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Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky win Golden Goggle awards for Athlete of the Year

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Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky took top honors as the Male and Female Athlete of the Year for the second and third consecutive year, respectively, at the 2015 Golden Goggle Awards hosted by USA Swimming.

Ledecky’s World Championship efforts also earned her the Female Race of the Year (for the 200m freestyle, though her 800m and 1500m were nominated). She was also part of the Relay of the Year, alongside Missy Franklin, Leah Smith, and Katie McLaughlin.

In the acceptance speech, Franklin likened the relay squad to a sandwich: the sturdy end bread pieces were herself and Ledecky, while the peanut butter and jelly were Smith and McLaughlin. “This is our jam,” Ledecky laughed, noting the history of the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay at Worlds. The 2015 group earned the U.S.’ third straight victory.

Ledecky’s coach, Bruce Gemmell, was named Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year.

Father-to-be Phelps was named Male Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year due to his dominant performance at the 2015 U.S. Nationals. There, he posted the top times in the world in three events – the 200m IM, 100m fly and 200m fly. Both his butterfly events were the fastest he’s been since 2009, and the 200m IM time was the fastest he’s been since the London 2012 Olympics.

Phelps listed Perseverance Award winner Allison Schmitt, his mother and sisters, and other people who “know who they are,” among those he was thankful for. He said he wasn’t sure if he would be alive today if they hadn’t stood by him.

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“If me speaking out saves just one life, then I know it was worth it,” Schmitt said, as the audience rose to their feet to give her a standing ovation. After her own battle with depression, Schmitt wants to play a role in destigmatizing mental health and getting athletes help if they need it.

Jordan Wilimovsky, so far only one of two confirmed Rio Olympic team members, picked up two awards: Breakout Performer of the Year and Male Race of the Year.

Casey Wasserman, LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman, presented Wilimovsky with his Male Race of the Year award. Of a Los Angeles-hosted Olympic bid, Wasserman simply said, “we think it’s time.”

“Workaholics” actor Anders Holm hosted the event in Los Angeles. Singer Andra Day was the musical guest.

Franklin and Ryan Lochte will headline the U.S. contingent next at Duel in the Pool, a Ryder Cup-style meet against a European all-star team held December 11-12 in Indianapolis. NBC will air coverage Dec. 19 from 4-6 p.m. ET. The European roster is lead by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Laszlo Cseh. The U.S. is 3-0 against the European team, though the most recent edition of the event in 2013 came down to a tiebreaking mixed medley relay.

2015 USA Swimming Golden Goggle award winners:

Female Athlete of the Year: Katie Ledecky

Male Athlete of the Year: Michael Phelps

Female Race of the Year: Katie Ledecky, 200m freestyle (2015 World Championships)

Male Race of the Year: Jordan Wilimovsky, 10K (2015 World Championships)

Relay Performance of the Year: Women’s 4×200 freestyle relay (Missy Franklin, Katie McLaughlin, Leah Smith, Katie Ledecky – 2015 World Chamionships)

Coach of the Year: Bruce Gemmell

Breakout Performer of the Year: Jordan Wilimovsky

Perseverance Award: Allison Schmitt

FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”