Olympics: 2016 Rio Olympics

ICYMI: Katie Ledecky's big finish at Pan Pacs

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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Here's a recap of Katie Ledecky's record-winning weekend at the Pan Pacific championships in Gold Coast, Australia:

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Countdown to Rio: Storylines to watch

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
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Usain BoltPaul Gilham/Getty ImagesThe 2016 Summer Olympics will likely be Usain Bolt's last.

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are two years out from Tuesday. Here are some early storylines to keep on the radar:

Michael Phelps: Will he or won’t he?

After retiring from swimming following the 2012 London Games, the most decorated Olympian of all-time is back in the pool. But will the 29-year-old Phelps add to his 22-medal total? Since returning to competitive races, he has been careful to say what his Olympic intentions are, so the Phelps Watch continues. In the meantime, he will compete in four events at this week’s U.S. Championships.

Brazil as host

The success of the World Cup boosted some morale within the International Olympic Committee that Rio de Janeiro could host a large sporting event like the Summer Games. A special task force was assembled to keep an eye on the project and address concerns on the preparations. On Monday, a Brazilian newspaper estimated that while only 25 percent of construction is competed, workers remain on schedule.

[+] EnlargeAlan Fonteles Oliveira
Phillippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty ImagesAlan Oliveira won 200-meter gold at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Usain Bolt’s treble-treble

The Jamaican world-record holder looks to become the first runner to win three gold medals in three consecutive Olympics. Bolt is carefully mapping out his road to Rio, as a foot injury has sidelined him for most of the 2014 season. He won three gold medals at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow and will use 2015’s edition in Beijing as a lead-up to his final Summer Games. Bolt has also said he aims to better his world record in the 200 meters before retiring.

Kerri Walsh Jennings back for more

After three consecutive beach volleyball gold medals with Misty May-Treanor by her side, Kerri Walsh Jennings looks to make her fifth U.S. Olympic team. She is now partnered with April Ross and has moved to the right side of the sand in the transition. Ross and playing partner Jennifer Kessy lost to May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings in the all-American final at the London Games.

Winning streaks for women

Walsh Jennings isn’t the only woman looking to continue her Olympic winning streak in Rio. In London, Kim Rhode became the first American athlete to win five medals in an individual event in five consecutive Olympics after locking up another gold in women’s skeet. The U.S. women’s basketball team also will vie for a sixth consecutive gold medal and ninth overall. After the U.S. rowing team won its second gold in the women’s event, it won team titles at the 2013 World Rowing Cup in Lucerne and 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea.

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New Team USA uniforms: Yay or nay?

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
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Heads up, hoops fans: Nike has yet another new Team USA uniform for you to feast your eyes on!

On Friday, the company officially unveiled the U.S. men's national basketball team's gear for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup, which begins Aug. 30 in Spain. Check 'em out:

Kevin DurantNikeKevin Durant, you are the real MVP!


The home and away looks:

USA UniformsNike
USA UniformsNike


So, what do you think of the uniforms? Cast your vote or write a comment below:

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Do you like the new Team USA basketball uniforms?

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    82%
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    18%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,886)



What Blake Griffin's absence means for Team USA

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
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Brian Windhorst explains why Blake Griffin's absence from Team USA's roster for the FIBA World Cup is both a blessing and a curse:

World Cup litmus test for 2016 Olympics

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
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With the World Cup in the rear-view mirror, Rio now looks ahead to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Rio 2016 director of communications Mario Andrada says the World Cup provided insight into some of the challenges of hosting an event like the Games:

PhelpsChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesMichael Phelps will race again in two weeks at a Grand Prix meet in Charlotte, N.C.

MESA, Ariz. -- Michael Phelps finished 42nd in Friday's 50 freestyle heats and did not qualify for the evening final. But that wasn't bad considering he was swimming the butterfly stroke in that event.

Why did Phelps swim the fly stroke in a free race? It's unusual, but not unheard of. The racing schedule didn't present a desirable event for Phelps on Friday, especially since one of the options was the 400 IM.

"I'm not ready for a 400 IM. I don't think I will ever be ready for that race again," Phelps said. "I will not swim the 400 IM, that I guar-an-tee you. So do not ask that question."

To that comment, coach Bob Bowman asked humorously, "Is that kind of like, 'I will never ever swim again after London?'"

With limited options, Phelps and Bowman decided to use the 50 free as a chance to work on the swimmer's signature fly stroke. They were pleased with the results. Phelps bettered his split time from Thursday's 100 fly final by seven-tenths of a second (24.06).

Asked whether his emphasis on shorter distances here was an indication of his future strategy in his return to competitive swimming, Phelps replied, "It's a good starting point, just to get some races under my belt. The schedule today wasn't really ideal for what I should swim at this moment."

Because Phelps did not qualify for the evening finals -- now that would have been a story -- the 50-free heat wrapped up his racing at the Arena Grand Prix. He is next entered in the Charlotte Grand Prix in two weeks, and Bowman said they would approach the meet with the same style, swimming one or two days.

Phelps appeared to greatly enjoy the experience. He repeatedly said he was having fun, and his expression, demeanor and engaging press conferences indicated that was indeed the case.

"I don't know what it was like here last year, but I know it is more exciting when you have the excitement level we had here," he said. "With kids that are cheering, with people packing the stands every single session, the tickets selling out in a handful of hours after I said I was coming back -- it's pretty special.

"I can't thank people enough for supporting me and cheering me on. It is pretty special to see the excitement on a lot of kids' faces. That is something that is amazing, just being able to have them around and have them enjoy a swim meet."


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
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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
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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
7/29/13
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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

200
Charonda Williams
Kimberlyn Duncan
Allyson Felix
Jeneba Tarmoh

400
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

800
Alysia Montaņo
Brenda Martinez
Ajeé Wilson

1,500
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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Sounds counterintuitive, but Emily Brunemann had to move back to a cold-weather climate to regain her confidence in open water swimming.

Brunemann, 26, won 10-kilometer races in Brazil and Argentina in late January and early February to open up the 2013 season and rebound from a subpar year that cost her U.S. national team status.

She chalks up her recent success to a homecoming. Last fall, Brunemann left southern California and returned to Ann Arbor, where she'd been a five-time All-American at the University of Michigan. There, she joined the Club Wolverine elite training group that includes Olympic 200-meter backstroke gold medalist Tyler Clary and butterfly specialist Wu Peng of China.

Brunemann slipped back into workouts run by Michigan associate coach and distance guru Josh White and is also putting in volunteer coaching time with the Michigan women's team. She feels like part of a community again, a welcome change from what was mostly solo training under the aegis of the now-disbanded elite FAST program in Fullerton, Calif.

"I'm a big fan of having balance in my life, and not having something else to offset swimming was more stressful than I anticipated," said Brunemann, a Kentucky native.

In the Jan. 27 10K race in Santos, Brazil, Brunemann pushed the pace and finished a comfortable 30 seconds ahead of fellow American Eva Fabian. She stayed with the pack and outsprinted Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil a week later down the stretch in Viedma, Argentina to win by four seconds.

As is typical of the open water circuit, the two races, both established World Cup events, featured very different conditions. Santos was held in a bay within sight of a working harbor, while the course in Viedma was on a river with considerable current. White said the fact that Brunemann won two races that required such different tactics is very encouraging. The 10K is increasingly becoming the province of fast "milers" who transition from the pool rather than grinders, and White said Brunemann is poised to excel both because of her athletic ability and her maturity.

"She's really grown a lot in terms of her perspective, how the sport fits into her life," the coach said. "She's allowed herself not to live and die by the sport."

Water temperature, which has preoccupied swimmers and coaches since Fran Crippen drowned in sweltering conditions at a race in the United Arab Emirates in October 2010, wasn't an issue on the South American swing thanks to temperate weather. Brunemann said the number of safety craft on the courses appears to have been ramped up since the tragedy.

But she, like many other open water swimmers, still feels athletes will need to stay vigilant and keep pressure on officials. The current international ceiling of 31 degrees Celsius (87.8 Fahrenheit) is considered too high by many swimmers.

"I do see more boats and kayaks on the courses," Brunemann said. "But I still don't know if they take water temperature seriously."

The fallout after Crippen's death also prompted international officials to mandate that each open water swimmer is accompanied by a coach at elite events. Previously, it was not unusual for one coach to be responsible for "feeding" multiple swimmers, extending cups or squeeze bottles with liquid nourishment from floating docks on the course. The rule is meant to help ensure that heads are counted on each lap and swimmers have ample opportunity to hydrate.

The U.S. national team provides staff support for swimmers on the roster, but athletes like Brunemann who are trying to work their way back have to pay for their own travel and coaching.

"I'm figuring it out," said Brunemann, who brought her father along to serve as coach in one race and had former Michigan swimmer San Wensman with her for the other. "I'm fortunate that my parents believe in what I'm doing, and they're giving me financial help. It's not easy." Brunemann is hoping to regain her national team status by finishing in the top six at the U.S. championships in May at Castaic Lake north of Los Angeles.

Brunemann is no stranger to the podium at 10K races. She won two events in Asia in 2011. And she's also familiar with setbacks. She served a six-month suspension in 2008-09 after her out-of-competition urine sample tested positive for a banned diuretic. The arbitration panel that heard her case stated in a strongly-worded ruling that Brunemann had no intention to cheat, but had to be sanctioned under the rules for the "unfortunate mistake" of taking one of her mother's prescription pills she thought was a laxative. Brunemann missed an entire NCAA season as a result.

She had a lot of time to think about how to use her talent during the imposed layoff, and began competing in open water events shortly after her return. She's not about to call the whole interlude a blessing, but it "opened my eyes... I don't know that I would have gotten into open water when I did if it hadn't happened. It made me realize how easily a career can be taken away."


Watch: Coach K on his USA Basketball post

February, 26, 2013
2/26/13
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Mike Krzyzewski talks about why he will not coach Team USA for the world championships:

Bobby Lea looking ahead to Rio 2016

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
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 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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