athletes at Sochi Olympics

A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Another Jesse Owens Olympic gold medal being sold

Jesse Owens
AP
Leave a comment

One of Jesse Owens‘ four 1936 Olympic gold medals will be put up for sale next week by Goldin Auctions.

Owens triumphed in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany at the Berlin Games, taking the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.

This could be the second Owens gold to be sold in recent years, after one was auctioned in 2013 for $1,466,574, the highest price ever for a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

Two more were said to be put up for auction in 2017, but there are no widespread reports of sales actually happening.

This gold medal was gifted by Owens to John Terpak, a U.S. Olympic weightlifter in 1936 and 1948, after Terpak helped Owens garner speaking engagements, according to Goldin. The previous gold that sold for $1.4 million was gifted by Owens to a different friend.

Terpak died in 1993 and passed the medal on to his son and daughter, who consigned it to Goldin.

The medal is part of Goldin Auctions’ Holiday Auction from Monday through Dec. 7 on GoldinAuctions.com. The listings also include Tommy Lasorda‘s autographed lineup card from the 2000 Olympic baseball gold-medal game.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Sun Yang should get lengthy ban if he loses doping hearing, WADA says

Images via Goldin Auctions:

Jesse Owens Olympic Gold Medal Jesse Owens Olympic Gold Medal