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Serena Williams named AP Female Athlete of the Year


Serena Williams was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press on Wednesday, marking the fifth time she has won the award.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion returned to tennis following a health scare during and after the birth of her first child, daughter Olympia, in September 2017. Williams had an emergency C-section, sustained blood clots that required multiple surgeries, and was confined to her bed for six weeks. She returned to competition five months after Olympia’s birth, and was outspoken about the difficulties she faced in coming back to tennis. Donning a catsuit at the French Open, Williams posted on Instagram, “For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy—here you go. If I can do it, so can you.”

Williams reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in her first competitive season as a mom, though she did not win either tournament. She also used her platform to push for rule changes at WTA events: beginning in 2019, players can use a “special ranking” for up to three years from the birth of a child when returning to the tour, which can be utilized for seeding at major events, and the tour will now allow players to wear leggings or compression shorts without the requirement of a skirt or dress over them.

The 37-year-old received 93 votes from U.S. editors and news directors. Simone Biles was second in voting, with 68 votes, and Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale finished third. Also in the top five was Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim and 2017 winner Katie Ledecky. Williams previously won the award in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2015. Only one woman – Babe Didrikson Zaharias – who won once for track and field and five times for golf, has won the award more times than Williams.

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Jordan Wilimovsky qualifies for Tokyo Olympics in open-water swimming

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Open-water swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky is the first male athlete on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team.

Wilimovsky, who placed fourth and fifth in two distance events at the 2016 Rio Games, joined fellow open-water swimmers Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell in qualifying for Tokyo via the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Wilimovsky, 25, placed fifth in the 10km event on Tuesday. Anderson and Twichell were second and sixth in the women’s 10km on Sunday. Top-10 finishers at worlds qualified for Tokyo.

German Florian Wellbrock won by two tenths of a second over French Olympic bronze medalist Marc-Antoine Olivier after 1 hour, 47 minutes in the water. Wilimovsky led with 600 meters left. Olympic 1500m freestyle champion Gregorio Paltrinieri also qualified for Tokyo in the open-water 10km by finishing sixth.

The other American, David Heron, was 25th, missing the Olympic team, but he can try again in the 1500m free in the pool at the Olympic trials next June.

Wilimovsky missed a medal in the Rio Olympic 1500m in the pool by 4.17 seconds, taking fourth. Three days later, he was fifth in the open-water 10km, 1.2 seconds out of bronze.

Wilimovsky, a Malibu native who redshirted at Northwestern to train for Rio, earned gold and silver in the 10km at the 2015 and 2017 World Championships.

A U.S. man has never earned an Olympic open-water medal. The event debuted at Beijing 2008.

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Ted Ligety scales back race schedule

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Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety is scaling back his race schedule as he enters the final portion of his decorated Alpine skiing career.

Ligety, a 34-year-old who has endured many injuries since his last World Cup win in 2015, said he will race strictly giant slaloms this year. The World Cup season starts in late October.

“So it’ll be a little bit easier schedule on my body,” Ligety said in a KPCW radio interview in his native Park City, Utah. “I’ll be able to be home a little bit more as well, and then we see. I mean, I would like to keep going as long as I feel like I can win races and feel healthy. That’s really the biggest part, and nowadays I have a 2-year-old son, and there’s more factors than there was when I was 25 years old.”

Ligety, nicknamed “Mr. GS” for his giant slalom prowess, has a 2014 Olympic gold medal and three world titles in that event.

He also owns an Olympic combined title from 2006 and world titles in the super-G and combined from 2013, but he hasn’t won a race in one of those disciplines since January 2014. And since then, he has undergone back and knee surgeries and dealt with hip problems.

“There’s a lot of hard miles on my body up to this point, but I’m still enjoying it,” said Ligety, whose 321 World Cup starts are the most among active Olympic medalists now that Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal have retired. “Right now, I feel really healthy and trying to get to a point where I feel I can win races. That’s the goal right now.”

Ligety, a four-time Olympian, has not publicly committed to a 2022 Olympic run.

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