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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.

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Eight matchups to watch in figure skating Grand Prix Series

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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