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Aly Raisman claims her Olympic legacy

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Aly Raisman claims her Olympic legacy

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Aly Raisman was ready to claim her Olympic legacy. She just needed a little bit of karmic justice to help her do it. The ever-steady, ever-stoic captain of the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team made history during the event finals on Tuesday, becoming the first American to win gold on floor exercise. She added a bronze on balance beam to cap off an already impressive two-week run. Not bad for the athlete who's the often overlooked core of the superstar group of U.S. gymnasts known as the "Fierce Five." Five days after a tiebreaker cost her bronze in the all-around, Raisman won a tiebreaker to reach the podium on beam and turned the confidence boost into what she called the best floor routine of her life. "Wow!" she yelled after finishing four flawless tumbling runs over 90 nearly flawless seconds. Then she raced to hug coach Mihai Brestyan. He reminded her to enjoy the moment. "I told her, 'That's the maximum you can get, now just wait for the color,'" Brestyan said. It was gold. A sparkly bookend to the gold she helped the U.S. grab in the team finals last week. The victory gave Raisman three medals for the meet. One more than all-around champion Gabby Douglas. Two more than good friend and world champion Jordyn Wieber. This from a gymnast who has spent most of her career being too reliable for her own good. The 18-year-old lacks the bubbly star quality of Douglas or the driven intensity of Wieber. What she does have, however, is power to spare and a "team-first" mentality that filtered down through the ranks. "It looked like Aly always did the best for the team then when it came to do stuff for Aly Raisman, I don't know, she could not deliver her best," U.S. women's team coordinator Martha Karolyi said. Until the last day of perhaps the last major meet of her career. Raisman -- who lost a tiebreaker to Russia's Aliya Mustafina in the all-around finals that prevented her from joining Douglas on the podium -- appeared headed for a similar fate Tuesday when her beam score of 14.966 flashed on the screen. Brestyan raced over the judges for an inquiry, and after a quick review the bumped Raisman's difficulty score to a 6.3, pushing her into a tie with Romania's Catalina Ponor at 15.066. Raisman earned the medal for executing just a little bit better. Wieber and Douglas struggled following a draining 10 days, though for very different reasons. Wieber came in looking to win a handful of medals but ended up with just one -- the team gold -- after failing to qualify for the all-around finals and finishing seventh on floor. She flew out of bounds early during her first competitive event in a week and didn't come close to reaching the medal stand. Afterward coach John Geddert revealed she was dealing with a painful right leg injury that limited her training. When Wieber flies home to Michigan after the games, she'll do it wearing a walking boot to protect and ready for X-rays that Geddert expects to reveal a stress fracture. While Wieber insists her leg is "fine," Geddert is positive the pain and watered-down practices took its toll. "I know you're at the Olympic games, you've got to deal with what you've got to deal with," Geddert said. "The fact that we couldn't train normally, obviously there were very few performances that were polished and we've got to be polished here." It's a polish Douglas had in abundance in becoming the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around title. The subsequent hoopla left her drained for event finals. She was last on uneven bars on Monday and 24 hours later was a non-factor in the beam final after an uncharacteristic fall. "If it wasn't my time to shine, it wasn't my time to shine," Douglas said. "Overall I think the competition went really well. I wanted to finish off on a good note. Event finals is something a little extra." The U.S. finished with six medals in all, a solid number but four less than the 2008 team captured. Not that it matters, not after the group of teenagers stormed to victory in the team competition to give the Americans their first Olympic title in 16 years. "I feel it was extremely successful," Karolyi said. "It showed the power of this young generation and showed the mental toughness of this whole team. I can't wish for anything more." The men certainly could. The group that made its motto "One Team, One Dream" ended up walking away with just one medal, the bronze earned by Danell Leyva in the all-around. Leyva and teammate Jon Horton put together solid sets in the high bar final on Tuesday, but finished well behind gold medalist Epke Zonderland of The Netherlands, whose jaw-dropping score of 16.533 after a breathtaking display left Horton -- who had to go next -- laughing. "He makes my routine not so cool anymore," Horton said. Expect Horton to work on that. The 26-year-old team captain plans to work toward the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. He expects teammates Leyva, Sam Mikulak, John Orozco and Jake Dalton -- all 21 or younger -- to stick around too. There's more uncertainty surrounding one of the most decorated U.S. women's teams of all time. While 15-year-old Kyla Ross and 16-year-olds Douglas and McKayla Maroney could compete for awhile, the future is a bit cloudier for Raisman and Wieber. Wieber begins her senior year of high school in the fall, and Raisman has already graduated. They both plan to stay in training, but projecting four months down the road -- much less four years -- is difficult. Karolyi believes all five team members can continue to compete if they stay healthy but will understand if they don't. They've already reached the top for their sport. Anything else is just gravy.

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Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

The Capitals’ season ended a month ago, but Alex Ovechkin has yet to take his break.

That will happen soon enough, but for now Washington’s captain is leading Russia at the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Slovakia. After that, he gets his first real rest since the end of the 2016-17 season. He has played in 194 NHL games, including the postseason, in 18 months.  

Ovechkin will turn 34 on Sept. 17 and the questions now start in earnest: How long can one of the world’s greatest goal scorers keep up his pace? Ovechkin recorded his eighth 50-goal season this past season. And while it ended in disappointment with a first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ovechkin deserved little blame after adding four goals and five assists in the series.

“As a captain and as a leader, I thought he took another step this year from how he showed up to training camp to how he played all year long two-way hockey, commitment and when the games mattered the most,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said last month. “He scored big goals and showed fantastic playmaking ability. A physical force. I'm excited to see what he comes back with now after a little extended time away because he was tremendous this year.”

Washington won the Stanley Cup on June 7 in Las Vegas last year and after a hectic summer of celebrating and, eventually, training, players were back less than three months later for another grind of a season that ended after 89 more regular-season and playoff games. Ovechkin missed just one of them. 

Next year could be another one filled with milestones for Ovechkin. He doesn’t even need 50 to reach them. With 42 goals he reaches 700 for his career. Only seven players have ever hit that mark.  

Ovechkin passes Mario Lemieux (690) with 32 goals and moves into the top 10 all time. He has a reasonable chance to catch Brett Hull for second-most power-play goals (265) in NHL history. Ovechkin has 247 right now and has averaged 17 per year each of the past four seasons.     

At some point, even for Ovechkin, scoring 50 goals will be too much. Only Johnny Bucyk (36) and Jaromir Jagr (34) have ever topped 50 goals at an older age. But if he could just do it one more time he would tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most 50-goal seasons ever (nine). We’re at the point where nothing should surprise, but we’ve gone off the known map. 

“That's the best I've seen him play in my three years here,” teammate Lars Eller said. “He just took some games over. It was impressive. He was our best player. Him and Nick, but especially O, he just took it to another level. Physicality-wise, he enforced his will out there and when he decides to do that, he's almost unstoppable. That was exciting to see."

Almost everything Ovechkin does now is unprecedented. In the past 20 NHL seasons dating to 1998-99, there have been 28 different 50-goal seasons as scoring has become harder thanks to better goalie play, equipment and more tactical defensive systems. And yet Ovechkin owns 29 percent of those 50-goal seasons. His 89 points (51 goals, 38 assists) were his most since 2009-10.  

For now, Ovechkin will settle for another IIHF World Championship. He has helped Russia win gold at the event three times (2008, 2010 and 2014). 

But Russia was 6-0 heading into the matchup with Sweden on Tuesday night and had outscored its opponents 29-3 in Group B despite just a goal and an assist from Ovechkin. 

There can be wild fluctuations in the competition level during the group stage at Worlds. The Russians beat Italy 10-0 last week. And the United States, Canada and Finland are all formidable opponents in Group A. 

Russia will likely play one of those teams in the quarterfinals on Thursday so nothing is guaranteed. The semifinals would be Saturday if they do win and then the gold-medal game - or the bronze-medal game - would be Sunday. Then, finally, Ovechkin can rest and get ready for his 15th NHL season with two years left on his contract with the Capitals. 

“[Ovechkin] elevated his game in the first round. He's just got a hunger to him to contribute and to score goals,” teammate Brett Connolly said. “You could tell that he was committed and that he was going to give everything he had to win it again. He was great last year and arguably even better this year….This fan base is very lucky to watch what he does on a consistent basis. You're not going to see that ever again. So, enjoy it while it's here.” 

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Tim Connelly explains his interview with Wizards, decision to stay with Nuggets

Tim Connelly explains his interview with Wizards, decision to stay with Nuggets

Tim Connelly sat down with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis about the head front-office opening on Friday.

On Monday, NBC Sports Washington confirmed that he decided to stick with his role as president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets

A day later, he spoke to the media at a press conference and answered questions about his meeting with Washington.

Clear in Connelly's comments were his respect for Leonsis, but commitment to continuity in Denver. 

"I had a really nice conversation with Mr. Leonsis and his staff. He's a fantastic owner, I think a real visionary. I was really impressed by who he was and his thoughts for the team. That team's going to be special quickly under his leadership. We just had a conversation and not much more than that."

As for the reason for the discussion with Leonsis, Connelly said it came down to his love for the franchise. 

"I spent 14 years there. Certainly it's where I'm from, it's where my wife's from, so I just wanted to have the conversation because I care about the organization," he said.

"I'd never had an audience with [Leonsis], so to have that conversation and exchange of ideas, you know, it's flattering." 

Ultimately, however, the Baltimore native emphasized that Washington couldn't entice him away from the franchise he'd spent the last six years building. 

"Loyalty and patience is such a rarity in professional sports and that's here in spades. Those things matter to me," he said. "I had a hard time envisioning myself elsewhere."

With Connelly out of the picture, the list of candidates for the Wizards front-office opening is narrowing. Currently, Tommy Sheppard, Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver remain in the conversation. 

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