U.S. names rhythmic gymnastics squad for group, individual events
Opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are scheduled for Aug. 5. Each week, as the countdown continues, we will bring you a roundup of the latest results, news items and storylines in Olympic sports. Here’s a look at what happened over the last seven days on the road to Rio:
The U.S. Olympic gymnastics team named its first few members over the weekend but not the five athletes most would expect.
For the first time since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the U.S. will have a team of five rhythmic gymnasts competing in the group event at the Olympics. The team will be comprised of Kiana Eide, Alisa Kano, Natalie McGiffert, Monica Rokhman and Kristen Shaldybin (Jennifer Rokhman will serve as an alternate). Along with the group, Laura Zeng qualified for the Summer Games in the rhythmic gymnastics individual competition. Zeng, who was born in Oct. 1999, is the youngest American woman set to compete in Rio at the moment.
“I’m almost speechless,” said Caroline Hunt, USA Gymnastics’ rhythmic program director. “It’s truly a dream for the U.S. to have six Olympians go for rhythmic [The group of five in addition to the qualified individual spot]. I believe these gymnasts are so great and we have so many strong athletes and committed coaches, and I want the world to understand that the U.S. is really pursuing rhythmic gymnastics at a high level.”
Back in 2012, several of the team members moved to Chicago in order to train at the North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics Center and chase their Olympic dreams. The team made history when they finished 13th at the 2015 world championships and officially qualified the U.S. for the group rhythmic event at the Olympics as the highest-placed country not in Asia and Europe. Back in 1996, the last time the U.S. fielded a team in the group event, America was granted a spot as the host nation of ’96 Games.
Also named to Team USA were trampoline gymnasts Logan Dooley, who served as the Olympic alternate in 2008 and ’12, and Nicole Ahsinger.
Gwen Jorgensen may have turned in the best performance of the week as she overcame a 100-second deficit after the biking portion to dominate on the run and won the World Triathlon Series stop in Leeds, Great Britain. It was her 17th career World Series win.
Despite her early-season loss in April, her first in two years, Jorgensen remains the favorite of the gold medal in Rio, and this weekend’s performance only reaffirmed that. She was 38th at the London Olympics after suffering a flat tire in the biking portion.
The next stop in the ITU World Series will take place in Stockholm on July 2 and 3.
Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena won the FIVB World Tour in Hamburg, Germany with wins over compatriots Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson, Brazil’s Alison and Bruno and then Dutch pair Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen.
Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross had their FIVB World Tour winning-streak snapped as they lost in the semifinal to Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst before dropping to Brazil’s Larissa and Talita in the third-place game.
The next stop on the FIVB World Tour is the Olsztyn Grand Slam in Poland, which runs from June 14–19.
The player pool for the 2016 USA Basketball team is dwindling as last week saw Russell Westbrook and James Harden join list of athletes that have withdrawn from the Summer Games. Both players are healthy but have opted not to play after consulting with friends and family. No player has outright said they will not compete due to political unrest, the Zika virus or any other problems facing Brazil.
DeMarcus Cousins was already reportedly told that he has a spot on the team.
Canada will be without Andrew Wiggins of Minnesota Timberwolves as they try to qualify for the Olympics.
Maria Sharapova has appealed her doping suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and will have a decision by July 18. If the suspension is eliminated or shortened, that would give her some time to be ready for the Olympics.
Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray was named to the British Olympic squad. He looks to become the first man to repeat as singles champion after taking gold in London.
Caroline Wozniacki will have a hearing to determine her Olympic eligibility. The Dane was initially ruled ineligible to play in Rio because she didn’t play the required two Fed Cup ties during the qualifying time.
World champion Kyle Snyder (97 kg/213 lbs) went 4–0 over the weekend at the Freestyle World Cup at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Corben Sharrah won the BMX Olympic Trials on Saturday, becoming the third American secure his spot in the Rio Games. The U.S. will be sending the maximum amount of BMX riders to the Olympics—two women and three men.
Brazil’s new health minister, Ricardo Barros, says the Olympics will be safe and there's minimal risk of contracting Zika. Brazil 2016 reports that there has been an 87% reduction in the number of Zika cases, but that number should be taken with a grain of salt.