2016 Olympics

Maryland native pulls perhaps biggest upset of Olympics to win gold

Maryland native pulls perhaps biggest upset of Olympics to win gold

In what may be the upset of the Olympics to date, wrestler Helen Maroulis defeated Saori Yoshida of Japan on Thursday to capture a gold medal in the 53kg classification. 

With the victory, Maroulis - a native of Rockville, Maryland - became the first American woman to win a gold medal in wrestling. 

A heavy favorite, Yoshida won gold at each of the last three Olympics and - prior to her defeat against Maroulis - had suffered just two losses in her illustrious international career. The 33-year-old claimed gold at 13 different World Championships dating back to 2002.

After her historic win, Maroulis spoke with CSN’s Sebastian Salazar - who is in Rio covering the Olympics for NBC Sports. Watch the video here.

Despite winning gold at last year’s World Championships in Las Vegas, Maroulis entered Thursday’s competition as somewhat of an underdog and had to win a qualification match against Ukraine’s Yuliia Khavaldzy just to enter the main draw. From there she rattled off three straight wins before defeating the legendary Yoshida by a 4-1 decision in the final.

Maroulis attended Montgomery County’s Magruder High School. 

U.S. swimmer, Rockville native Conger set to leave Brazil after testifying

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USA TODAY Sports

U.S. swimmer, Rockville native Conger set to leave Brazil after testifying

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazilian police said Thursday that swimmer Ryan Lochte and three U.S. teammates were not robbed after a night of partying, and the intoxicated athletes instead vandalized a gas station bathroom and were questioned by armed guards before they paid for the damage and left.

The robbery that was or wasn't has become the biggest spectacle outside of the Olympic venues in Rio, casting a shadow over American Olympians amid an otherwise remarkable run at the Summer Games. The ordeal was also a blow to Brazilians, who for months endured scrutiny about whether the city could keep athletes and tourists safe given its long history of violence.

"No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed," Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said during a news conference.

The police account came in direct contrast to claims from Lochte's attorney earlier in the week. The attorney, Jeff Ostrow, had insisted the swimmer had nothing to gain by making the story up. He, as well as Lochte's father and agent, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The swimmers could potentially face punishment -- probation, suspension, a fine or expulsion -- under USA Swimming's code of conduct. It was not clear if the swimmers would face criminal charges, though police said the athletes could be charged with destruction of property, falsely reporting a crime or both.

Two of the swimmers -- Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger -- checked in to a flight out of Brazil late Thursday after a judge lifted the order seizing their passports and keeping them in the country. They had testified about the incident earlier in the day, and Brazilians chanted "liar" as they left the police building.

"They did not lie in their statements. They never lied to journalists. They only stayed quiet. They did not know what was going on," attorney Sergio Riera said.

Lochte initially said that he and Conger, Bentz and teammate Jimmy Feigen were held at gunpoint and robbed several hours after the last Olympic swimming races ended. But police then said they didn't have evidence to substantiate the claim. Their passports were ordered seized so the investigation could continue, but Lochte had already left the country.

While some details in the official account of the story changed on Thursday -- police first said no guns were involved, then said two guards pointed weapons at the swimmers -- security video confirmed the athletes vandalized parts of the gas station, leading to an encounter with station employees.

The closed-circuit video shows one of the swimmers pulling a sign off of a wall and dropping it onto the ground. A gas station worker arrives, and other workers inspect the damage. Veloso said the swimmers broke a door, a soap dispenser and a mirror.

The swimmers eventually talk with station workers as their cab leaves.

As they talk, two of the swimmers briefly raise their hands and all four sit down on a curb. After a few minutes, the swimmers stand up and appear to exchange something -- perhaps cash, as police said -- with one of the men.

The footage doesn't show a weapon, but a police official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing said two guards pointed guns at the swimmers. Veloso said the guards did not use excessive force and would have been justified in drawing their weapons because the athletes "were conducting themselves in a violent way."

A station employee called police, and the guards and employees tried to get the swimmers and the taxi driver to stay until authorities arrived, some even offering to help interpret between English and Portuguese, Veloso said. But he said the athletes wanted to leave, so paid 100 Brazilian reals (about US $33) and $20 in U.S. currency and left.

Conger and Bentz told authorities that the story of the robbery had been fabricated, said the police official who spoke to the AP about the guns. Feigen's whereabouts -- and if he would give a statement -- were not known.

Police said the swimmers were unable to provide key details in early interviews, saying they had been intoxicated. The police official said officers grew suspicious when security video showed the swimmers returning to the athletes village wearing watches, which would have likely been taken in a robbery.

"We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over," Lochte told NBC's "Today" the morning after the incident. "They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground -- they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so -- I'm not getting down on the ground.

"And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, `Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like `whatever.' He took our money, he took my wallet -- he left my cellphone, he left my credentials."

But Lochte backed off some of those claims as the week went on, saying the taxi wasn't pulled over, and that the athletes were robbed after stopping at a gas station. Lochte also said a man pointed a gun toward him, but not at his head.

The swimmers did not call police, authorities said, and officers only began investigating after they saw news coverage with Lochte's mother speaking about the incident. Lochte also said the swimmers didn't initially tell U.S. Olympic officials what happened because "we were afraid we'd get in trouble."

While he's medaled often, Lochte's accomplishments have long been overshadowed by teammate Michael Phelps -- the most decorated Olympian in history. Lochte, a 12-time medalist, won a gold in Rio in a relay race alongside Phelps.

The robbery debacle prompted both wild speculation and social media mockery, which quickly turned to scorn after the official account went public. (hash)LochteGate was trending on Twitter, with users sharing video footage and posting comments about white privilege and rude Americans. Memes mocking the Lochte lie proliferated almost immediately.

David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia, said the incident touched a nerve in Brazil because of the country's history and cases of people committing crimes while impersonating police.

"The story did have some sense of validity but it didn't bear out and it made them look bad worldwide," he said.

UPDATE: Rockville swimmer Jack Conger detained in Rio, group admits fabricating robbery story

UPDATE: Rockville swimmer Jack Conger detained in Rio, group admits fabricating robbery story

UPDATED 8/18/16 1:05 p.m.

A local swimmer has been caught up in the Rio police investigation into whether Ryan Lochte was robbed at gunpoint during the Olympic Games. 

Jack Conger – from Rockville, Md. – was one of three members of the U.S. swim team accompanying Lochte when the alleged holdup occurred. The others were Gunnar Bentz and James Feigen. 

Only Lochte and Feigen originally spoke to police about the incident, which has since prompted an investigation into whether the swimmers fabricated their story, a crime in itself. 

On Wednesday a Rio judge ordered that Lochte's and Feigen's passports be confiscated, but Lochte had already returned to the U.S. and Feigen's whereabouts were unknown. 

Brazilian police discovered that Feigen had checked in online for a flight out of Rio Wednesday, but did not show up for his plane. Conger and Bentz, meanwhile, had boarded their flight, but were removed by police for questioning.

The U.S. Olympic Committee provided this update Thursday morning: 

The three U.S. Olympic swimmers (Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen) are cooperating with authorities and in the process of scheduling a time and place today to provide further statements to the Brazilian authorities. All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio.

Evolving Story

Though the initial inquiry focused on the alleged robbery, the Rio police investigation turned on the American swimmers as authorities could find no evidence to support their claims.

Conflicting and changing accounts from that evening first raised suspicion. Here's a quick timeline of events:

Aug. 14:

• News broke of the alleged robbery when Lochte's mother, Ileana, reported to the press that her son and his companions were robbed when men with guns stopped their taxi and demanded their wallets.

• Later that day, Lochte himself told NBC that the assailants presented a police badge and that one cocked a gun and held it to his forehead. 

Aug. 16:

• Lochte arrived back in the U.S. as originally scheduled. He said the American swimmers did not report the incident to police or Olympic officials out of fear that they had broken USOC rules and could get in trouble.

• Meanwhile back in Rio, police said that Lochte's and Feigen's statements about the events were inconsistent and vague on key details, possibly because they were drunk. 

Aug. 17:

• British paper The Daily Mail published what it claims was security footage of the U.S. swimmers arriving back at the Olympic Village after the incident. Video showed the four joking around with each other and in possession of valuables like watches.

• Brazilian Judge Keyla Blanc De Cnop issued the order to seize Lochte's and Feigen's passports, citing the suspiciously carefree behavior in the video as part of her judgment. She also revealed that Lochte said there was one robber in his statement to police, while Feigen said there were multiple. The men also reportedly were unable to say what time or where the robbery occurred.  

• Police arrived at the Olympic Village to confiscate the passports, but found that Lochte was already in the U.S. and the rest of the swimmers has moved out. That night, Conger and Bentz were removed from their flights. Feigen's whereabouts remained unknown.

• Speaking by phone to NBC's Matt Lauer, Lochte insisted that he did not and would not fabricate such a story. Several details changed in his latest retelling, including that the robbery occurred after the group's taxi had stopped to use a gas station bathroom (not that their taxi was stopped by the suspects), and that the gun was aimed near him (not held to his forehead). 

Aug. 18:

• USOC's statement said Feigen, Conger and Bentz had legal counsel and support of the U.S. Consulate. The three planed to meet with Brazilian authorities for questioning today. 

• ABC News reported that police sources recovered surveillance video from the gas station that night. It showed one swimmer "breaking down the door to the bathroom at the gas station and fighting with a security guard." 

• Another police source told the Associated Press that the swimmers invented the robbery story to conceal the confrontation at the gas station. The source said that one swimmer tried and failed to open the bathroom door, prompting his companions to push on the door and break it. A security guard with a gun then confronted the group, but did not draw his weapon or aim it at anyone. The gas station manager arrived on the scene, and with translation help from another customer, demanded that the Americans pay for the broken door. The swimmers gave him an undetermined amount of money and left. Lochte then told his mother the robbery story, and she relayed it to the media. 

• A worker from the gas station in question came forward with another variation of the night's events. 

• Around noon Thursday, ESPN reported that Lochte's three teammates admitted that the robbery story was false. 

Legal Consequences

According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, filing a false police report is against the law in Brazil as it is in the U.S. A conviction of the crime can carry a six-month jail sentence or fine, but the Brazilian judicial system would have to determine that the swimmers knowingly lied, as opposed to confused the story after drinking heavily. 

The U.S. and Brazil have an extradition treaty, but it only applies to certain serious crimes, not offenses like filing a false police report. Lochte will almost certainly not be extradited. 

Conger, Bentz and Feigen could be detained in Brazil for an extended time as authorities conduct interviews and determine charges. If charged with filing a false police report or obstruction of justice, the Americans may be able to post bail provided that they do not leave the country. 

The U.S. State Department will almost certainly get involved in the case to expedite a resolution and ensure the swimmers are treated fairly. It's possible that diplomacy, rather than the legal system, will resolve this situation. 

Conger a Montgomery County Kid

As of 1:00 p.m., local news trucks and police vehicles have gathered in front of Conger's home in the Flower Valley neighborhood of Rockville. 

Conger swam locally for Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club and Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md. He went on to swim collegiately for University of Texas. 

While representing Good Counsel at the Metros in 2013, Conger posted a 4:13.87 time in the 500-yard freestyle, obliterating a 30-year-old National High School record by 3 full seconds. 

The 21-year-old finished in the top four of three events at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. His third-place in the 200-meter freestyle earned him a spot on the Olympic roster. 

Once in Rio, Conger won a gold medal as part of the 800-meter freestyle relay team.

Additional information sourced from CNN and SwimSwam.com.