Olympic Year in Review: Social Media

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OlympicTalk takes a look back at the year in Olympic sports this week. Today, we review social media.

Gracie Gold’s ‘whimsical’ day trip with Taylor Swift

U.S. figure skating champion Gracie Gold enjoyed an Instagrammed day trip to Santa Catalina Island off the California coast with pop star Taylor Swift, among others, in January.

“It was just one of those whimsical things,” Gold said. “Just a casual text from Taylor Swift, no biggie.”

It looks like Gold wasn’t the only U.S. Olympic medalist to meet up with Swift this year.

U.S. cross-country skiers bring ‘Uptown Funk’ 

The U.S. cross-country ski team pulled off the closest thing the Winter Olympic world has seen to U.S. swimming’s “Call Me Maybe” video.

The skiers created an “Uptown Funk” music video over three weeks in Switzerland and Sweden with choreography by reigning World team sprint champion Jessie Diggins.

The video was played more than a half-million times on Facebook in the first 24 hours.

Michael Phelps announces engagement, fiancée’s pregnancy on Instagram

Michael Phelps kept his social media followers in the know regarding his family life, notably his engagement to longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend Nicole Johnson on Feb. 21.

Then, on Nov. 18, Phelps posted an Instagram with Johnson announcing she was 12 weeks pregnant.

That lines up for Phelps to become a father before the Rio Olympics. Stay tuned to his social channels.

Liu Xiang retires on Weibo

Liu Xiang, China’s first Olympic track and field champion, announced his retirement via social media, to his 32 million followers on Weibo on April 7.

In the 1,400-word post, the Athens 2004 110m hurdles champ said he was ”truly unwell and old and can no longer run and jump with you. Although it’s sad, although it’s painful, I really have no other choice,” according to track and field’s international governing body.

In comparison, Usain Bolt has 3.8 million Twitter followers and 16.9 million Facebook page likes.

@Caitlyn_Jenner breaks Twitter record

Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion formerly known as Bruce Jenner, broke President Barack Obama‘s record for fastest Twitter account to reach one million followers June 1.

Jenner’s account broke the one million mark about four hours after its first tweet, an image of the new Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair.

John Orozco’s heartfelt post

U.S. Olympic gymnast John Orozco tore his right Achilles for a second time in June, four months after his mother’s death, and questioned his career, life and faith on social media.

“I just keep asking myself ‘why is this happening right now?'” Orozco wrote. “‘Where’s the lesson in this?’ I’m counting my blessings and weathering this storm because it’s the only choice I have.”

Shawn Johnson gets engaged on Wrigley Field

Olympic champion gymnast Shawn Johnson was in for quite the surprise after throwing a ceremonial first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game in July, and it was all posted on social media.

Boyfriend Andrew East, a Kansas City Chiefs long snapper, got down on one knee and proposed to Johnson.

Usain Bolt and the Segway Cameraman

The only man to take down Usain Bolt in the last two years was a CCTV cameraman at the World Track and Field Championships on Aug. 27.

In the viral moment of the year, the world’s fastest man was briefly grounded at the Bird’s Nest on his victory lap after winning the 200m at the World Championships.

“They tried to kill me. I don’t know what’s going on,” Bolt said on the BBC, adding later on Universal Sports, “accidents happen.”

Bolt tumbled to the track and somersaulted, with a smile, and quickly got back up. He anchored Jamaica to the 4x100m relay title two days later.

“I have a few cuts, but it’s nothing I haven’t done to myself in training,” Bolt said on BBC radio. “I wasn’t looking. I was waving to the crowd, and I just felt something take me out.”

The cameraman, Song Tao, presented Bolt with a red bracelet after Bolt’s 200m medal ceremony the following day.

They shook hands, and Bolt patted Song on the back.

“The important thing is that he is OK,” Song said via a translator, according to the Guardian. “I’m fine and ready to get back to work.”

YouTube Star beats Usain Bolt

Technically, Bolt did lose a race in 2015 — to 8-year-old YouTube trainer Demarjay Smith on Ellen in a head-to-head parking lot duel in October.

Bolt, wearing jeans, did not back down, even though the starting blocks were positioned backwards. Smith clearly false-started, but Bolt didn’t call it back.

They sprinted for about 15 seconds, with Bolt unable to catch Smith and pulling up before the finish line, holding the back of his right leg.

“I got cramps,” Bolt said. “You got lucky, man. I want a rematch, though.”

Viktoria Komova’s steroid comments and apology

Viktoria Komova, the Olympic all-around silver medalist, reportedly apologized to U.S. gymnasts for accusing them of taking steroids in a post on a Russian social media site.

Komova and her Russian teammates have been regularly beaten by the U.S. since 2011, when Komova tearfully took all-around silver at the World Championships behind Jordyn Wieber.

Olympic Year in Review: Winter Sports | Summer Sports | Photos | Social Media

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Michael Phelps’ fiancée was 12 months pregnant, rather than 12 weeks.

Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes, beach volleyball’s new sensation, win World Tour Finals

Kelly Cheng, Sara Hughes
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In just a few months since reuniting, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes have become not just the best women’s beach volleyball team in the U.S., but also, arguably, the world.

Cheng and Hughes, former partners who got back together for a 2024 Olympic run, won the World Tour Finals for the biggest title for a U.S. pair since April Ross and Alix Klineman took gold in Tokyo.

The 27-year-old Californians swept reigning world champions Duda and Ana Patricia of Brazil 21-18, 21-16 in Sunday’s final in Doha.

Cheng and Hughes have entered four tournaments since reuniting last fall and won all of them — once on the domestic AVP tour and now three international events.

They are rolling into the start of the 2024 Olympic qualifying window next week. It’s likely that the top two U.S. women’s pairs across international events over the course of the next 18 months qualify for the Paris Games.

Cheng and Hughes were previously NCAA champion teammates at USC, then the most promising, young U.S. pro team before splitting in 2018. Cheng made the Tokyo Olympics with Sarah Sponcil (lost in the round of 16), while Hughes’ Tokyo bid flamed out when partner Summer Ross suffered a back injury in 2019.

“It was a lot of the unknown and being young and kind of immature and listening to maybe outside forces and not really knowing how to deal with things as well,” Hughes said in October of their past breakup. “We’ve pretty much moved past that in our relationship. Moving forward with one another, we’re completely different players, and we’re a lot more mature. It feels like the right time. The past is past. We’re just moving forward.”

Cheng and Hughes have taken over from April Ross and Klineman as the top U.S. team. After winning Olympic gold, Klineman underwent shoulder surgery in January 2022 and last week announced she is pregnant and may return from childbirth for a “last-second” 2024 Olympic qualifying bid.

April Ross, a 40-year-old with an Olympic medal of every color, last competed in March, then withdrew before June’s world championships, where she was entered with Emily Day, with an unspecified injury. She has not announced if or when she plans to return to competition.

The U.S. earned at least one beach volleyball medal at every Olympics that the sport has been on the program (since 1996), and a men’s or women’s gold at all but one Olympics. Eighteen months out from the Paris Games, Cheng and Hughes are the best hope to keep the podium streak going.

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Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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