Stephanie Rice retires from swimming via video

Stephanie Rice
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Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice chose a unique way to retire, announcing the end of her career via video spliced with childhood photos, career highlights and portions of the 2012 pop rock hit “Hall of Fame” by The Script featuring will.i.am.

Rice had not swum competitively since the 2012 Olympics.

“I never wanted to make a comeback, so the decision that I wanted to make was definitely final,” Rice said in the video published Tuesday. “Coming to that point today and not continuing my swimming career, it’s sad.”

Rice, 25, won triple gold at the 2008 Olympics, sweeping the individual medleys and as part of the Australian 4x200m freestyle relay team, all in world record times.

“A complete shock and the best moment I could have ever experienced,” Rice said. “It would have been really easy to walk away after Beijing and call it a day there. But I just felt like I had so much more to prove as an athlete. Had I known what I was going to go through [between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics] with three shoulder operations and a load more ups and downs, I probably would have [retired], but I’m so glad that I really stuck through it.”

Rice finished fourth in the 200m individual medley and tied for sixth in the 400m individual medley at the 2012 Olympics. The shoulder injuries hampered her form leading into her second Olympics.

“London was really tough,” Rice said. “There were so many things that went wrong for me in that preparation. It was like I was trying so hard to make everything so perfect, and everything went wrong.”

She said in 2011 that she would likely retire after the London Games but took her time to officially call it a career.

After nearly a year off, she gave herself a deadline of late 2013/early 2014 to get back in the water to contend for a spot on Australia’s Commonwealth Games team later this summer. The Australian trials for the Commonwealth Games concluded over the weekend. She did not participate.

“Coming off the Games, I really didn’t want to make a rash decision on my career and whether I was going to keep swimming or not, because I was still too emotional about the whole preparation I had just been through,” said Rice, who had roles on Australia’s “Today” Show and “Celebrity Apprentice” during her break. “I felt a lot of pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations and fulfill their answers, but I knew that I really had to take the time for myself to get to the point where I knew 100 percent what I wanted to do.”

Rice’s expected retirement came on the same day that nine-time Olympic medalist Ian Thorpe‘s agent said he thought Thorpe would never swim competitively again.

Rice and Thorpe were two pillars of Australian swimming during the height of their rivalry with the U.S. over the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Thorpe was the most decorated Australian men’s swimmer in 2000 and 2004. Rice won more golds than any other Australian women’s swimmer in 2008.

“I definitely feel like I’m losing a part of myself, but I’m really excited for what’s to come,” Rice said. “It’s safe to say that that’s the new goal, a new passion for me is to prove myself out of the water.”

Catching up with Dara Torres

Kelly Slater is trying to qualify for the Olympics at age 51

Kelly Slater
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On Dec. 19, 2019, Kelly Slater missed qualifying for surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo by one spot. It came down to the 11th and final event of the season-long World Surf League Championship Tour in a tight battle with his Hawaiian neighbor John John Florence.

At age 47, it appeared that surfing’s Olympic inclusion came just a bit too late for the greatest surfer in history to take part.

Slater continued to enter the sport’s other premier contests.

He opened the 2021 season with a third-place finish at surfing’s crown jewel, the Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu. But Slater then missed half the season, citing injuries to both ankles and his right hip. It was a reminder that every athlete succumbs to age — even if few have successfully fended it off longer than Slater.

Yet there Slater was last Feb. 5, being carried out of the water, raising his arms in triumph after winning his eighth Pipeline Masters title, six days shy of his 50th birthday and 30 years after his first victory. It was his first title on tour in nearly six years.

That win — which Slater called the best of his record 56 on the Championship Tour — also meant something more. Maybe, just maybe, he has enough left in the tank to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Slater made just one more quarterfinal in his remaining seven events last season. Still, he finished the year ranked 15th in the world and, more importantly for Olympic prospects, third among Americans.

Everybody starts from zero points again as this season opened Wednesday with the first rounds of the Pipeline Masters. The top two Americans per gender in the season-ending standings in September are likely to qualify for the Paris Games.

The U.S. could get a third men’s Olympic spot — which wasn’t available four years ago — if it wins next year’s World Surfing Games team competition (Brazil may be favored). It’s unclear what will determine which surfer fills that potential spot.

If he could only have one, Slater would take a 2024 Olympic spot over another win at Pipeline.

He is trying to become the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing, shooting or art competitions(!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova (who was 47 in 2004), according to Olympedia.org.

“This will be my one chance [at the Olympics],” Slater said Saturday while promoting the upcoming season of “Make or Break” that premieres Feb. 17 on Apple TV+. “The next [Olympics] I’ll be 55 years old. I’m not going to be on tour by then. I did say that at 40, though, when I was talking about being 50.”

Slater, speaking on Wednesday’s opening day Pipeline broadcast, said he messaged Tom Brady after the NFL star announced his retirement (for a second time) earlier in the day.

“I don’t think there would be a player in the league right now that wouldn’t say that Brady can still win a Super Bowl right now, so it’s a hard carrot to dangle in front of yourself and not go for it,” Slater said. “I can relate to that after so long, but I love to surf, and this is the outlet for it, still. I feel that candle kind of burning out for me. That’s been for a while, but I think I’m just going to surf until it’s totally done, and I don’t really care at all about surfing a heat and want to be somewhere else.”

Slater is pumped for the 2024 Olympic venue: Teahupo’o,  a daunting reef break nicknamed “The End of the Road.” It is in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris. It will break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host city.

Slater won there five times on the Championship Tour, the last in 2016.

“It’s one of the truly great challenging waves in the world,” he said. “If I can get on that team, I feel like I have a good shot at potentially winning a medal or gold medal. If that were the case, I will drop the mic and quit right then, but, you know, I got a lot of work to do between now and then.”

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Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone appears in ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial

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Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone appears in an ESPN “This is SportsCenter” commercial that was published Friday and debuts on the network on Saturday night, after she races for the first time this year at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on NBC.

In the commercial, ESPN (and former NBC Sports) anchor Hannah Storm asks McLaughlin-Levrone if she has a minute to catch up.

McLaughlin-Levrone replies by saying she has 51.46 seconds right after lunch, 51.41 seconds later in the afternoon or 50.68 seconds right now. The numbers represent the last three times that McLaughlin-Levrone clocked when breaking the 400m hurdles world record.

McLaughlin-Levrone is scheduled to race the 60m at the New Balance meet in Boston, which airs on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock from 4-6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The commercial first airs during the North Carolina-Duke men’s basketball game that starts at 6:30 on ESPN.

In the last two years, McLaughlin-Levrone lowered the 400m hurdles world record four times, winning the Tokyo Olympics and last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon. She brought the record down from countrywoman Dalilah Muhammad‘s 52.16 from 2019 to 50.68 at July’s worlds.

The 23-year-old said after last season that she wants to expand by adding the flat 400m to the 400m hurdles, but she has not yet publicly committed to racing it at the next major outdoor meet, the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene in July.

For the first time, McLaughlin-Levrone has a bye into the 400m hurdles at the world championships in August, meaning she does not have to race it at USATF Outdoors. That could make the flat 400m more appealing.

Past “This is SportsCenter” spots included Olympians Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Kerri Strug,

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