Michael Phelps, Lindsey Vonn among Team USA Hall of Fame inductees

Michael Phelps

Michael PhelpsLindsey VonnNatalie CoughlinMia Hamm and Michelle Kwan headline the 2022 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame class.

The first class to be inducted since 2019 also includes an Olympic team (the 1976 U.S. women’s swimming 4x100m freestyle relay), a coach (Pat Summitt), two legends (Alpine skier Gretchen Fraser and hurdler Roger Kingdom) and a special contributor (Billie Jean King).

The Paralympians in the class: swimmer Trischa Zorn-Hudson, the all-time leader with 55 medals, including 41 golds, plus Alpine skier and cyclist Muffy Davis and David Kiley, who played basketball and raced in Alpine skiing and track and field. The Paralympic team selected is the 2002 sled hockey team.

The inductees were chosen by voting from the public, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic family, including athletes, and media.

The Hall of Fame will induct classes every two years moving forward. Previously, there were annual classes from 1983-92 and biennial classes from 2004-12 before it was revived for a 2019 class and now 2022.

Though Phelps retired in 2016 with Olympic records for medals (28) and gold medals (23), he was not part of the 2019 class that included John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Lisa Leslie, Nastia Liukin, Misty May-Treanor, Apolo Anton Ohno and Dara Torres (all of whom retired years before Phelps did).

Vonn, who retired in 2019, is the lone American woman to win an Olympic downhill title. She also holds the female Alpine skiing record of 82 World Cup victories. She is the fourth Olympic Alpine skier to be inducted after Andrea Mead LawrencePicabo Street and Phil Mahre.

Coughlin, who retired from international competition in 2016, shares a unique Olympic record. She won a medal in all 12 Olympic events that she entered, matching Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi and German dressage rider Isabell Werth.

Hamm, the face of U.S. soccer in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is the second soccer player to make the Hall of Fame after teammate Kristine Lilly. Hamm and Lilly were also part of the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team that was previously inducted.

Kwan, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and five-time world champion, is the eighth figure skater to make the hall, joining a group that includes Olympic gold medalists Dick Button, Dorothy Hamill and Peggy Fleming.

Other finalists who did not make the induction class included Summer Olympic champions Kristin Armstrong (cycling), Kayla Harrison (judo) and John Smith (wrestling) and Winter Olympic champions Shani Davis (speed skating), Cammi Granato (hockey) and Bode Miller (Alpine skiing).

An induction ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 24 in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic base.

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Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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