Serena Williams healthy, ready for Olympics

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LONDON — Serena Will­iams says her back is just fine and won’t hamper her attempt at another title at Wimbledon.

A worker carries a board while installing a display of international flags across the street from Big Ben Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in London. The city will host the 2012 London Olympics with opening ceremonies scheduled for Friday, July 27.  CHARLIE RIEDEL/ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHARLIE RIEDEL/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A worker carries a board while installing a display of international flags across the street from Big Ben Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in London. The city will host the 2012 London Olympics with opening ceremonies scheduled for Friday, July 27.

But whether she’ll go for three Olympic golds or just two is still up in the air.

Williams pulled out of a World Team Tennis match last week to rest her back ahead of the London Olympics, but said Tuesday that she is fit and ready for a quick return to the All England Club. She won her fifth Wimbledon title in London this month, and also teamed with sister Venus to win the doubles tournament.

“I feel really good going into these Olympic Games, and wanting to do really well,” Serena Williams said at a news conference with the U.S. team.

Venus and Serena will try to defend their doubles gold medal as well, though the team has yet to announce which players will feature in mixed doubles.

PLEASE DON’T BUG ME: New Zealand is taking no chances with the health of its rowing squad.

A quarantine was in operation Tuesday for the team’s first and only press access before the Olympic regatta begins on Saturday.

Media members who had arrived in Britain less than 48 hours previously were banned from attending.

Officials wouldn’t say whether the decision was made as a direct result of the bug picked up by standout Mahe Drysdale just before the single sculls event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, which cost him the chance of the gold medal. He started a clear favorite but finished third.

IT’S BEEN A SCORCHER: Tuesday officially was the hottest day of the year in Britain. A temperature of 85.5 degrees was recorded in the southeast of the country near Gatwick Airport outside London. True, if you’re in Arizona (where parts of old London Bridge now sit), that’s not too bad. But for London, it’s pretty intense.

After initially predicting a chance of rain, forecasters now say the dry conditions might hold out for Friday’s opening ceremony.

RIVER GOLF: PGA Tour play­ers Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson previewed golf’s inclusion at the 2016 Olympics by hitting balls toward a floating green on London’s River Thames.

The tee box was on a barge and the floating green bobbed under the giant Olympic rings on the historic bridge. Using lob wedges, Garcia and Johnson hit balls from an artificial turf island from around 75 yards through the rings.

Golf will be included at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, returning for the first time since 1904.

Said Garcia just before the stunt on the choppy water: “Courses usually don’t move this much, but it’s definitely going to be fun.”

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan had a bit of trouble getting into the Olympic Park when the American tennis team arrived in London, but it had nothing to do with security guards trying to tell them apart.

The Bryan brothers, among the favorites in the men’s doubles tournament, missed the team’s news conference because they were stopped at the security check point. According to Tim Curry, the director of the U.S. Tennis Association, they had failed to go to the proper welcoming desk to have their accreditations validated.

“They were trying to get by with the non-laminated one, which is step No. 1: Laminate your credential,” Curry said. “They got stopped in security and are heading back to the welcome center.”

GOLD IS NOT THE ONLY COLOR: With tennis players getting a respite from the traditional all-white outfits usually donned at Wimbledon, Venus Williams is going all out to flaunt some red and blue as well.

The defending Olympic doubles champion arrived in London with her hair done up in thin braids, with extensions inserted in various variations of red, white and blue. To that she added plenty of blue eye makeup and bright red lipstick, for a distinctly patriotic look.

“I’m here to represent the U.S., from head to toe basically. Hair right down to the finger nails,” Williams said at a news conference with the American team. “It’s just so much fun, I think we all find how proud we are of where we come from when these weeks come around. It’s just fun and amazing to just represent, we all feel that way.”

ELUSIVE NORTH KOREANS: The North Korean women’s soccer team is eligible to play at the Olympics despite being banned from the next World Cup after five players tested positive for steroids.

Team officials at the time said the players failed the test because they’d been given musk deer gland therapy after getting struck by lightning during training.

It seems they’re taking no chances this time. Says coach Sin Ui Gun: “There is a hall with some games machines and table tennis. They love to spend the time inside because in Glasgow, as you know, it rains quite heavily on us.”

STEPPING ASIDE: The most decorated woman in the history of British gymnastics isn’t ready to call it quits, but 27-year-old Beth Tweddle says she won’t be around for Rio in 2016.

The three-time world championship gold medalist plans to keep on training after the games because “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself,” but says she’ll cede the stage to “the younger generation” well before Rio.

FAMILY REUNION: On Friday in London, sprinter Jeneba Tarmoh will meet her half brother for the first time. It’s been in the works since she made the U.S. Olympic team as a member of the relay pool.

Tarmoh says her brother John Mannah was born in Sierra Leone and moved to London with his father when he was 8 years old. Her mother ended up relocating to San Jose, Calif., where Tarmoh grew up.

Although she’s never met him, Tarmoh has talked to her sibling on the phone. He’s 15 years older than her.

Her plan: to catch up over dinner at his house.

“It’s going to be great running and meeting my brother for the first time, having my nieces and nephews watch me in my element,” Tarmoh says.


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