Olympics: 2012 London Olympics

IOC eases on 'Rule 40' after protests from athletes

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
RIO DE JANEIRO -- The IOC is relaxing a rule that prohibited athletes from promoting non-official sponsors during the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee executive board agreed on Thursday to modify a provision known as Rule 40, which athletes strongly protested because it stopped them from mentioning their own sponsors.

Under the proposed new rule, the IOC will allow "generic" or "non-Olympic advertising" during the Games. The change, which requires formal approval by the full IOC in Kuala Lumpur in July, would be in effect for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"It has to do with advertising around the games, on a social media site, or newspaper, or whatever," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "So if someone has a contract with a watch manufacturer, that may continue as long as the advert doesn't relate to the games."

Rule 40 prohibits athletes from using their names or likenesses for advertising during a nearly monthlong period around the games. Sanctions for violators can include disqualification and stripping of medals.

"Athletes have wanted this changed for a very long time," Adams said. "It's been a very long discussion."

Rule 40 was intended to protect official Olympic sponsors, who spend tens of millions of dollars for exclusive marketing rights.

The rule states: "Except as permitted by the IOC executive board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games."

Dozens of athletes launched a Twitter campaign during the 2012 London Olympics to urge an end to the rule. They used the hashtag "WeDemandChange2012."

Reaction: Lolo Jones on 'DWTS' cast

September, 4, 2014

Hurdler, bobsledder ... ballroom dancer? Yes, Lolo Jones is taking on another new role, as the three-time Olympian will be a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars."

Here is some reaction to Thursday's announcement:

MESA, Ariz. -- Michael Phelps couldn't wait to get back in the pool and compete again.

After his 18-month retirement from competitive swimming, Phelps worked his way past a multitude of cameras to the starting area Thursday. Then he stepped up on the starting block earlier than he normally does, feeling antsier before a race than he has since he probably was 10 years old. And once he was on the block and could hear the crowd buzz, he actually smiled.

And this was not at an Olympic or world or U.S. championship event. It was a Grand Prix meet. And just the morning heat in the 100-meter butterfly, at that.

"I was just so excited to swim," Phelps said after winning his qualifying group. "It was strange. I was probably up to the block a little too early, but I was just so excited to get in and race. You're going to hear this word come out of my mouth a lot -- this was fun.

"I felt like I was a summer-league swimmer today. I was so excited to get out of the block. I felt like I should have my heat and lane written on my hand in case I forget it."

Well, in case he did forget, he would have had plenty of people to point him in the right direction. Phelps' first competitive race since retiring after the 2012 London Olympics drew a sellout crowd to the outdoor pool at Mesa's Skyline Aquatics Center on a sunny, 90-degree day. And there were nearly as many reporters and camera people on hand, as well, for Phelps' return to competitive swimming in the 100 butterfly.

There was so much attention, Phelps said rival and teammate Ryan Lochte joked that the two Olympic medalists should just mess around and advance to the C final and see which race got the most hype. "I said, 'No, let's try to get into the big final,'" Phelps said.

They did. Right after Lochte swam a 52.94 in the 13th heat, Phelps swam the top qualifying time of 52.84 in the final heat. He was second after the first 50 meters, then took control in the final 50 and won easily. The final is this evening, tentatively scheduled for 9:18 p.m. ET.

"I could tell when he came in and I saw him warm up that it was going to be good, that he's feeling good, that he was into it," coach Bob Bowman said. "He's got one race under his belt and he made the nationals qualifying cut."

True. Because Phelps had officially retired after the 2012 Olympics, his time re-qualified him for the U.S. national standard. Asked when he last had to swim a qualifying time for the U.S. team, Phelps thought a bit and said, "When I was 13?"

When a reporter later asked about his goals and the 2016 Rio Olympics, Phelps shrugged it off. "Hey, I just made the national cut! One step at a time!" he said. "Nah, I have a race tonight and that's all I'm concentrating on right now."

Shields makes not-so-ideal return to ring

September, 10, 2013
Claressa ShieldsAP Photo/Rick OsentoskiClaressa Shields became the first American woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal last year in London.

It may be a step back for Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, but at least it lands her back in the ring.

Shields, the lone American to win a gold medal in the debut of women’s boxing at the 2012 London Olympics, will return to international competition later this month at the Women's Junior/Youth World Championships in Albena, Bulgaria.

The 18-year-old, who recently started her freshman year at Olivet College in her home state of Michigan, was forced to drop down to the youth division due to a rule change in the age divisions by AIBA, the international governing body for Olympic-style boxing.

The ruling, she told the Detroit News, was "devastating."

As a 17-year-old, Shields handily beat 33-year-old Nadezda Torlopova of Russia in the Olympic final. Since then, silence. Struggling to find anyone willing to fight her, a year went by between bouts. Shields finally returned to the ring last month in her hometown of Flint and beat Canadian Alison Greey to improve her record to 34-1 (which includes 15 TKOs).

Shields, who has won two Junior Olympic titles, is seeking her first youth championship. She plans to enter the elite age ranks in 2014 and has her eye on defending her middleweight gold at the 2016 Games in Rio.

The Women's Junior/Youth World Championships begin Sept. 22. The finals are scheduled for Sept. 28.

Video: Caple on Michael Phelps' future

July, 29, 2013

Michael Phelps said he was done with competitive swimming after the London Olympics, but did his comments Monday open the door for 2016?

ESPN.com's Jim Caple explains why it may be difficult for Phelps to stay away from the pool:

U.S. roster set for track worlds in Moscow

July, 29, 2013
Allyson FelixJulian Finney/Getty Images

Here is the complete U.S. roster for the IAAF World Championships, which will be held Aug. 10-18 in Moscow:

Women's events

100 meters
Carmelita Jeter
English Gardner
Octavious Freeman
Alexandria Anderson

Charonda Williams
Kimberlyn Duncan
Allyson Felix
Jeneba Tarmoh

Natasha Hastings
Francena McCorory
Ashley Spencer

100 hurdles
Dawn Harper
Brianna Rollins
Queen Harrison
Nia Ali

400 hurdles
Lashinda Demus
Dalilah Muhammad
Georganne Moline
Christine Spence

Alysia Montaño
Brenda Martinez
Ajeé Wilson

Jenny Simpson
Treniere Moser
Mary Cain
Cory McGee

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Sarah GroffLintao Zhang/Getty ImagesU.S. Olympian Sarah Groff talks about her new perspective on racing and her focus for the season.

The months since the London Olympics have been an endurance event in and of themselves for triathlete Sarah Groff, the 2011 world championships series bronze medalist who just missed placing in the top three at the Summer Games.

She struggled for equilibrium after finishing an achingly close fourth and decided to make some changes for this season, and beyond, to try to put herself in podium contention for Rio 2016. Groff, a 31-year-old native of Cooperstown, N.Y. and graduate of Middlebury (Vt.) College, is currently training with an international group under the aegis of Canadian coach Joel Filliol.

She opened 2013 by entering a race she had always yearned to do -- the punishing Escape From Alcatraz triathlon, rescheduled this year from June back to March to accommodate the upcoming America's Cup sailing competition. Fighting through a self-inflicted head injury and the aftereffects of food poisoning, Groff was overtaken by eventual winner Heather Jackson in the late going and finished second.

Groff is based outside Hanover, N.H., with her boyfriend, distance runner Ben True, but spoke to ESPN.com by telephone this week from Clermont, Fla., where she is getting in some warm-weather training. These are excerpts from that conversation:

Question from Bonnie D. Ford: How did you go about processing that fourth-place finish at the Olympics and structuring the rest of your season?

Answer from Groff: What I didn't expect -- other athletes always talk about how amazing the experience of going to the Olympics is, the whole village experience and the cool swag and meeting all the other athletes, but they don't really warn you about what happens after the Games. There's this tremendous buildup where for years we're focused on one thing, and then I finished fourth, which adds a whole other level to it. It's probably pretty common; I got pretty severely depressed for a while. I went through the motions, did a couple more races. I would say I'm just starting to gain momentum back. But, for whatever reason, athletes just don't talk about it.

I did [turn to] a fellow triathlete, Greg Bennett, who was on the Australian Olympic team in 2004, and his wife Laura was on the U.S. team in 2008, and they both finished fourth. So if anybody's going to know what it's like after that, it's going to be them. Greg told me pretty much right after the race, "Listen, Sarah, even now to this day, I'll be lying in bed, replaying the race, thinking about what I could have done differently."

He's absolutely right. It's going to stay with me for a while. It's both the best achievement of my life and also one of those moments where you can't help but wonder what could have been if you'd approached things differently, and I think it has the potential to make me a better athlete. There's so much that can go wrong at the Games, and I've just been trying to turn it around and think about everything I did right to finish fourth, because obviously it's a great result.

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Watch: Coach K on his USA Basketball post

February, 26, 2013

Mike Krzyzewski talks about why he will not coach Team USA for the world championships:

Gold medalist Dan O'Brien is competing in the decathlon again.

Well, not the decathlon. He won Olympic gold in that event at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and at age 46, he is now a little past his prime. But he will compete in a decathlon. To be specific, he's competing in this summer's RBC Decathlon, the annual charity competition among Wall Street employees that benefits the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

So how does an Olympic gold medalist feel about competing against stock advisors, hedge fund managers and other Wall Street employees?

"I'm sure that once I get close to the competition, I'll feel nervous because you're pushing yourself," O'Brien said. "That's what I like about the event. It's the challenge. It gives everyone a long-term goal. When you train for the Olympics, that's all you can do. You can't go to work, you can't have a part-time job. But these guys are doing it on the side. ...

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Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsDan O'Brien will compete in the one-day RBC Decathlon on July 27 at Wien Field on the Columbia University campus.

"I don't take anything lightly. If I'm going to compete, I'm going to take it seriously. As an athlete, you don't want to underperform."

Donations are raised through CharityBets, a performance-based fundraising program developed by RBC Decathlon organizers Dave Maloney and Marc Hodulich. The concept is simple. You can either make a simple set donation or make a sliding donation based on the performance of the competitor on whom you bet. The good thing is, regardless of how your bets goes, charity always wins.

"I've been known to gamble a bit from time to time," O'Brien said of the event's appeal. "The program he's developed makes sense to me. It's a good fit for these guys. They are guys with disposable income, they're mature and well-muscled. They're doing it for the fun of it, but they're also doing it for the charity. I'm honored that Dave would want me to be the face of the decathlon."

"Dan's participation opens up a world of charity-betting possibilities and will dramatically increase spectators who take a keen interest in his performance," Maloney said. "He's also still a role model to much of the financial services community, so Dan's presence will certainly stoke the competitive spirit among participants."

The Olympic decathlon takes place over two days, while the RBC Decathlon is a one-day competition at Wien Field on the Columbia University campus July 27. The RBC Decathlon is a combination of an actual decathlon and a football combine. The 10 events are the 400-meter run, football throw, dips, 40-yard dash, 500-meter stationary row, five-cone drill, pull-ups, vertical jump, bench press and 800-meter run.

O'Brien said he is confident he can hold his own in the pull-up and vertical jump competitions, but he expressed concern about the 400 and 800 runs. One, some back pain issues have restricted his running in recent years, and two, everyone hates the 400- and 800-meter lengths.

"Even as a former athlete, those are two events you don't want to do," he said. "Put me in a 5K or let me run a 40, but don't put me in the middle-distance races. To run a good 400 or a good 800, you have to train."

Not that O'Brien ever minds that; in fact, he said he preferred training to competing.

"Ultimately, what it came down to was that I loved my job," he said. "I liked getting up every day and working toward my goal."

For more information about the RBC Decathlon and this year's inaugural Wall Street mile run, go to thedecathlon.org.

Bobby Lea looking ahead to Rio 2016

December, 19, 2012
 Bobby LeaBryn Lennon/Getty Images

Two-time track cycling Olympian Bobby Lea of Topton, Pa., recommitted to a third bid in his mind before he even got home from the London Games, where he finished 12th in the demanding two-day, six-event omnium. The 29-year-old trains with Philadelphia-based coach Brian Walton, a 1996 Olympic track cycling silver medalist for Canada. Lea looked ahead in a recent chat with ESPN.com:

Question from Ford: What was the biggest contrast between your experiences in London and Beijing [in 2008]?

Answer from Lea: The single biggest thing was just knowing what I was in for. I knew the details would be different, but the bigger picture was the same, and I was much more prepared to handle it. In the run-up to the actual event, it was much more calm and quiet and easier to focus on the task at hand than it was for Beijing. As far as the performance was concerned, I really wanted to get inside that top 10. But when I take a step back and look at the event as it unfolded, five of the six events were the best I'd ever done, so it was hard to argue with that. Two-tenths of a second in one event [the kilo, or 1-kilometer time trial] would have made the difference.

That's bike racing, that's track racing. I went to London thinking if I turned in a performance I was satisfied with, I could walk away from track racing in the Olympics and say it's been a good run and made up for a performance I wasn't really happy with in Beijing [Editor's note: He finished 16th in the Madison]. But by the time I touched down in Newark, I was already thinking about Rio [in 2016]. I wasn't anticipating that, but that's kind of how it unfolded. The placing was nothing to write home about, but the finer details showed a pretty significant jump in performance from where I was in the two years leading up to the Olympics. My takeaway from that is if I can do that in three months, if I can take the next four years and really dial in my support structure and work even harder, then I can go to Rio and actually be a contender instead of someone just shooting for a top 10.

Q: If you were king and had control over the Olympic program, what would you create?

A: I've made my peace with the omnium. I certainly struggle to deal with all the different elements, learning how to prepare and how to handle myself in the midst of the event. But if the omnium remains unchanged in Rio and that's the event, I know what I'm dealing with and I know how to work for it. I'm not too fussed about what the event's going to be. If I can make it four more years and I can set up that support structure, then I'm ready to take a run for Rio. Part of the question I've been dealing with since I got home is, what does that mean? It's easy to answer that question if you're part of a big national federation that has an endless budget, but as basically a privateer trying to put together a program, it's an entirely different question. I've got a year or two to sort that out.

Q: How does this affect your road racing aspirations? That was at the top of your future agenda when we last talked.

A: At this point, I'm still treating the rest of my career like an open book and it's day to day, month to month, year to year. I've got a job riding with SmartStop-Mountain Khakis next year on the road, so between that and a couple of winter sixes (six-day races) with my Madison partner [Jackie Simes], we'll see what happens. We're hoping to get a start in Rotterdam in January. It's been a long time since there were Americans racing on the six-day circuit. That would be a really neat thing to do that doesn't conflict with road racing.

My team for next year is really supportive of my extracurricular activities on the track. It's a good place for me to race the road and have a lot of fun and get back into domestic road racing and [Simes] is going to be joining me on that team. Where it goes, who knows, but I'm not writing anything off. 2010 was my last full season on the road. I'm ready to jump back in, I miss it.

Q: Do you feel like you're in a situation where you can compete clean at the Continental level in this country?

A: Absolutely. It's not something I would be doing if I thought I was trying to swim upstream.

Jessica and Maggie SteffensAP Photo/Alastair GrantMaggie Steffens, right, and sister Jessica helped lead the U.S. women's water polo team to its first Olympic gold this past summer.

With every sunrise and sunset, with the change of another season, the moments from the greatest two weeks in Maggie Steffens' young athletic life drift further and further away. Four months after carrying the U.S. women's water polo team to its first gold medal, the 19-year-old is adjusting to life as a college freshman and Olympic champion.

There are days like the one not too long ago, when Steffens shared her gold medal with a mother who immediately wanted to take a picture biting the hardware.

"I was like, 'Uh, no,'" Steffens said. "I brushed it off as no big deal, but inside I was cringing. I mean, really? This isn't some chocolate bar."

And on the day she moved into her Stanford dorm this fall, there were the whispers. She heard them. "There goes the Olympic girl."

"I told them, 'Nope. My name is Maggie,'" she said. "I'm the same Maggie I was before all of this."

[+] EnlargeMaggie Steffens
Michael Regan/Getty ImagesMaggie Steffens will play for Stanford's water polo team this year.

She may be the same person, but the way strangers view her is infinitely different. Four years ago in Beijing, the feisty 15-year-old watched from the stands as her older sister, Jessica, and other members of the U.S. team lost in the gold-medal match for the second time in three Olympics. She insisted it wouldn't happen again.

Then in London this past summer, as the youngest member of the U.S. team, Maggie scored an unfathomable 21 goals on 27 shots -- including a 5-for-5 showing in the 8-5 gold-medal victory over Spain -- to win the Olympic crown and make "The Star-Spangled Banner" the song of choice at the tournament's conclusion.

When her world stopped spinning, when Steffens finally returned home to California and had a second to hop in her bed, close her eyes, take a deep breath and try to absorb what had just happened, the memories that most prominently flooded the 19-year-old's head weren't the images everyone would have expected.

Sure, she thought about the goals she scored and the plays she made. Of course she reflected on the moment her gold medal was hung around her neck and the night her and Jessica paraded around the pool deck with the American flag draped behind them. The gut-wrenching semifinal win over Australia is there, too, a night when the Aussies forced overtime with one second left. But the memories that make her smile most are the ones no one knows about.

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Unlike most of the distance runners who traveled to New York last week, marathoner Desiree Davila arrived knowing she wouldn't be hitting the famous 26.2-mile course.

Davila has been off her feet almost entirely since Aug. 5, when a mysterious and painful hip injury forced her out of the Olympic marathon in London after just one 2.2-mile lap. Composed but obviously devastated, she told reporters she had done everything possible to get to the start, including training on a special high-tech treadmill that minimizes impact and taking a cortisone shot. She hoped for a miracle, but it wasn't to be, so she crossed the finish line on The Mall 24 miles early and walked away from the race she'd spent four years visualizing.

Back home, a detailed MRI showed what had been missed in an initial diagnosis -- Davila had a stress fracture at the top of her right femoral shaft. She rested completely for eight weeks, then began some stationary bike work and only started running again about two weeks ago, for 10 minutes at a time. That puts her, in her words, at the bottom of the family mileage board below her fiancé Ryan Linden and their two dogs.

It's by far the longest layoff of a goal-oriented life, so how is Davila dealing with the unaccustomed inactivity? "You can ask the people around me," she said with a throaty laugh over the phone from New York City, where she was fulfilling sponsor obligations. "I think I needed it. I was so frustrated and beaten down by trying to get through the whole process. Now I'm itching to go."

Davila doesn't regret her decision to give London a try; she said she acted based on the best information she had at the time. "If it had been diagnosed right, I wouldn't have been there, and I wouldn't have tried to train to get there," she said. She's still unsure about when she'll race again. The imbalances created by months of favoring her right hip need to be addressed with soft tissue work and physical therapy.

For now, the Boston Marathon -- where she set an American course record in 2011 -- remains on her schedule (the race is on April 15), "and we'll keep it on until we know it can't work," said Davila, who trains in suburban Detroit with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. "Things would have to be pretty perfect in January for that to happen."

Watch: Kerri Walsh Jennings interview

October, 10, 2012

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings stopped by SportsCenter on Wednesday to discuss the road ahead:


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Welcoming sporting champions to the White House is a ritual that goes on no matter what -- a rare, unequivocally happy moment in the life of both athletes and the president who serves at the time of their success.

Friday, it was a brief respite from world events, in this case the tragic deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans working at the consulate in Libya that lowered flags around the country to half-staff and made one of President Barack Obama's later appointments a somber one. Just two hours after Obama stayed past the allotted time to shake the hands of as many Olympians and Paralympians as possible, he departed by helicopter for Andrews Air Force Base to be present when the diplomats' remains arrived.

But for one sunny hour on the South Lawn, close to 400 athletes basked in the afterglow of their achievements this summer in London. The president called himself the "Fan-in-Chief" who taped events so he could watch them at the end of his long workdays; first lady Michelle Obama, who led the U.S. delegation in London, singled out double Paralympic swimming gold medalist Brad Snyder, a Navy lieutenant blinded while on duty in Afghanistan last year.

Then, for once, the tables were turned. Rather than being swarmed by fans, it was the athletes who came down off the risers and lined up for photo ops and hugs from Mr. and Mrs. Obama, who were joined by Vice President Joe Biden.

Gold medalist Aries Merritt maintained his Olympic peak and set a world record in his specialty, the 110-meter hurdles, in Belgium last week. He was pleasantly surprised when the president recognized and greeted him as "the hurdle guy," and decided to share a personal story: His grandmother, Louise Hubbard, who died shortly before the 2008 election, predicted Obama would win, he told the president.

Sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross, who doubled up on gold in the 400 meters and 4x400 relay, initially found herself tongue-tied and couldn't muster the thanks she'd planned to express for support from the top. "Michelle Obama embodies, to me, a woman who supports her husband and is a great role model," Richards-Ross said. She did eventually find her voice to ask Mrs. Obama if she could be a part of the "Let's Move" youth fitness initiative -- a request the first lady obliged by putting her in touch with an assistant.

For Richards-Ross, who is committed to competing in the 2016 Rio Games, the White House visit represented the end of a four-year cycle but not a career. The day was slightly more poignant for 2008 fencing silver medalist Tim Morehouse, who was attending his third White House team gathering but is retiring from competition.

"I'm a fencer for life," said Morehouse, who once fenced the president at a White House event. "It doesn't mean I'll never pick up my sabre again." In fact, he is finalizing the details of a New York-based pilot program to train physical education teachers to teach fencing. "I want to get a million kids fencing," he said.

President Obama singled out several athletes in attendance, including swimmer Michael Phelps, who now holds the all-time medal haul record of 22; sprinter Tyson Gay; weightlifter Holley Mangold; discus thrower Lance Brooks; Paralympic volleyball player Kari Miller; and 15-year-old 800-meter swimming gold medalist Katie Ledecky, whom Obama praised for finishing her summer high school reading assignments amid all the excitement.

He also called Manteo Mitchell, who finished his leg of a 4x400 preliminary heat with a broken shin bone, "one of my favorite stories of the whole Olympics."

Watch: Sunday's Olympic wrap-up

August, 12, 2012

ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Julie Foudy on Team USA's win over Spain, the men's marathon and their overall impressions of the 2012 Olympic Games: