Rowdy Gaines, feeling deja vu, knows Olympic swim team will look different in 2021

Leave a comment

Rowdy Gaines knows the feeling of an Olympic dream deferred. About this time 40 years ago, Gaines was in line to go for five swimming gold medals at the Moscow Games. Then the U.S. boycott was announced.

“Little bit of deja vu,” Gaines, the longtime NBC Olympics swimming analyst, told NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico shortly after the Tokyo Games were postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus. “There’s a big difference between the word boycott and postpone, but an athlete’s life, especially in our sport, comes and goes in a matter of a year or two. … It’s pretty devastating to see that a lot of kids are going to miss this opportunity this summer.”

Gaines, then 21, was at his peak in 1980, already a world-record holder and world champion. He would be 25 at the next Olympics in 1984, older than any U.S. Olympic swimmer in an individual event since 1956, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

After a brief retirement, in an era where swimmers rarely competed beyond college age, Gaines rededicated himself and won three golds at the Los Angeles Games. It was the exception, not the norm.

“Champions in our sport are the ones that can live through the valleys,” Gaines told swimmers at Auburn, his alma mater, in his SEC Network documentary, “Rowdy.” “Living through the peaks is the easy part.”

How can a single year alter swimming?

Consider that in 2000, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps placed fifth in the Sydney Olympic 200m butterfly. Phelps broke the world record six months later and lowered it again at the 2001 World Championships, winning by seven tenths of a second over the Sydney Olympic gold medalist.

In 2015, Australians Bronte CampbellMitch Larkin and Emily Seebohm each won a pair of individual world titles. At the Rio Olympics, the trio combined for one medal, Larkin’s silver, outside of the relays.

“An athlete’s life can certainly come and go in a short span,” Gaines said. “So you’re going to have an athlete that was just barely hanging on to try to get to this summer. And I’ll use a name because I think most people are going to say it: Ryan Lochte.”

Lochte, 35, is bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event in history. To make the Olympic team in his trademark event, the 200m individual medley, he may have to fend off phenoms 20-year-old Michael Andrew and 18-year-old Carson Foster.

The flip side: the recent success of Andrew and Foster is by no means assured to continue for another year. How will swimmers who have never experienced the crucible of an Olympics handle this interruption?

“The example of a very young athlete that is just hitting his or her stride; right now, perfect timing,” Gaines said. “Then, all of a sudden, a year from now, things can change emotionally and physically.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Tour de France race of truth to decide champ; Peter Sagan’s run likely ends

Leave a comment

The stage is set to decide the Tour de France winner on Saturday.

After Soren Kragh Andersen of Denmark won Friday’s 19th stage of 21, where the overall leaders finished together, eyes turn to Saturday’s 22-mile individual time trial — otherwise known as the race of truth (6:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

A Slovenian is extremely likely to win a Tour title for the first time.

Primoz Roglic, a former world junior team champion ski jumper, has been in the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks. He leads countryman Tadej Pogacar by 57 seconds going into the last two stages. Sunday’s finisher is a ceremonial ride into Paris where the leaders are not expected to attack each other.

Miguel Angel Lopez of Colombia, who crashed directly into a road sign on the first stage, is in third, 1:27 behind Roglic. Lopez is 1:39 ahead of fourth-place Australian Richie Porte.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Stage 20 Time Trial Notable Start Times
10:46 a.m. ET — Sepp Kuss (USA)
11:08 — Richie Porte (AUS)
11:10 — Miguel Angel Lopez (COL)
11:12 — Tadej Pogacar (SLO)
11:14 — Primoz Roglic (SLO)

Even with a finishing first-category climb, the time trial distance of 22 miles makes it difficult for Pogacar to make up 57 seconds on Roglic. Pogacar beat Roglic in the national time trial championship in June — by nine seconds on a 9.7-mile course.

“Tomorrow it’s all on me,” Roglic said, according to Cyclingnews.com. “The team has done an amazing job, I have the [yellow] jersey, but we have all worked for it.”

Pogacar, at 21, is bidding to become the youngest Tour de France podium finisher since 1909, according to ProCyclingStats.com. Last year, he became the youngest podium finisher in any Grand Tour since 1974 by placing third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic.

“If I’m on a good day, it’s a course that suits me well,” Pogacar said of the time trial. “If someone told me I’d be in this position before the Tour. I would never have believed them.”

The Slovenians from different teams owned this Tour while defending champion Egan Bernal of Colombia and the formerly dominant Ineos Grenadiers struggled and eventually abandoned on Wednesday.

One competition that all but wrapped up Friday was for the green jersey going to the Tour’s top sprinter.

Sam Bennett is in line to become the second Irishman to win that title after Sean Kelly, who did so four times in the 1980s.

Bennett goes into the weekend with a 55-point lead over Slovakian Peter Sagan, who won the title in each of his last seven Tours that he has finished, a record total.

With a maximum 70 points available for one sprinter left, Bennett would clinch the title by finishing eighth on Sunday and picking up a handful of intermediate sprint points.

MORE: Slovenia’s president is all about the Tour de France

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2020 Tour de France standings

1 Comment

2020 Tour de France standings for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey through stage 18 of 21 …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 83:29:41
2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — +:57
3. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +1:27
4. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:06
5. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +3:28
6. Enric Mas (ESP) — +4:19
7. Adam Yates (GBR) — +5:55
8. Rigoberto Uran (COL) — +6:05
9. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:24
10. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) — +12:12
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +17:48
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +35:54
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +57:49
30. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:56:21
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:11:36
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 319 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 264
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 250
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 173
5. Caleb Ewan (AUS) — 158

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74 points
2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 72
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 83:30:38
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +3:22
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:35:35
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:51:32
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:10:21

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions