Nate Ebner on NFL vs. Olympic sevens, Rob Gronkowski’s rugby potential

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Patriots safety Nate Ebner pulled off one of the incredible feats of Olympic qualifying season, making the first U.S. Olympic rugby sevens team less than four months after announcing his return to the sport.

And he thinks other football players would fare well in rugby. Namely teammate Rob Gronkowski.

“How would Gronk be at anything that is physical? I think that answers that,” Ebner said on The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday. “He’s a beast. He’d have no problems.”

Ebner, a 27-year-old who was an elite player as a teenager (at least among Americans) before converting to football at Ohio State, was asked which sport is tougher.

“It just depends on what your definition of toughness is,” he said. “If it’s about how hard you hit somebody, I’d say football. … But there are aspects to rugby which are extremely tough, when it comes to cardiovascular standpoint. The amount of mileage that we have to run in such a short period of time, but you also have to tackle and get back up and compete.”

Ebner already has a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots from two seasons ago. His chances of joining former Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes in owning a ring and an Olympic gold medal are not strong.

The U.S. men’s rugby team is a medal contender, for sure, but to take gold would be an upset. The Americans were fifth in the World Series standings the last two seasons.

The favorites are Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand.

“We’ve beaten all the top teams ahead of us multiple times this year, just haven’t accrued enough points to be higher than fifth,” Ebner said. “We definitely have the ability to beat the top teams. I wouldn’t say we’re frontrunners at all, because we’re not winning the series, but we’re definitely contenders. Anyone that writes us off, they’re mistaken for sure.”

MORE: Former Lions RB makes Saint Lucia Olympic team

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