Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Vera Caslavska, gymnastics legend, dies at 74

Vera Caslavska
AP
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PRAGUE (AP) — Věra Čáslavská, the second-most decorated Olympic female gymnast who stood up against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, has died. She was 74.

The Czech Olympic Committee on Wednesday said Čáslavská died in Prague late Tuesday. Čáslavská had cancer of the pancreas and underwent surgery on May 15 last year, the committee previously said. She later had chemotherapy treatment.

Čáslavská won 11 Olympic medals, including seven golds, combined in the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympics.

She was mentioned many times going into and during the Rio Olympics as the last woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles, which Gabby Douglas was attempting to duplicate.

Only former Soviet star Larisa Latynina earned more Olympic medals among female gymnasts than Čáslavská, who doubles as the most decorated Czech Olympian of all time.

Born on May 3, 1942 in Prague, Čáslavská claimed her first Olympic medal — a silver — at the 1960 Rome Games.

Her golden era began four years later.

She won three Olympic golds in Tokyo in 1964 — in the vault, the individual all-round and the balance beam — to establish herself as a major force in her sport.

Four years later, Čáslavská became an outspoken supporter of Alexander Dubček‘s liberal reforms meant to lead toward democratization of communist Czechoslovakia, an era known as the Prague Spring. She signed the Two Thousand Words manifesto published in June 1968 that called for deeper pro-democratic changes. That document angered the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who ordered the Warsaw Pact’s troops to invade Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms in August.

Facing a possible persecution, Čáslavská went into hiding and was allowed only just before the Mexico Olympics to join the national gymnastics team.

She triumphed in four disciplines, winning the Olympic gold in the vault, the individual all-round, the floor exercises and the uneven bars. With another two silver medals at the 1968 Games, she became the top medalist and was later named the world’s female athlete of the year.

For many, she will be remembered for her silent protest against the Soviet invasion. Standing on the top of the medal stands alongside Soviet gymnast Larisa Petrik, with whom she shared the gold in the floor exercise, Čáslavská turned her head down and to the right when the Soviet national anthem was played.

Combined with her gymnastic performances, the gesture made her the star of the Games.

At home, Čáslavská faced persecution from the post-invasion hard-line Communist regime. It wasn’t until 1974 that she was allowed to work as coach in her country and later, in 1979-81, in Mexico.

After the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel ended more than 40 years of communism, Čáslavská became Havel’s adviser and was elected the president of the Czechoslovak and later of the Czech Olympic Committee. In 1995-2001, she was a member of the International Olympic Committee.

She received the U.N.’s Pierre de Coubertin Prize for promoting fair play in 1989 and was also awarded the Olympic Order.

In a personal setback, her marriage with Josef Odložil, an athlete whom she married during the Mexico Games, ended in the 1980s. Her son, Martin, was found guilty of assault that led to his father’s death in 1993 and was sentenced to four years in prison. Although he was soon pardoned by Havel, Čáslavská had to undergo treatment for depression and withdrew temporarily from the public life.

MORE: Simone Biles’ longtime coach takes new job

Amy Purdy, Winter Paralympic medalist, to perform at Rio Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Amy Purdy
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Amy Purdy made her name as a snowboardcross bronze medalist at the Sochi Paralympics and runner-up on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014.

In September, she’ll combine both.

Purdy will perform as a dancer in the Rio Paralympic Opening Ceremony on Sept. 7, in addition to being an NBC reporter during the Games.

She was told her performance will be four to five minutes. On “Dancing with the Stars,” her performances were about 90 seconds, she said. She traveled to Rio for a week of rehearsals in July.

Purdy, 36, survived bacterial meningitis in 1999 but lost both her legs and later needed a kidney from her father at age 20.

“I’m most excited about the concept of this dance,” Purdy said. “Just the idea of man versus machine. A lot of times we feel really limited because of our prosthetics. But this dance, hopefully, will kind of shatter those borders a little bit and allow me to move my body in a way I haven’t done before.”

Purdy is an innovator. She built her own snowboard and is seen as instrumental in getting her sport into the Paralympic program beginning in 2014.

A model, she’s been in a Madonna music video, a Super Bowl commercial, ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue and competed on “The Amazing Race” in 2012.

MORE: Rio Paralympic broadcast schedule