Jurgen Klinsmann

Jurgen Klinsmann, Olympic bronze medalist, focuses on U.S. Soccer qualifying for Rio

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Jurgen Klinsmann won a pair of international prizes in his German playing career that he would like to deliver to the U.S. Soccer program — a World Cup, of course, but also an Olympic medal.

Klinsmann, a member of the 1988 West German Olympic team that won bronze in Seoul (pictured to the right), said “the main task for 2015 definitely is the Olympic team,” according to reports citing audio distributed by U.S. Soccer.

Klinsmann coaches the U.S. Men’s National Team that’s eyeing the 2015 Gold Cup, but as U.S. Soccer’s technical director he realizes the importance of the Olympics.

The Olympic team will not be the World Cup-level senior national team, but instead at least primarily — if not wholly — members of the Under-23 team that does not currently have a full-time head coach.

The U.S. U23 team cruelly missed the 2012 Olympics, giving up a stoppage-time goal in CONCACAF qualifying to El Salvador when it was seconds away from advancing to a winner-goes-to-London match.

“We want to make sure what happened with London 2012 doesn’t happen again,” Klinsmann said.

The U.S. hasn’t won an Olympic men’s soccer medal since 1904, when only three teams competed at the St. Louis Games. Two of those three were U.S. teams.

Klinsmann’s “main task for 2015” comment is particularly interesting given the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament is not scheduled to happen in 2015, but instead in March 2016, according to this Olympic soccer qualifying procedure document.

Qualifying could be easier this time around. In 2012, CONCACAF had two berths for the Olympics. In 2016, it gets 2.5, meaning the third-place nation from the Olympic qualifying tournament will play a South American nation in a winner-goes-to-Rio match.

At the Seoul 1988 Olympics, Klinsmann was 24 years old when he scored a hat trick for West Germany to beat Zambia in the quarterfinals (highlights here). Zambia had shocked Italy 4-0 earlier in the tournament.

West Germany went on to lose to Brazil in the semifinals. Brazil’s roster included the great Romario, whose late equalizer helped force the Brazil-West Germany match to a penalty shootout. Klinsmann’s penalty kick struck the post (watch here). West Germany beat Italy in the bronze-medal match.

Two years later, Klinsmann and West Germany won the World Cup.

If the 1988 Olympics were played under today’s Olympic rules, Klinsmann might not have been on the team. The 1988 Olympics were the last Games before the 23-and-under rule was instituted.

If the U.S. qualifies for the Rio Olympics, its roster must be made up of players who will be no older than 23 in 2016 — with three exceptions for over-age players.

Nations have added stars with those exceptions — such as Ryan Giggs for Team Great Britain and Thiago Silva and Hulk for Brazil in 2012.

In 2008, the U.S. added three-time World Cup forward Brian McBride as an over-age player, two years after his retirement from the senior national team. That was before Klinsmann joined the program.

In 2016, the U.S. could put 2014 World Cup players John Brooks, Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin on the Olympic roster without using over-age spots.

15 Olympic sports events to watch in 2015

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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