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16 Olympic sports events to watch in 2016 (before the Rio Games)

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The coming year will be Rio Olympics-focused, but the Opening Ceremony is still 219 days away.

In the meantime, enjoy these 16 Olympic sports events:

1. U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Jan. 21-24, St. Paul, Minn.

The head-to-head between the last two U.S. women’s champions, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, is the most anticipated competition. Wagner, 24 and a three-time winner, can become the oldest U.S. women’s champion since Maribel Vinson in 1937.

2. Winter X Games
Jan. 28-31, Aspen, Colo.

In snowboard halfpipe, two-time Olympic champion Shaun White is expected to compete, looking to better his fourth-place finish from last year. Chloe Kim, who became the youngest Winter X Games champion last year, could vie for the women’s title with three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark.

3. World Luge Championships
Jan. 30-31, Königssee, Germany

U.S. lugers could be in line for a banner championships if the early World Cup season is any indication. Olympians Erin HamlinSummer Britcher and Chris Mazdzer all won World Cup races this fall.

4. World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships
Feb. 11-14, Kolomna, Russia

Americans Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson have traded World Cup victories and world records this season. Richardson is the reigning World 500m champion, while Bowe defends 1000m and 1500m titles. Shani Davis took the men’s 1000m crown last season but hasn’t won a World Cup race since March 2014.

5. World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships
Feb. 12-21, Igls, Austria

Questions abound for U.S. bobsleds with no men making the podium so far this World Cup season and reigning World champion Elana Meyers Taylor dealing with long-term concussion effects. Likewise, the best U.S. skeleton World Cup finish this season is eighth.

6. U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
Feb. 13, Los Angeles

The top three finishers in the men’s and women’s 26.2-mile races will make the Olympic team. Meb Keflezighi, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and Boston and New York City Marathon winner, could become at age 40 the oldest U.S. Olympic runner ever, according to sports-reference.com.

7. Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals
March 16-20, St. Moritz, Switzerland

The last races of the season could decide crystal globes awarded to the top skiers in each discipline and the overall standings. Lindsey Vonn goes into 2016 in second place in the women’s overall, chasing Swiss Lara Gut.

8. World Women’s Hockey Championship
March 28-April 4, Kamloops, B.C.

The U.S. and Canada have met in all 16 previous finals, with Canada holding a 10-6 edge. The U.S. can capture its third straight World title, however, in Kamloops.

9. World Figure Skating Championships
March 30-April 2, Boston

Can U.S. singles skaters, with a home-ice advantage, end podium droughts? The men are in their longest drought in nearly 40 years, since Evan Lysacek took gold in 2009. The women are in their longest drought since World War I, with the last medals coming in 2006 (Kimmie MeissnerSasha Cohen).

10. U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials
April 8-10, Iowa City

One Olympic spot per weight class is up for grabs at the University of Iowa. Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs ought to be heavily favored, while another London gold medalist, Jake Varner, will have to beat World champion Kyle Snyder to make it to Rio. Also in action should be World champions Adeline Gray and Helen Maroulis.

11. World Men’s Hockey Championship
May 6-22, Russia

The U.S. took bronze behind loaded Canadian and Russian teams in 2015 at a tournament that takes place during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which alters rosters. The U.S. last won a World title in 1933, not counting Olympic crowns that doubled as World titles.

12. U.S. Olympic Diving Trials
June 18-26, Indianapolis

The top two per individual event and synchronized event winners could make the Rio team, provided the U.S. qualifies for berths at the FINA World Cup in February. David Boudia, who in London became the first U.S. Olympic men’s platform champion in 24 years, will be favored in both individual and synchro platform.

13. U.S. Olympic Men’s Gymnastics Trials; Women’s P&G Championships
June 23-26, St. Louis

The five-man U.S. Olympic gymnastics team will be determined after the trials, with the first- and second-place finishers in the all-around potentially clinching automatic berths. All five 2012 Olympians — Jacob DaltonJonathan HortonDanell LeyvaSam Mikulak and John Orozco — are Rio hopefuls.

14. U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials
June 26-July 3, Omaha, Neb.

The top two finishers in each final make the Olympic team. Michael PhelpsRyan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky will have busy schedules, looking to make it to Rio in multiple individual events plus relays.

15. U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
July 1-10, Eugene, Ore.

The top three finishers in each final make the Olympic team, provided the athletes have met Olympic qualifying times and marks. Key athletes include Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin with chances to make the Olympic team in mutliple sprints.

16. U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials
July 8-10, San Jose, Calif.

The trials all-around champion will clinch one of five Olympic team spots. The other four will be chosen shortly after the trials finish on July 10. Three-time World all-around champ Simone Biles and Olympic gold medalists Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman are favored to make the cut.

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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement