USOC

Katie Ledecky, Kyle Snyder named U.S. Olympic athletes of the year

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Katie LedeckyKyle Snyder and the women’s national hockey team earned best-of-the-year honors at the Team USA Awards on Wednesday night.

NBC will air coverage of the awards Dec. 23 from 5-6 p.m. ET.

Ledecky won Female Athlete of the Year for the third time after marking her largest medal haul ever at a major international meet — five golds and one silver at the world championships in Budapest in July.

She beat out finalists Mikaela Shiffrin (first World Cup overall title), Helen Maroulis (won her five world matches by a combined 53-0 en route to repeat gold), Lindsey Jacobellis (fifth world snowboard cross title) and Heather Bergsma (two golds, one bronze at speed skating worlds).

Snyder became the fourth wrestler to earn Male Athlete of the Year after repeating as world champion by beating Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev in the 97kg freestyle final, dubbed the Match of the Century.

Snyder handed the Russian Tank, the Olympic 86kg champion, his first loss in nearly four years in August.

The other men’s finalists were swimmer Caeleb Dressel (seven golds at worlds), pole vaulter Sam Kendricks (world title, undefeated year), biathlete Lowell Bailey (first American to win an Olympic or world biathlon title) and skier McRae Williams (world gold, X Games silver in slopestyle).

The women’s hockey national team earned Team of the Year for the first time since it won the first Olympic women’s hockey title in 1998.

The U.S. women nearly boycotted the world championship due to a pay dispute. They reached an agreement with USA Hockey three days before the tournament. Despite little prep time, they went undefeated in Plymouth, Mich., beating rival Canada 3-2 in overtime in the April final.

The other team finalists were women’s water polo (fifth world title) and bobsledders Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones (world champions).

Paralympic Athletes of the Year went to track and field athletes Tatyana McFadden and Mikey Brannigan and the men’s sled hockey team.

Coaches of the Year went to national freestyle wrestling coach Bill Zadick and Para Nordic skiing coach Eileen Carey.

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MORE: ‘I’m getting closer to Ledecky,’ new teen swim star says

Why did Shaun White cut his hair? Carrot Top

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Shaun White said a revelatory chat with Carrot Top led to the Olympic snowboarding champion chopping off his flowing red locks more than seven years ago, according to a report.

“I went to an event in Vegas where I run into Carrot Top,” White wrote, according to a Bleacher Report AMA last Wednesday. “We were talking about our hair and he basically looked at me like you could see into his soul and he basically said he was stuck like this. And at that point it was like seeing the ghost of Christmas future. And at that point I was like omg I can change.”

White documented a meeting with Carrot Top on social media in September 2013, but that was 10 months after the haircut. They must have met in 2012, too.

White, formerly known as the Flying Tomato, posted video of the haircut in December 2012, saying he didn’t tell anybody beforehand. He had grown tired of the nickname.

He donated the hair to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for needy children.

White is known for charitable efforts for children, including with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. White was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, requiring two major surgeries before his first birthday.

White, a 33-year-old who recently changed his hair color to blond, announced in February that he ended a bid to make the first U.S. Olympic skateboarding team for the Tokyo Games.

He is expected to compete for a spot in the 2022 Winter Olympics, where he could be the oldest U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider in history.

MORE: White, Shiffrin among dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s

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Susie O’Neill, Australian great, answers Katie Ledecky by balancing beer while swimming

Susie O'Neill
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Katie Ledecky‘s feat of balancing a glass of chocolate milk while swimming reverberated Down Under, where one of Australia’s Olympic legends attempted to mimic it with a cup of beer.

Susie O’Neill, an eight-time Olympic medalist from 1992-2000 known as Madame Butterfly, accepted a challenge put forth by her fellow radio show hosts. In video shared across Australian media, she took 13 strokes before the beer came off her head, just before reaching a wall.

“It’s actually not as hard as I expected,” O’Neill said in an Instagram Live. “Well, it was pretty hard.”

O’Neill, 47, said backstrokers sometimes train with a water bottle on their foreheads to stay straight. But O’Neill, a freestyler and butterflier, never balanced anything on her head while training.

MORE: O’Neill in tears watching Sydney Olympic defeat for first time

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