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Lochte, Franklin return to the pool in Minneapolis

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After an extended, post-London break, some of the top American swimmers return to competition this weekend at the Minneapolis Grand Prix. Here are a few things to know heading into the three-day meet, which will be contested in a short-course yards format.

Ryan Lochte has his work cut out for him. The 11-time Olympic medalist is signed up for 11 events, and if he makes it to the finals in each one that equals 33 swims. Obviously he’ll drop a race here and there but that’s a daunting schedule.

Speaking of Lochte, this is his first meet of the Ryan Lochte era. With the retirement of Michael Phelps, Lochte is the dominant male swimmer on the U.S. team – and in the world. Lochte, 28, said he wants to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He’ll be 32 at those Games – older than most dominant athletes in the sport.

While we’re on the subject of eras, Missy Franklin’s resumes in Minnesota. The 17-year-old won five medals (four gold) at her Olympic debut in London. She won the 2010-11 Grand Prix series title and was third in the 2011-12 competition. Franklin’s journey to Rio starts this weekend.

Another swimmer that could benefit from Phelps’ retirement is Conor Dwyer. The 23-year-old trains with Lochte at the University of Florida. They work out together with strength coach Matt DeLancey using tractor-sized tires, boat chains and beer kegs. Dwyer even appears in a workout video Lochte recently released. The point is that the more time Dwyer spends with Lochte, the faster he’ll get. Dwyer won a gold medal with the 4x200m freestyle relay team in London. At the Olympic Trials, he finished behind Phelps, Lochte and Ricky Berens in the 200m freestyle and behind Phelps and Lochte in the 200m IM.

You might remember the name Becca Mann from the Olympic Trials. She was the 14-year-old who finished sixth in the 400m freestyle, fifth in the 800m freestyle and fifth in the 400m IM. This weekend, Mann is slated to tackle six events: 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200m IM, 400m IM, 500m freestyle and the 1650m freestyle. Will we see a breakout performance from this young phenom?

Watch the prelims and finals live on USASwimming.org all weekend starting Friday at 10 a.m. ET.

Adelina Sotnikova likely to skip whole season, eyes 2018 Olympics

SAITAMA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 03:  Adelina Sotnikova of Russia competes in the Ladies Singles Free Skating during the Japan Open 2015 Figure Skating at Saitama Super Arena on October 3, 2015 in Saitama, Japan.  (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)
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Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova will miss the Russian Championships later this month and will likely sit out this whole season but still hopes to defend her title in Pyeongchang, according to R-Sport.

Earlier this year, Sotnikova stopped preseason training due to a health issue, decided not to compete but rather perform in less-demanding ice shows this fall, according to the report, citing her manager.

Sotnikova, 20, last competed at the 2015 Russian Championships, finishing sixth and failing to make the three-woman Russian team for last season’s European and world championships.

She did not compete in major events in the 2014-15 season due to injury and in 2015-16 skated at one top-level international event, finishing third at the November 2015 Rostelecom Cup in Moscow.

In Sochi, Sotnikova became the first Olympic women’s figure skating champion without a prior Olympic or world championships individual medal.

Russian women’s figure skating has only solidified in Sotnikova’s absence since Sochi, complicating her path to making the 2018 Olympic team.

Yevgenia Medvedeva and Anna Pogorilaya were the two best female skaters this fall. Yelena Radionova and Maria Sotskova will join them in the six-skater Grand Prix Final this week.

Russia can send three women to the European Championships in January and world championships in March. The results of the Russian Championships later this month will largely determine the makeup of those teams.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues approved for new sports

Yokohama Stadium
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Tokyo 2020 venues for the new Olympic sports of baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

That brings the total number of Tokyo 2020 venues to 39, with the potential for more.

The venues for new sports:

Baseball/softball — Yokohama Stadium (20 miles south of Tokyo)
Karate — Nippon Budokan
Skateboarding and Sport Climbing — Aomi Urban Sports Venue
Surfing — Tsurigasaki Beach

All of the new sports do not currently have a spot on the Olympic program beyond 2020 (baseball and softball were previously on the Olympic program before being taken off after Beijing 2008).

Agenda 2020 reforms allowed Olympic host cities to propose the addition of sports for their Games only, which is what Tokyo 2020 did to get them on the program.

The Tokyo Olympic venues are split between two zones — the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone — that are separated by the Olympic Village.

Tokyo 2020 and FIFA are still discussing the finalization of soccer venues. There are currently six, including two in Tokyo and one as far away as Sapporo (650 miles north).

Tokyo 2020 and the World Baseball Softball Confederation are still discussing the potential of adding a second baseball-softball venue in Fukushima prefecture, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami. Fukushima is about 150 miles north of Tokyo.

The Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants and several MLB and World Baseball Classic games, is not a 2020 Olympic venue.

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic volleyball venue could be moved

Tokyo Olympic venues