Michael Phelps, Katinka Hosszu win Swimmer of the Year; Katie Ledecky also honored

Michael Phelps
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As Katie Ledecky‘s dominance has grown the last three years, the same woman has earned FINA’s Female Swimmer of the Year three straight times.

That would be Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu.

Michael Phelps and Hosszu were named this year’s Swimmer of the Year honorees on Sunday, the awards based largely on Rio Olympic performances (with a set points-based criteria).

Phelps earned five golds and one silver in Rio. He was the most decorated athlete of the Games across all sports for a fourth straight time and was the only male swimmer in Rio to earn three individual medals.

Phelps also received a special “Aquatic Legend, the Greatest of All Time,” award from FINA after retiring with a record 28 Olympic medals, including 23 golds. This came four years after FINA handed Phelps a trophy at the London Olympics declaring him “The Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time” upon his first retirement.

Hosszu was the only swimmer to bag four individual medals in Rio, and three of them were gold. She is unquestionably the world’s best all-around female swimmer, sweeping the 200m and 400m individual medleys at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships and the Rio Games.

Ledecky’s mastery comes in a different form. She won the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles in Rio, smashing her world records in the latter two. She also earned two relay medals, including anchoring the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay with the sixth-fastest split of the field.

FINA’s criteria states that only individual events are taken into account for Swimmer of the Year purposes.

Outside of the Olympics, Hosszu holds an edge over Ledecky in World Swimmer of the Year consideration because the Hungarian cleans up at international World Cup stops, often swimming several races per day. Ledecky does not swim World Cups.

Ledecky did win Swimmer of the Year in 2013 (over Missy Franklin, after Franklin won six golds at the 2013 Worlds) and earned the female Performance of the Year for 2015 and 2016.

Other 2016 award winners included Great Britain’s Adam Peaty for male Performance of the Year, after he broke his 100m breaststroke world record twice in Rio.

Divers of the Year were Chinese gold medalists Chen Aisen and Shi Tingmao.

MORE: Ledecky’s big change as Stanford freshman

U.S. Alpine skiers wear climate change-themed race suits at world championships

U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit
Images via Kappa
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Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.

Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.

The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It’s a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).

The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which started Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end Feb. 19.

“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

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Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.

“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me.”

What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit’s most storied venues.

“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who’s been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.

“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? … What kind of message do we need show to the public, to the world, about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?”

The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization’s snowflake logo on the leg.

“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snowsports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.

Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.

“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too,” Ganong said.

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U.S. Alpine Skiing Team Race Suit

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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