Bob, Mike Bryan had mixed doubles partners lined up before withdrawing from Rio

Mike Bryan, Bob Bryan
Getty Images
0 Comments

NEW YORK — Mike Bryan said he would have played with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Bob Bryan with either Venus Williams or CoCo Vandeweghe in mixed doubles if the Bryan brothers had not withdrawn from the Rio Olympics.

The Bryans, who teamed to win doubles gold at London 2012, pulled out six days before the Rio Opening Ceremony, saying they would have loved to compete but making their family’s health “our top priority” in a social media statement.

Before coming to the decision, they reached out to other players for advice, including Brazilian doubles specialists Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.

Bob Bryan said last week that Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” their decision not to play in Rio. There have been no known Zika cases stemming from the Olympics, according to the World Health Organization.

“I didn’t expect there to be people just getting eaten alive by mosquitoes,” Bob Bryan said at the U.S. Open, where the brothers were scheduled to play in the quarterfinals Tuesday. “I’ve had great reports from players that went there. I’ve had so-so reports. Sometimes it’s based on how you perform that leaves that lasting impression. If you have a good performance, you’re like, oh this is awesome. If you lose in the first round, you’re like, all right, it sucked down there.”

Before the Bryans pulled out, it wasn’t publicly known what the U.S. Olympic mixed doubles teams would be. National federations don’t have to submit proposed teams until during the Games.

Mixed doubles returned to the Olympic program in 2012 for the first time since 1924. In 2012, both Bryans played mixed. Bob Bryan earned bronze with Lisa Raymond, while Mike Bryan lost in the first round with Liezel Huber.

Raymond retired between London and Rio, while Huber did not qualify for this year’s U.S. Olympic team. That swung the door open wider for the Williams sisters to make their Olympic mixed doubles debuts in Rio.

The Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters are two of three duos to complete the career doubles Golden Slam together, along with Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.

Had the Bryan brothers and Williams sisters played together in Rio, and faced each other like the eventual U.S. mixed teams did (for gold), it would have been the greatest collection of U.S. tennis success playing in one match in history.

The Bryans’ pre-Rio mixed doubles picks were familiar. Mike Bryan and Mattek-Sands won the 2015 French Open. Bob Bryan and Venus Williams reached the 2006 Wimbledon final. Bob Bryan also lost in the 2012 French Open first round with Serena Williams.

U.S. doubles teams were strong in Rio even through the Bryans withdrew and the Williams sisters lost in the first round.

Steve Johnson and Jack Sock took bronze, while Mattek-Sands and Sock beat Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram in the mixed gold-medal match. The U.S. earned zero singles medals.

The Bryans have not ruled out or committed to a run for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which would be their fourth Games. They would each be 42 years old.

“We’re not that sprightly anymore,” Mike Bryan said on SI Now last week. “But doubles, you can keep going. It’s not that physical on the body.”

MORE: Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
Getty
0 Comments

Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing
Getty
0 Comments

USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!