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Speedo USA, 3 other sponsors drop Lochte after Rio incident

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(AP) — Less than 24 hours after the close of the Rio Olympics, Ryan Lochte took a major financial hit Monday for a drunken incident he initially tried to pass off as an armed robbery.

In quick succession, four sponsors announced they were dumping the swimmer, who has since apologized and conceded that he embellished what happened during a now-infamous stop at a Rio gas station.

Swimsuit company Speedo USA, clothing giant Ralph Lauren and skin-care firm Syneron-Candela issued statements less than three hours apart, all with the same message: Lochte is out. Before the day was done, Japanese mattress maker airweave followed suit, essentially wiping out Lochte’s income away from the pool.

In addition, Speedo USA said $50,000 that would’ve gone to the 12-time Olympic medalist was being donated to Save The Children to benefit needy youngsters in Brazil.

“While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for,” the prominent swimsuit company said. “We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience.”

Ralph Lauren, which provided the Polo-branded attire worn by the U.S. team at the opening and closing ceremonies, said it would not be renewing the contract that provided Lochte with financial support leading up to Rio. The statement from airweave said it had a similar arrangement with the swimmer. Both stressed they would continue their support of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Syneron-Candela offers a line of skin-treatment products that deal with issues such as wrinkle reduction.

“We hold our employees to high standards, and we expect the same of our business partners,” the company said.

Lochte issued a statement through his public relations firm thanking Speedo USA for its long support. He did not immediately address the other companies dropping their endorsements.

“I respect Speedo’s decision and am grateful for the opportunities that our partnership has afforded me over the years,” Lochte said.

Initially, Lochte said he and three teammates — Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen — were robbed after their taxi was pulled over by armed men posing as police just hours after the swimming competition ended in Rio de Janeiro.

That version quickly unraveled when police said the swimmers, who had attended a late-night party, never reported the incident to authorities and there was scant evidence of a robbery. Video surveillance emerged showing the athletes getting into a confrontation with armed security guards over alleged vandalism at the gas station when their taxi pulled over to let them use the restroom.

While there have been conflicting versions over whether the guards pulled their weapons on the swimmers, Lochte has since acknowledged he was highly intoxicated and that his behavior led to the confrontation, which resulted in the swimmers paying some $50 in U.S. and Brazilian currency before they were allowed to leave. The incident caused a furor in Rio, where street crime was a major issue heading into the games.

Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said he wasn’t surprised by the decision since most of Lochte’s marketing value was tied to campaigns prior to the Olympics.

“I would think it was an easy decision to cut ties now,” Swangard said. “For someone like Lochte, he’s really destroyed almost all of his short-term marketability. Brands can easily seek out other athletes for the next Olympic cycle.”

The financial costs of losing Speedo and Ralph Lauren are likely to be only the first sanctions that await Lochte, whose antics tarnished a powerful showing by the American team and dominating news away from the stadiums and arenas in the final days of the Rio Games.

Both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming have indicated that Lochte will be punished, perhaps endangering the 32-year-old’s hopes of competing in a fifth Olympics at Tokyo in 2020. He could also face criminal charges in Brazil, where the other swimmers were initially barred from leaving the country until they were interviewed by authorities.

Feigen wound up donating just under $11,000 to a Brazilian nonprofit sports organization to settle any potential legal action. Bentz issued a statement saying Lochte tore a sign off a wall at the gas station and got into a heated exchange with the security officers, though Bentz denied the swimmers did any damage to a locked bathroom as authorities alleged.

In the last of three interviews with NBC that included ever-changing accounts of the incident, Lochte apologized and acknowledged he “over-exaggerated the story.” He made a similar mea culpa to Brazil’s main broadcaster, Globo.

Long one of the most popular U.S. athletes, the laid-back swimmer is known for his trademark saying “Jeah!” and such antics as wearing diamond grillz on the medal stand and dying his hair a silvery color before the Rio Games. Lochte also starred in a short-lived reality television show after the 2012 Olympics.

For these games, he qualified in only one individual event, finishing fifth in the 200-meter individual medley, far behind longtime rival Michael Phelps. Lochte did help Phelps and the Americans win gold in the 4×200 freestyle relay.

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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