Brian Baker
Getty Images

U.S. Olympic tennis team official; 546th-ranked singles player goes to Rio

Leave a comment

The U.S. Olympic tennis team of 12 players was made official Friday, and it includes the 546th-ranked men’s singles player.

The team is headlined by Venus and Serena Williams, going to their fifth and fourth Olympics, respectively. They have combined to win two Olympic singles titles and three Olympic doubles titles.

The Williams sisters and the other women’s players — Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens in singles and Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe in doubles — were confirmed by the USTA on June 30.

Made official on Friday was the men’s singles team of Jack SockSteve JohnsonDenis Kudla and Brian Baker. Previously confirmed were brothers Bob and Mike Bryan in doubles, the reigning Olympic champs.

Baker is the most intriguing. He is ranked No. 546 in the world, and 41st among Americans, but can use a protected ranking for Olympic consideration, as he missed all of 2014 and 2015 due to injury.

Baker first used the protected ranking this year to get into the Australian Open at No. 56, which would rank him among the top four American men (not including John Isner and Sam Querrey, who previously withdrew from Olympic consideration).

Sock, ranked No. 26, celebrated his first Olympic qualification by picking out a Team USA-themed T-shirt with an eagle across the chest on a visit to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., this week. Sock, Isner and the Bryan brothers are facing Croatia in the Davis Cup quarterfinals just outside Portland.

“As a kid you grow up watching a lot of the Olympics — not only tennis, but a lot of the sports,” said Sock, who rallied from two sets down to beat 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic on Friday afternoon. “Kind of a bucket list for every athlete I feel like to be able to represent your country on the biggest stage possible.”

Mixed doubles entries will be decided later, perhaps not until the Games in August.

The U.S. Olympic team is now at 524 qualified athletes. It is expected to reach at least 555 athletes by the time the team is officially named by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is expected next week.

It’s expected that seven golfers will be named to the team in the next week, plus 12 men’s and 12 women’s rugby players. Also, kayaker Tim Hornsby could be added to the Olympic field. Replacement athletes, especially in fencing, would be added to the U.S. Olympic team if and when they compete in Rio.

MORE: Tennis stars, unlike golfers, not deterred by Zika virus in Rio

Women’s Singles
Serena Williams (also doubles)
Venus Williams (also doubles)
Madison Keys
Sloane Stephens

Men’s Singles
Jack Sock (also doubles)
Steve Johnson (also doubles)
Denis Kudla
Brian Baker

Women’s Doubles
Bethanie Mattek-Sands/CoCo Vandeweghe

Men’s Doubles
Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal