Larisa Latynina

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps’ potential record chases at Rio Olympics

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There are still Olympic medal records Michael Phelps has yet to break.

A Phelps medal record chase became a major storyline at the last three Olympics.

In Athens and Beijing, he entered eight events and was synonymous with U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz, who won a record seven gold medals at the Munich 1972 Olympics.

Phelps won six gold medals and two bronze medals in Athens and then surpassed Spitz with eight golds in Beijing.

In London, Phelps needed to win three medals of any color to overtake Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most career medals.

Phelps won six, taking his total to 22 medals, four more than Latynina.

But Phelps is still chasing Latynina in another regard. Latynina still holds the record for most medals won in individual events.

Latynina won 14 individual medals. Phelps is on 13 (with nine relay medals).

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Could Phelps win two individual medals in Rio?

He was the world’s fastest 100m butterfly swimmer last year and third-fastest in the 200m individual medley.

He was not among the world’s fastest swimmers in the 100m or 200m freestyles last year (granted he took a year off of training after London) and has only recently resumed swimming the 200m fly.

Phelps is also chasing two of the greatest U.S. track and field athletes of all time. Al Oerter (discus) and Carl Lewis (long jump) share the record for consecutive Olympic titles in the same individual event at four*.

Phelps has won the 100m fly and 200m IM at each of the last three Olympics.

Phelps’ competition in the 100m fly no longer includes longtime rivals Ian Crocker and Milorad Cavic, both retired. However, South African Chad le Clos, who beat Phelps for 200m fly gold in London, has the fastest 100m fly time since the 2012 Olympics.

In the 200m IM, Japan’s Kosuke Hagino and Ryan Lochte were both faster than Phelps last year.

In another category, Phelps is chasing his 2004 Olympic teammate Jenny Thompson.

Thompson holds the record for most Olympic medals and gold medals in team/relay events with 10 and eight, respectively. Phelps has won nine relay medals, including seven golds.

The U.S. should be among the top nations in the 4x100m free relay in Rio (an elite group that could be more than three). The U.S. is more likely to win gold in the 4x200m free relay and 4x100m medley relay at this point, which Phelps and Co. won at each of the last three Olympics.

Of course, Phelps has to qualify to make those relay teams. The simplest way to do that would be as one of the six-fastest U.S. men in the 100m and 200m frees in 2016 and finishing first or second in the 100m fly at the Olympic trials.

*Denmark’s Paul Elvstroem won four straight individual Olympic golds in sailing, but his one-person event changed from a Firefly boat to the Finn during his streak. Thanks to Olympic historian Bill Mallon for passing that note along.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Ireen Wuest lead ANOC Award winners

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen
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Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Dutch speed skater Ireen Wuest were named the best male and female athletes of the Sochi Olympics by the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) on Friday.

Bjoerndalen won two biathlon gold medals at his sixth Olympics in February, giving him a Winter Olympic record 13 career medals.

Wuest won five medals in Sochi, the most by a single athlete at those Winter Games.

The Canadian men’s and women’s hockey teams won the best team awards for Sochi.

The ANOC also presented awards to its top male and female athletes and teams from the London 2012 Games — Kenyan 800m gold medalist David Rudisha, Chinese table tennis singles and doubles champion Li Xiaoxia, the French men’s handball team and the Brazil women’s volleyball team.

The U.S. and Russian Olympic Committees earned awards as the most successful National Olympic Committees at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games, respectively.

Retired Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina won an award for outstanding performance. Latynina won 18 medals over the 1956, ’60 and ’64 Olympics, a career record that stood until Michael Phelps broke it at London 2012.

Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president from 2001 to 2013, was given a lifetime achievement award.

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Russian Olympic medalists receive luxury cars

Tatyana Volosozhar, Maksim Trankov

The newest Russian Olympic medalists will be quite conspicuous if they put their latest prizes to use.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev handed out keys to a fleet of white Mercedes-Benz cars to 44 medalists next to Red Square in Moscow on Thursday, according to reports.

Three different classes of cars were offered for the three medal colors. They were adorned with the Russian Olympic Team logo, assuring they will stand out on the roads.

“I was a bit shocked at the car I was given,” gold medalist biathlete Anton Shipulin said, according to R-Sport. “Of course I knew what kind of model it would be, but I didn’t totally believe it.”

There are some issues though, some of which were cleared up in reports out of Moscow.

The minimum driving age for cars in Russia is 18. Figure skating champions Yuliya Lipnitskaya and Adelina Sotnikova are 15 and 17, respectively. Those without licenses also received a paid-for driver, according to The Associated Press.

R-Sport reported that Medvedev congratulated 44 medalists and distributed the keys. But 49 different Russian athletes won medals in Sochi.

Also, what about athletes who won multiple medals, such as short track speed skater Viktor Ahn, who won three golds and one bronze? Do they get anything extra for their efforts?

The cars came on top of cash prizes. Gold medalists received $120,000, silver medalists $76,000 and bronze medalists $52,000, according to R-Sport.

Russia won 13 golds and 33 total medals, becoming the first Winter Olympic host nation to lead gold- and total-medal counts since Norway in 1952.

In 2010, medalists also received cars, according to R-Sport. Russia won three golds and 15 total four years ago.

The old Soviet Union used to reward its medalists with apartments, such as gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 career Olympic medals.

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