Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps Under Armour spot named best ad of 2016

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Before Michael Phelps collected five golds and a silver in Rio, for a total of 28 career Olympic medals, he decided to do something he’d never done before: commit himself 100 percent to his swimming training for, he told Bob Costas, the first time in his life.

His grueling journey from retirement back to the top of the sport was captured in a powerful 90-second Under Armour ad called “Rule Yourself.” The spot also earned him another honor: star of the best ad of the year, according to Adweek.

Adweek ranked “Rule Yourself” first in their list of the 10 best ads of 2016. They praised the ad for “using darkness to paradoxically shed new light on one of the planet’s biggest stars—and the physical and psychological cost of dedicating one’s life to swimming at the highest level.”

Set to The Kills’ “The Last Goodbye,” the ad made Phelps and his now-wife, Nicole Johnson, tear up when they viewed the finished product for the first time.

The creative director of Droga5, the ad agency that produced the ad, told Adweek, “When you hear [Phelps] talk about life, what it was like to be in a pool since a super-young age—the hard work, the loneliness—you sympathize with this man. It became easy to root for him, to make something that reflected everything he had gone through.”

Phelps agreed the spot was true to life.

“It showed exactly how I prepare,” he told Adweek. “The hard work pays off if you do it, and if you do it well. As long as you’re literally busting your butt every single day, you’ll see the goal at the end of the road.”

The ad concludes with the tag line, “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.

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Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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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.

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

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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.

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