Swimmers Franklin, Lochte return to the pool in Austin

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Missy Franklin is back.

The 17-year-old swimmer, who won four gold medals and one bronze at the London Olympics last summer, recently made waves when she returned to high school meets. Now she’ll make her 2013 debut at the national level at this weekend’s Austin Grand Prix.

Franklin will be joined by 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and a host of other Olympians, including Chloe Sutton, Kate Ziegler, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers, Ricky Berens, Tyler Clary and Conor Dwyer. The meet will be contested at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center at the University of Texas.

Action starts Friday morning with prelims; finals will be Friday-Sunday night.

Here are three things to watch at the meet:

Low numbers
Typically at these Grand Prix meets, swimmers have to navigate a chaotic scene in the pool during warm-ups. There are so many swimmers that it’s a wonder collisions don’t occur. (Actually they do – Michael Phelps broke his goggles after colliding with Australian Cate Campbell at the 2009 World Championships.) We won’t see those kinds of problems in Austin this weekend, however. It’s a much smaller field at this meet, with some events like the women’s 200m breaststroke boasting just seven swimmers. Others like the men’s 200m freestyle has 38 entries.

We checked with USA Swimming, who told us the reason is that the time standards were lowered for Austin and for the next Grand Prix meet in Orlando. For the three meets after that, the times are a bit more lax – so we should see bigger fields then.

Men’s 100m freestyle
With nine Olympians in the field (including the top seven seeds), this will probably be the most exciting race of the meet. There’s Nathan Adrian, who won the gold medal in London by .01 of a second. Lochte’s there too, as is Jimmy Feigen, Garrett Weber-Gale, Grevers, Berens, Anthony Irvin, Dwyer and Charlie Houchin. That group owns a combined 31 Olympic medals.

Missy’s medals
How many races will Missy Franklin win? She’s entered in six events – 100m/200m/400m freestyle, 100m/200m backstroke and the 200m IM. The backstroke is her best stroke so figure she’ll win those two races. She’s strong in the 100m and 200m freestyle – let’s go with one gold and one silver. The 400m freestyle is a toss up. Franklin’s not known as an IMer but she’s not competing against a real strong field, so let’s assume she’ll at least win a medal (silver, for the sake of this blog post). That’s five medals – three gold and two silver. Agree?

Watch the action Saturday and Sunday night on Universal Sports TV.

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37