While it may seem as if the next Olympic and Paralympic Games are far out on the horizon, there are events and stories happening every day and around the world that affect Team USA and its athletes. Each week, we'll catch you up on interesting items or take you a little closer to the newsmakers and events you may have missed along the way — often through the kinds of social media posts that make Team USA so compelling.
Remember The Name: Simone Manuel
The term "medley" sometimes conjures something more pastoral than what we witnessed this past week at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. Records were thrashed, the operative word was fast and Stanford freshman sensation Simone Manuel made a bit of history while cutting through the waves of a roiling pool in the 400-meter medley relay.
While the event made for a Missy Franklin showcase (tying three-time Olympian Natalie Coughlin as the only Cal Bears to win three events at a single NCAA Championships meet, shattering her own American record in the 200 free by more than a second and leading Cal to the title), one of the more compelling moments of the three days came over the course of a mere 45.45 seconds, courtesy Manuel.
Stanford had been trailing by more than two seconds after three legs of the medley, and Virginia managed to finish in American-record time, but Manuel's blazing anchor leg, the fastest split ever — and by a college freshman, no less — gained all the ground it needed to finish .01 seconds in front for a thrilling win.
"She's capable of doing some pretty crazy things when she has an opportunity," coach Greg Meehan said afterward.
Manuel, who also won the individual 100 free and 50 free events, setting an American record in the 100, clearly has a sense of humor, too. On Saturday, the Texas native threatened to gain the freshman 15 over spring break before posting this a few hours later:
It's starting... pic.twitter.com/LWGVKBSumD— Simone Manuel (@simone_manuel) March 22, 2015
Team USA's Next Great Hockey Star
Many consider Jack Eichel to be the next U.S.-born NHL star, and the Boston University freshman didn't disappoint in the Hockey East Championship over the weekend. Eichel, who has a long history of playing for Team USA (USNTDP, U18 World Championship, World Junior Championship), is likely to be selected either No. 1 or No. 2 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In other words, Eichel is considered one of the top two players in the world in his age group.
The Hockey East Player of the Year and Hockey East Freshman of the Year was also named Hockey East Tournament MVP. Eichel scored 11 points in the tournament, breaking BU's previous record of 10 shared by Jay Pandolfo and Olympian Chris Drury. Eichel's three-point game in the final gave him 66 on the season to break BU's single-season record for a freshman, a record formerly held jointly by Mark Fidler and Miracle on Ice member David Silk.
A video recap of the tournament final has No. 9's fingerprints all over it:
Brown Puts Quad On Ice
The days are dwindling before the World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai, and 20-year-old U.S. champion Jason Brown made a bit of news heading in to the event, which runs March 25-28.
Brown said that, while he continues to work on a quadruple jump, he will not feature it in his program at worlds. Back in February, at the Four Continents Championships in Seoul, Brown attempted the quad but two-footed the landing in a disappointing finish.
"I know I’m going to get the quad one day," NBC OlympicTalk quoted him as saying, "and it’s going to be incredible."
Teammate Adam Rippon, meanwhile, aims to make a statement in Shanghai, while the team will try to keep the United States' three spots for the 2016 worlds.
At the very least, Rippon and Ashley Wagner have their facial expression game primed and ready for this week:
One of this past NBA offseason's most dispiriting stories came during a USA Basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas: Paul George's gruesome broken leg suffered on Aug. 1, 2014, prior to the FIBA World Cup. The injury, which led to George being stretchered off the court at the Thomas & Mack Center and required emergency surgery, also cast a pall over the often easy decision to play for Team USA when invited.
A year later, this coming August, George himself will put a measure of those worries aside when Team USA returns to Las Vegas for a four-day offseason camp.
"I'm in," he told NBA.com this past week. "Of course."
George has been sidelined all season from NBA action due to the injury, but recent reports suggest he might just be ready to return before the season ends.
Testing, Testing, Testing
Organizers for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games announced, with Tuesday's 500 days-out milestone on the horizon, that it will begin hosting test events between July 2015 and May 2016. At first, the test events will focus on outdoor events, followed by indoor events. Rio 2016's announcement included the full program of test events — 34 Olympic, six Paralympic and four events for both the Olympic and Paralympic program — and scope of the effort: 7,800 athletes and 16,000 volunteers.
Title IX Pioneer Still Adding Chapters
The Capital Times recently caught up with groundbreaking athlete Carie Graves, the star rower who won Olympic medals in 1976 and 1984 but likely is as well-known in some circles for her role in Title IX legislation.
After taking six years off from training seriously, Graves, with four months to prepare, went back to Boston, where she had coached rowing for both Northeastern and Harvard, and finished first in the 60-64 women's division at the World Indoor Rowing Championships.
"I didn’t set a world record but I think I can get it next year for my age," Graves told the Times.
Rio Golf Venue On Course
With golf returning to the Olympic program for the first time since 1904, Rio 2016's course designer, Gil Hanse, told Reuters that the course will be ready for the start of competition.
According to the story, Hanse moved his family to Rio to oversee all work on the design of the course, which he had also done in the late '90s to design a course at the Crail Golfing Society in Scotland.
Diving In Dubai
In Dubai, David Boudia finished fifth in the 10-meter final at the FINA Diving World Series, a week after finishing second at the World Series event in Beijing. Basically, this gives us an excuse to post one of the more humorous clips from the past week, partly at Boudia's expense, courtesy his aunt:
Boudia also managed to record a series of slice-of-life shots from earlier in the week:
Kearney Leaves Door Slightly Ajar
Hannah Kearney plans to retire. She said as much after wrapping up another world cup title a week ago. And she even has a retirement plan ready: She's going back to school.
Surely, that signals the end of a remarkable career, does it not? Perhaps.
"I guess if the mood strikes me, I may show up (at a World Cup competition)," Kearney said with a laugh during a conference call this past week. "…But I am planning on retiring."