Swimmer Reece Whitley, who earned two silver medals at the World Junior Championships earlier this summer, was named Sports Illustrated Kids’ Sportskid of the Year for 2015.
Whitley, a breaststroker, stands 6’8” at age 15 and is a sophomore at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. His 100m breaststroke time is 17th in the country, and his 200m time is 10th. He is the youngest swimmer to be ranked that high in both events.
“Making an impact on a young swimmer at a meet is probably more important than the times that you swim,” Whitley told SI Kids. “All these records are meant to be broken, but if you change a kid’s life or if you put a smile on a kid’s face because you took a picture with them, that never dies.”
“Getting to know Reece a little bit, he’s incredible,” 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps commented. “The guy is very talented, he’s super relaxed, super outgoing. He’s seeing results, he’s having fun, he’s enjoying himself. He’s a stud.”
Phelps has been known to call out “studs” in the past who do well in Olympic years. After the 2011 World Championships, Phelps told Jimmy Fallon that Missy Franklin was a stud, too. Then, at the 2012 Olympics, Franklin picked up four gold medals and a bronze.
Whitley beat out other four finalists for the title: taekwondo athlete Natalie Hershberger, 11; speedskater Cooper McLeod, 14; rock climber Ashima Shiraishi, 14; and cross country/ track and field athlete Harper Russell, 15.
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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.
Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).
Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.
Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.
McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.
The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.
MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.
Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.
Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.
Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.
Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.