Ryan Lochte

What U.S. swim stars have been up to since London Olympics

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The year after an Olympics is often break time for athletes recovering to gear up for the next Games. That’s not apparent at this week’s USA Swimming national championships. Most of the 35 U.S. medalists at the London Aquatics Centre are in the field at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis through Sunday. They’re bidding for top-two finishes to qualify for individual events at the world championships in Barcelona, which begin July 28.

Who isn’t swimming in Indy? The retired Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak and Peter Vanderkaay, as well as Brendan Hansen. Rebecca Soni and Eric Shanteau are on extended post-Olympic breaks.

Of the headliners competing, here’s a look at what they’ve been up to since London:

Ryan Lochte: What has Ryan Lochte done? Well, his own TV show, for starters. He’s also decided to leave his longtime training base, Gainesville, Fla., for a fresh environment after worlds. Despite words of warning Troy for lackluster early-season times, Lochte’s still the class of the American men across several events, going into nationals with the top U.S. times in the 200 backstroke, 100 butterfly and 200 and 400 individual medleys, according to FINA. Lochte entered 11 events at nationals, but he will surely scratch some.

Missy Franklin: The bubbly five-time 2012 medalist hasn’t slowed down too much in or out of the pool. She met Justin Bieber, chose a college, graduated high school and met Prince Harry among other dryland exploits. In a suit, she’s still a record-breaker. She lowered the national championship mark in winning the 100-meter freestyle in 53.43 on Monday. Franklin’s plenty busy in Indianapolis, having entered six events.

Allison Schmitt: Schmitt, a five-time medalist in London, capped her collegiate career with three more NCAA titles and Georgia’s first team title since 2005. She returned to the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (as did her coach, Bob Bowman, after nine months away). At nationals, she was less than her dominant self to start out, missing the A final in the 100 and 200 free.

Nathan Adrian: The sizzling sprinter can focus solely on professional swimming, having graduated from Cal last year. Adrian told SwimSwam.com in April he’s added 10 pounds, most of it muscle, that may help his explosiveness in the 50 free. Adrian backed up his Olympic gold in the 100 free by besting a field that included six Olympic champions on the opening night of nationals. He’s booked for Barcelona.

Natalie Coughlin: Many thought Coughlin, 31, would hang up her suit after collecting her 12th Olympic medal in the 4×100 free relay in London. But the desire is still there, after a winter trip to watch gorillas. With Phelps’ retirement, Coughlin is now the most decorated active Olympian. Her event focus shifted after her third Olympics. The two-time Olympic backstroke champion is only swimming the 50 and 100 freestyles in Indianapolis.

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order