Michelle Wie: Olympics may be more important than majors

Michelle Wie
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RYE, N.Y. — Michelle Wie said next year’s first Olympic golf tournament since 1904 is “definitely the same caliber, maybe even more important” than LPGA major championships.

Wie is world ranked No. 13 and would not qualify for the Rio 2016 Games if the current rankings hold through the Olympic rankings cutoff date in a little more than one year.

That’s because there are four U.S. women ranked ahead of Wie — No. 3 Stacy Lewis, No. 9 Cristie Kerr, No. 10 Brittany Lincicome and No. 11 Lexi Thompson. No more than four women from one nation ranked inside the top 15 can play in the Olympics.

Wie doesn’t mind the eligibility format that will allow golfers ranked into the 200s and probably lower into the Olympics but will almost surely keep out all American and South Korean women ranked outside the top 15.

“I think that’s the whole point about the Olympics,” Wie said ahead of the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship at Westchester Country Club on Tuesday (Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 1-4 p.m. ET; NBC, Saturday-Sunday, 3-6). “It’s such a prestigious event, happens [every] four years. … You’ve got to make the top four. That’s the most important thing. That’s my priority for the next two years is to make the team. I’m going to do everything I can to do that. And you know, fortunately, I have some time to make the team, so I’m going to try to do my best this week and every single week. Rankings [are] one of those things that you can’t worry too much about. You have to focus on playing well; and if you play well and do the correct steps, then the rankings will take care of themselves.”

Wie’s current ranking is most boosted by her 2014 U.S. Women’s Open title, her first major. But the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open results will not factor into the rankings come the Olympic ranking cutoff next summer.

Wie, who hasn’t made a cut since the first weekend of May due to a left hip injury, must keep strong form this year and, more importantly, in the first half of 2016.

This year, Wie has a best finish of tied for 11th in 12 tournaments. Kerr and Lincicome each have one win this season (Lincicome’s a major), Lewis has seven top-10s and Thompson has five top-10s.

Wie traveled to Copenhagen in 2009 to lobby for golf’s Olympic inclusion, visited London during the 2012 Olympics (and met nine-time Olympic medalist track and field athlete Carl Lewis) and was named a Youth Olympic ambassador in 2013.

Wie, who played in a PGA Tour event in 2004 at age 14, has said she watched the Olympics growing up in Hawaii.

“I think that’s such a great thing about the Olympics; you end up watching sports that are not really covered on TV a lot of times,” Wie said. “Swimming was also one of my favorites. I love watching ping-pong.”

Hall of Fame golfer wants to coach, not play in 2016 Olympics

Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

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Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

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