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Olympic Year in Review: Headlines

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OlympicTalk takes a look back at the year in Olympic sports this week. Today, we review enduring news stories.

U.S. Ski Team Prospects Die in Avalanche

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, two U.S. development-level Alpine skiers, died in an avalanche while freeskiing in Austria on Jan. 4.

Their deaths shocked the winter sports community and led to an outpouring of remembrances and support from U.S. skiers such as Olympic champions Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn.

Boston 2024 becomes Los Angeles 2024

The U.S. Olympic Committee announced Boston as its 2024 Olympic bid city Jan. 8, ending a domestic competition since the USOC sent letters to 35 cities gauging interest in potential bids in February 2013.

However, setbacks plagued Boston’s first-ever Olympic bid, most notably a lack of public support and most importantly the refusal of Boston mayor Marty Walsh to sign a document that could put taxpayers at risk if there were cost overruns.

The bid ended July 27.

Los Angeles, one of the other three finalist cities, stepped in quickly. That city’s bid became official Sept. 1, two weeks before an International Olympic Committee bid submission deadline.

L.A. 2024 is up against Budapest, Paris and Rome as it seeks to end a U.S. drought of hosting the Olympics that’s dated to 2002 (Winter Games) and 1996 (Summer Games). The IOC will vote to choose the 2024 host city in September 2017.

Miracle on Ice Reunion

All living members of the Miracle on Ice team gathered in Lake Placid, N.Y., for the first time since the 1980 Winter Olympics for a 35-year reunion in February.

The event came together after the team lost its first player, Bob Suter to a heart attack Sept. 9, 2014.

On Feb. 21, the remaining 19 players sat and spoke during a chronological ceremony at Herb Brooks Arena, spliced with video of the Miracle on Ice, the 2004 film “Miracle” and the coach Brooks saying before the Olympics that the U.S. was unlikely to win a medal.

Ronda Rousey Becomes a Superstar

Rousey made more headlines in a matter of seconds in the UFC Octagon this year than during her entire judo career that included a 2008 Olympic bronze medal, the first medal earned by a U.S. female judoka.

She won two fights in a combined 48 seconds before being upset by Holly Holm on Nov. 15 with a vicious kick to the head for a knockout. Rousey had not lost on such a big stage since the Beijing 2008 Games.

Camille Muffat Dies in Helicopter Crash

Muffat, the French 2012 Olympic 400m freestyle swimming champion, died along with French Olympic bronze medalist boxer Alexis Vastine and eight others while filming a reality TV show in Argentina on March 9.

Marathon Oddities

St. Louis: Winner DQ’d for cheating.
Boston: Runner finishes the following morning.
San Diego: Oldest woman to finish a marathon.
World Championships: First teenage gold medalist.
Berlin: Eliud Kipchoge misses world record by 63 seconds after shoe malfunction.
Nairobi: Runner-up DQ’d for cheating.
Bangkok Half: Wrong distance.
London 2016: A British astronaut plans to run the 26.2-mile race in space.

Lindsey Vonn, Tiger Woods split

The 2010 Olympic downhill champion and 2016 Olympic hopeful ended a nearly three-year relationship, announcing their breakup May 3.

Vonn and Woods were often seen together at Woods’ golf tournaments, Vonn’s ski races (notably Woods missing a tooth while at Vonn’s most notable victory of the year) and at least one Denver Broncos football game.

Vonn started her 2015-16 season off well with four December victories. Woods has fallen outside of the top 400 in the Official World Golf Ranking, has no return date from a back injury and is extremely unlikely to qualify for the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years.

Rio Olympic Countdown

Rio Olympic organizers unveiled the 2016 Olympic competition schedule, torch design and torch relay details this year.

They also spent plenty of time dealing with issues such as water quality and athlete air conditioning.

Beijing 2022

The IOC chose Beijing over Almaty, Kazakhstan, to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in a close July 31 vote. Beijing will become the first city to hold a Summer Games and a Winter Games.

It will mark the third straight Olympics in East Asia, following the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Russian Doping

The prevalent use of performance-enhancing drugs in Russian track and field was a story throughout the year, from the bans of Olympic and World track and field champions in January to the entire nation being banned by the IAAF on Nov. 13.

Russia has plenty of work ahead if it’s to be reinstated before the Rio Olympics.

Oscar Pistorius Appeal

The first double amputee to run in the Olympics was released after serving less than a year in prison in October, to spend the remainder of a five-year term under house arrest.

However, Pistorius was convicted of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in an appeals court Dec. 3 and was released on bail ahead of an April sentencing date.

Retirements
Kaitlyn Farrington
, Snowboarding
Haile Gebrselassie, Track and Field
Dominique Gisin, Alpine Skiing
Katie Hoff, Swimming
Nicole Hosp, Alpine Skiing
Hannah Kearney, Freestyle Skiing
Cindy Klassen, Speed Skating
Steven Langton, Bobsled
Liu Xiang, Track and Field
Mario Matt, Alpine Skiing
Nick McCrory, Diving
Paula Radcliffe, Track and Field
Benjamin Raich, Alpine Skiing
Maëlle Ricker, Snowboarding
Abby Wambach, Soccer
Jordyn Wieber, Gymnastics
Lauryn Williams, Bobsled

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

FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
Getty Images
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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.”