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The Week In Sports

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The Week In Sports

Sports

The Week In Sports

The Week In Sports

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Five months from now, the Olympics open in Brazil. Are the stadiums ready? Are the athletes? NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, talks to sport's correspondent, Tom Goldman.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins me now. Only five months, Tom. Five months till the Rio Olympics, and you and I are going to be there together.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: That's right. And let's start with me asking you something. This will be my 11th Olympics. And I cannot remember a host country dealing with so many issues in the run-up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, I know.

GOLDMAN: You are our Brazil expert. Do you think the country's ready right now?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, it's just been such a bumpy ride. There's so much controversy right now. The president's facing impeachment, the economy's in a freefall. The Olympics budget has been slashed. I mean - and let's not even talk about the Zika virus. But I just want to pretend for a minute that all that isn't happening and I want to talk about the athletes. What can we look forward to?

GOLDMAN: Oh, yes, sport is the great diversion. OK, so a couple of stories you'll hear a lot. Can two highly decorated Olympians, swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt, finish their final games in style? Phelps is trying to add to his best ever total of 18 gold metals. Bolt is trying to be the first to win the two sprints, 100 and 200 meters, and the 4 by 100 relay in a third straight Olympics. So we'll see if they can get that done.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Two incredible athletes. Other potential athletes of note?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, American swimmers Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, big things are expected from them. Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura, remember that name, trying to win a second straight Olympic gold in the men's individual all-around event. And then, you know, the host country, Lulu, always puts a lot of time and money into developing what it hopes are Olympic champions.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They do.

GOLDMAN: Two potential heroes in your country.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes.

GOLDMAN: Swimmer Mateo Santana and archer Marcus D'Almeida. He is nicknamed the Neymar of Archery, so watch out for them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though, does it? The Neymar of Archery. The IOC recently changed the rules. Let's switch gear a little bit and talk about headgear for boxing. Men are no longer required to wear protective gear, though women still are. Can you explain this to me?

GOLDMAN: I'll try. The IOC OK'd a rule passed a few years ago by the International Boxing Federation. Male Olympians won't wear headgear in Rio. It'll be the first time since 1984. The federation says it's done research showing this will actually reduce concussions. Now, that sounds counterintuitive. I talked to one of the country's most respected concussion experts, Dr. Robert Cantu from Boston University. He agrees it doesn't add up. He says he's seen the data, but doesn't think it's been studied enough. Like football helmets, boxing headgear doesn't prevent concussions. But Dr. Cantu is skeptical that even getting rid of the headgear would reduce them. So a little confusing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: And as you say, the women will wear the gear.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, I don't want to end this on a sad note, but we did learn yesterday that Bud Collins, the legendary tennis commentator, died.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, he was 86. He'll be remembered, of course, for those zany pants - so many colors, so many patterns - and for his absolute love of tennis, which he conveyed so well in print and on TV. I'll always remember those post-match interviews at Wimbledon, like this one in 1985 with the great champion Martina Navratilova.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUD COLLINS: You and Suzanna Lenglen are the only ones to win six for six out of six tries. So look at this lovely face of history, the empress. Thank you. Good luck in both doubles.

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Thanks, Bud.

COLLINS: OK, Martina. Back to Dick Enberg.

GOLDMAN: You know, Lulu, you can hear his command of history there. You can hear his affection for Navratilova. He loved the players. But he was still able to be a very good journalist and ask the tough questions. Bud Collins was a huge part of the sport. He'll be greatly missed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thanks for joining us, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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