First member of 2016 U.S. Olympic team should come from Pan American Games

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The first athlete to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic team will likely qualify from the Toronto Pan American Games, a quadrennial multi-sport competition whose Opening Ceremony is Friday.

Two sports at the Pan Am Games have direct qualification to the Rio Olympics for individual athletes — modern pentathlon and table tennis.

The first Pan Am event with individual Rio Olympic spots on the line is the women’s modern pentathlon July 18. The U.S. athletes entered are two-time Olympian Margaux Isaksen and Sammy Achterberg.

The three highest finishers will qualify for the Rio Olympics with a maximum of one Olympic qualifier per nation.

Isaksen is the defending Pan Am champion who finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics. She’s ranked No. 9 in the world and finished 22nd at the World Championships in June, behind three other athletes in the Pan Am provisional field. However, one of those three, and the only one ranked higher than Isaksen, has already qualified for the Rio Olympics.

The men’s modern pentathlon is July 19. U.S. athletes entered are 2012 Olympian Dennis Bowsher and Nathan Schrimsher.

In 2011, Bowsher finished fourth overall at Pan Ams.

Bowsher went on to finish 32nd in the 2012 Olympic modern pentathlon. The last U.S. man to earn an Olympic modern pentathlon medal was in 1960.

Schrimsher is ranked No. 59 in the world. Bowsher is No. 65. Guatemala, Mexico, Chile and Cuba have higher-ranked athletes in the Pan Am Games provisional field, and Argentina has an athlete ranked No. 62. So Olympic qualification for an American man is no sure thing.

In table tennis, the Pan American Games men’s and women’s individual champions, crowned July 25, qualify for the Rio Olympics.

The top ranked U.S. table tennis player at the Pan Am Games is 2012 Olympian Lily Zhang, who is the top ranked woman in the Pan Am field at No. 94 in the world. There are no U.S. men ranked in the top 300 in the world.

Zhang shared bronze at the 2011 Pan Am Games as a 15-year-old. The defending champion is unrelated Canadian Mo Zhang.

In all, the U.S. Olympic team included more than 500 athletes in 2012, so this is just the start of the roster building.

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*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the men’s modern pentathlon was July 18 and the women’s was July 19.

Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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Kaillie Humphries begins trek to 2026 Winter Olympics with monobob World Cup win

Kaillie Humphries
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Kaillie Humphries is off to a strong start to a four-year cycle that she hopes ends with her breaking the record as the oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

Humphries, the women’s record holder with three Olympic bobsled titles, earned her first World Cup victory since February’s Winter Games, taking a monobob in Park City, Utah, on Friday.

Humphries, the first Olympic monobob champion, prevailed by .31 of a second over German Lisa Buckwitz combining times from two runs at the 2002 Olympic track.

Humphries has said since February’s Olympics that she planned to take time off in this four-year cycle to start a family, then return in time for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games. Humphries, who can become the first female Olympic bobsledder in her 40s, shared her experiences with IVF in the offseason on her social media.

“We’ve pushed pause so that I could go and compete this season, maintain my world ranking to be able to still work towards my 2026 goals, and we’ll go back in March to do the implantation of the embryos that we did retrieve,” she said, according to TeamUSA.org.

The next Games come 20 years after her first Olympic experience in Italy, which was a sad one. Humphries, then a bobsled push athlete, was part of the Canadian delegation at the 2006 Torino Games, marched at the Opening Ceremony and had her parents flown in to cheer her on.

But four days before the competition, Humphries learned she was not chosen for either of the two Canadian push athlete spots. She vowed on the flight home to put her future Olympic destiny in her own hands by becoming a driver.

She has since become the greatest female driver in history — Olympic golds in 2010, 2014 and 2022, plus five world championships.

Her longtime rival, five-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, plans to return to competition from her second childbirth later in this Olympic cycle and can also break the record of oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

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