Vonn, Lysacek take home USOC awards; more Olympic notes
The USOC announced its athletes of the year on Tuesday morning, not surprisingly tapping stars from the Vancouver Olympics as honorees. Figure skater Evan Lysacek was named Sportsman of the Year, outlasting snowboarder Shaun White, history-making speed skater Apolo Ohno and rejuvenated alpine whiz Bode Miller. Lysacek won a nail-biting men's title in Vancouver against Russia's Evgeny Plushenko in a battle of contrasting styles.
On the women's side, Lindsey Vonn seemed a convincing choice from the start to repeat as the winner of the honor she won last year. The Olympic downhill champ won the overall alpine World Cup for the third straight season.
The U.S. four-man bobsled team that won gold in Whistler was chosen as team of the year. The group, driven by Steven Holcomb and pushed by Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz, won several World Cup events during the season and fulfilled the role as favorite by winning a men's bobsled gold that was half a century in the waiting.
Sled hockey player Taylor Chace was named Paralympic male athlete of the year. Chace was named top defenseman of the Games, amassing five points and keying a defense that did not allow a single goal during the tournament.
Mono-skier Alana Nichols was chosen as Paralympic Sportswoman of the Year. Nichols grabbed four golds at the Paralympics in Vancouver in the alpine sitting division. The wheelchair basketball player also became the first U.S. athlete to win gold in both summer and winter Paralympic competition.
The U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team took the honors as the year's top Paralympic team.
South Korea's Lee Kyou-hyuk and Canada's Christine Nesbit took home the titles last week at the ISU world sprint speed skating championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands. Lee's countryman, Mo Tae-bum, finished second in the competition that features a pair of 500-meter and a pair of 1,000-meter races over two days.
Chicago's Shani Davis, the defending Olympic champ at 1,000 meters, took third in the men's event.
Nesbitt, a specialist at 1,000 meters, rebounded from a slow opening hundred in which she was only the sixth-fastest skater. Dutchwomen Annette Gerritsen and Margot Boer took second and third, and North Carolinian Heather Richardson finished fourth in the women's competition, missing the medal stand by one one-hundredth of a second. Germany's Jenny Wolf, the early leader after posting one first place and two seconds, nearly spilled in her last thousand and settled for eighth place.
Hannah Kearney has been on a roll. The Olympic champ in the moguls event has been a consistent winner just a season removed from her victory in Vancouver. Kearney won a pair of events at the Freestyle Cup in Lake Placid over the weekend, maintaining her spot as the overall World Cup points leader. Kearney has won seven of her last eight individual moguls competitions.
Austrian alpine skier Hans Grugger is not in life-threatening danger but faces what doctors say is a lengthy recovery after surgery on his brain last week following a fall on the treacherous Strief downhill course in Kitzbühel, Austria. Grugger, 29, lost his balance during a training run on the challenging Mausefalle -- a lengthy jump that follows a sharp turn -- and hit his head against the icy terrain underneath. He was carried off the course unconscious and officials initially feared for his life.
Doctors confirmed on Sunday that the swelling on Grugger's brain had subsided and that he did not suffer paralysis from the fall. The University Hospital in Innsbruck released a statement that read: "The overall picture of test results gives doctors reason to be optimistic," and they added that he would remain in an induced coma for an undisclosed time.
The injury-plagued Grugger has won four races, including two downhill's, on the World Cup circuit and placed 22nd in the Olympic downhill race in Vancouver. He has not stood on a World Cup podium since 2007.
There is a row intensifying over the post-Olympic use of the stadium that will be used as the centerpiece of the London Games. Two groups, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, are in a contentious bid to win ultimate rights to the stadium, each claiming that their selection would fulfill a promise made in the initial planning of the Games bid.
West Ham proposes to retain the running track that would be used for track and field events at the Games. That was a promise made to the IOC by the London bidders and generally considered paramount to the success of any Olympic bid. (Of course, tell that to the folks in Atlanta.)
Tottenham, which is bidding to get the track in conjunction with AEG, the U.S.-based entertainment corporation, plans to tear up the track for football use, but says it will instead redevelop the Crystal Palace complex to leave behind a more complete legacy for athletes.
Seb Coe, the head of the London organizing committee, is backing West Ham, calling its selection a "moral obligation." Mike Lee, the communications director for the London bid, has been hired by Tottenham to support its cause instead.
On Monday, a decision to resolve the issue was tabled indefinitely by the Olympic Park Legacy Commission to further study the bids.
A pair of world-class international winter events that will serve as key preparations for the Sochi Olympics were awarded to the U.S. this week. The ISU Four Continents figure skating competition will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 6-12, 2012. And the IIHF women's world ice hockey championships will take place at the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, VT., April 7-14, 2012. Expect that one to be a U.S.-Canada affair, just as every world final has been since the inception of the tournament in 1990.