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Shawn Johnson was hurt by criticism about her weight

Shawn Johnson seems like she has everything going for her, but even someone considered “America’s most-liked sports figure” battles self-esteem and weight issues.

The Olympic gold medalist and winner of the popular “Dancing With the Stars” TV show admitted recently that she was hurt by criticism about her weight.

“At my heaviest all the tabloids said some pretty hurtful things,” Johnson said at an Olympics media summit on Monday.

“That whole process kind of broke me down and taught me something. People put too much emphasis on looks.”

The 4’9″ gymnast has lost 25 pounds since beginning her Olympics comeback (she’s hoping to participate in the London Games). She expressed concern over the message the media and other critics send.

“We’re taught at such a young age that you can always be better and that you’re never perfect and that you’re never good enough,” she said. “You find your worth in someone else and what they say just from having looked at you. It’s hard. I was at the Olympic Games winning medals and I still doubted my image. I doubted what I looked like. That’s sad. Girls should be taught different than that. I think everyone should be taught different than that.”

It really is unfair when Johnson faces such criticism. At 4’9″, she has a smaller frame and very little margin for error when it comes to her weight. People also need to remember that she was only 16 when she became famous at the Beijing Olympics. Bodies evolve as people get older; it’s no different for Johnson.

What’s also interesting is that she’s not the first Olympian who has voiced concerns of this nature recently.

Note: This post also appeared on Medal Detector
Photo Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Australian shooter Russell Mark has to wear Borat mankini to Olympic opening ceremonies because of lost bet

And the award for best-dressed athlete at the London Olympics opening ceremonies goes to … Russell Mark. How do we know that already? The Australian shooting gold medalist recently lost a bet, and as a result he is required to parade at the opening ceremonies in a lime-green mankini similar to the one Sacha Baron Cohen wore in the movie “Borat” several years ago.

According to the Telegraph, the bet revolved around an Australian rules football match. Mark promised that he would wear the swimsuit if Carlton lost its Australian Football League match to St. Kilda and sure enough — well, you know.

“Oh, I must’ve been intoxicated,” the 48-year-old Mark said Tuesday. “Carlton promise so much and just deliver so little. It kills me.”

“Anyway, a lot of people would think a mankini might look better than the uniform they’ve nominated for us, so I don’t know if it’s such a bad thing.”

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Manchester United reportedly blocking its stars from Olympics

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has already said this week that his striker Javier Hernandez won’t be competing in the Olympics this summer for his native Mexico. But apparently he won’t be the only Man U player blocked from competing in London.

The English juggernaut has reportedly placed an embargo on its players after writing a letter to the English Football Association warning Great Britain coach Stuart Pearce to not select any of its over-age players. Men’s soccer teams at the Olympics are under-23 squads but are permitted to have three players over the age limit.

The lone player Man U is willing to concede from its blockade is 38-year-old midfielder Ryan Giggs, who as a Welsh international has never competed in a major international tournament. That would mean Man U stars Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney are restricted from being part of Team GB. However, it was already unlikely that Pearce would have called upon them. Ferdinand and Rooney are both standouts for England, which is set to compete in the Euro Cup in June, and Pearce has said he would not choose any English players who compete at Euros.

In the past, FIFA allowed clubs to block all their players from competing in the Olympcs. Only recently did it relent in advance for the London games, making clubs leave their under-23 players available for Olympic duty (which sounds in tune to what David Stern reportedly wants to do with basketball).

But, all in all, Man U definitely isn’t the only club with this attitude. It’s just doing what’s in its best interests. And Mark Cuban is probably somewhere giving them a standing O for it.

Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Olympic blog Medal Detector

Photo credit: Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

Azerbaijan’s wrestling team smells awful, uses Febreze (Video)

In case you were dying for proof that Febreze could eliminate the grimiest of stenches, here is Azerbaijan’s wrestling team dousing all of its equipment with the product after working up a massive sweat to make themselves extra musty.

Blindfolded people were then brought in to see if they could decipher what they were smelling. That the people were making guesses such as “potpourri factory,” “a field with a picnic” and “passionfruit” while their faces were nearly buried in shoes, head gear and wrestling leotards (sadly, no cups) makes this video extra delightful. Imagine their amusement when they took off their blindfolds to see they weren’t in a field of flowers but rather a dingy gym with a bunch of sweaty, smelly wrestlers.

As for the members of the Azerbaijani wrestling team, they’ve probably just been outed as the smelliest bros competing at Olympics this summer. Smelly, but hopefully at least stylish.

H/T Deadspin
Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Medal Detector blog

Michael Phelps credits Ray Lewis for motivation

Burned out by the rigors it took to amass eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008, Michael Phelps wasn’t sure if he’d have enough motivation to want to compete in another Olympic games.

But, thankfully for swimming fans and Team USA’s medal count, Phelps was able to rekindle his enthusiasm, and he says some of the credit for getting him over the hump belongs to a famous NFL player.

“Someone who helped me find the passion back was Ray Lewis,” Phelps said back in March. “He’s been able to help me kind of just find me.”

Hardly a surprising compliment for the all-pro linebacker, whom Phelps, a native of Baltimore and a big Ravens fan, has become close with. In March, a video of Lewis giving a rousing pregame speech to the Stanford men’s basketball team during its NIT championship run created a buzz around the Internet.

“I love to watch him play. It sends chills up my spine,” Phelps told The Baltimore Sun. “And his words are so powerful. It’s what friends are for.”

Now the question remains if Phelps will have Lewis tag along to London to preach about being “pissed off for greatness” before big races.

H/T Pro Football Talk
Photo credit: Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Medal Detector blog

Usain Bolt reportedly breaks up with girlfriend to focus on training

What won’t Olympians do to focus on their training as they prepare for the Summer Games? We already heard about swimmer Ryan Lochte cutting out fast food and candy from his diet, and now we’re hearing that sprinter Usain Bolt broke up with his girlfriend in order to focus on his training.

The Jamaica Star reported on Thursday that Bolt, 25, has put his relationship with 28-year-old fashion designer Lubica Slovak on hold.

Their report states that Bolt wants to “focus his energies on creating new records on the track,” and that he “cannot afford any distraction at this time.”

Another report says the split “was a mutual decision between two adults.”

The two reportedly had been dating since last December.

While Bolt’s desire to focus on the Olympics is likely a big reason for the break up/temporary split, there could be more to the story.

Bolt’s relationship with Slovak was heavily scrutinized after a picture of the couple kissing was published in the Jamaican Observer. Many Jamaicans felt a sense of betrayal by Bolt because he was dating a white woman.

Let’s hope Bolt is only postponing the relationship because of training purposes, not because he’s succumbing to public pressure. His countrymen don’t have any place telling him who he should or should not date.

Note: This post also appeared on Medal Detector
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Ryan Lochte says he gave up fast food, candy to improve training

Ryan Lochte is one of the top swimmers in the world, but his ability and accomplishments were overshadowed by Michael Phelps’ historic performance at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Motivated by a desire to achieve more at the London Olympics, Lochte says he made some changes to his diet and training.

“I wasn’t really happy with the way 2008 turned out for me,” Lochte told The Associate Press. “I wanted to change some things. I started eating healthier. I actually gave up fast food. I gave up candy and potato chips and everything else. I started watching what I ate.”

His diet isn’t the only thing he changed.

“I took my weight training to a new level,” he said. “I got a lot stronger, a lot bigger. I think it showed in the past three years how I progressed. So, hopefully, this summer, I’ll keep it going.”

Perhaps it’s the focused attitude and determination that leaves Lochte constantly believing that he will be the star of these Olympics.

“This is my time,” he keeps saying.

“I feel like that,” Lochte said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I definitely feel like that. Just all that hard work, all those hours in the pool, I feel like it’s about to pay off. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see this summer.”

I would contrast Lochte’s changes with Phelps’ purported diet, but the six-time gold medalist recently said his 12,000 calorie-a-day diet is just a myth. We’re expecting big things from Lochte at this summer’s games.

Photo Credit: OSports via US PRESSWIRE
Note: This post also appeared on Medal Detector