Ryan Lochte

Swimming world championships preview; men’s storylines

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1. Ryan Lochte’s busiest program ever. Like Missy Franklin, Lochte is going above and beyond his Olympic slate of six events. He’s planning four individual swims in Barcelona — the 200-meter backstroke, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley and a new addition, the 100 butterfly — in addition to three relays.

Also like Franklin, that sets Lochte up for a potential three-swim night on one of the finals sessions. It’s something Lochte has never attempted at a major international meet. The now-retired Michael Phelps used to drop events to avoid triples.

“My body needed to recharge (after the Olympics),” Lochte said of his post-London break in a press conference Friday. “Now I’m back in the water, and I’m excited to race.”

The busy night will be Aug. 2, the day before his 29th birthday, if Lochte sticks in every event and advances out of heats. The Aug. 2 night session in Barcelona is scheduled for noon-2:30 Eastern Time.

That night’s second event is the final of the 200 back. Lochte is the defending world champion and ranked No. 3 in the world this year (1:55.16) behind two Japanese. Top-ranked Ryosuke Irie (1:54.72), silver medalist behind Tyler Clary in London, will pose a threat here, especially if Lochte isn’t in peak shape.

Four events later, Lochte would presumably swim in the 100 butterfly semis. Phelps won this event at the last three Olympics and last three world championships, never against Lochte though.

The medal picture is fuzzier this year. German Steffen Deibler (51.19) and co-Olympic silver medalists Russian Evgeny Korotyshkin (51.53) South African Chad le Clos (51.64) own the world’s three fastest times. Lochte is ranked sixth (51.71), and he came in second at trials to Eugene Godsoe (51.66). Expect Lochte to make the final, but his chances of medaling will be very dependent on what kind of form he’s in.

The final event Aug. 2 is the 4×200 free relay, which Lochte has been a part of in winning U.S. gold at every major international meet since 2003. It will be no cakewalk without Phelps this year, especially with France and Russia improving. Even if Lochte anchors, I don’t see him being given an insurmountable lead. He’ll have to work for gold, even after potentially doing two swims in the previous two hours.

“Any other year, my expectations would be definitely medaling and winning every race,” Lochte said. “I want to do that this meet, but it’s been an off-year. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Earlier in the meet, Lochte will be a medal favorite in the 200 free (but French Olympic champion Yannick Agnel is favored for gold) and the 200 IM (where Lochte is No. 1 in the world this year).

All eyes will be on Lochte’s footwear on the pool deck. He may break out these:

I think @gucci knew I needed a pair of shoes for #BCN2013 swim meet. Thanks!

A post shared by Ryanlochte (@ryanlochte) on

2. Nathan Adrian is bigger. Is he better? Adrian added 10 pounds of muscle after taking a short break following the London Olympics, where he won the 100-meter freestyle by .01 over Australian James Magnussen.

He’s dropped down to four or five pounds heavier than he was in London, dabbling in different training techniques. He’ll find out how well that works against loaded fields in the 50 free and 100 free.

Adrian is ranked No. 1 in the world this year in the 50 (21.47), just ahead of his budding rival Magnussen (21.52). Magnussen, however, owns the top time in the 100 (47.53), ahead of Adrian in fifth (48.08). Magnussen has said that Adrian should be considered the favorite in the 100. Adrian is also shying away from expecting gold.

“He is the returning world champ,” Adrian said. “And ranked No. 1 in the world right now, right? I’ll give that one to him. No one wants that (to be called the favorite).”

3. What can we expect from Yannick Agnel? It’s been a strange few months for the 6-foot-8 Frenchman. He and his French coach reached what he called “a point of no return.” So, Agnel moved to the U.S. to train with Phelps’ former coach, Bob Bowman, who is the head U.S. men’s coach in Barcelona.

It was announced in May that Agnel would only swim relays for the French, but this week it’s come out that he will indeed enter the 200 free. As head-scratching as it’s been for Agnel, he must be considered the favorite, even over Lochte.

Remember, Agnel won the Olympic title in the 200 free by more than 1.5 seconds over Sun Yang and Park Tae-Hwan, neither of whom will contest it in Barcelona.

source: Getty Images4. Watch out for a new U.S. star. Several Phelps questions were asked at the press conference Friday, but come the first events Sunday, other swimmers will have to start filling headlines.

“For the first time in, I think, several years, we have exciting young guys,” Bowman said.

I’m looking at one in particular, rising University of Arizona junior Kevin Cordes. The 19-year-old swept the 100 and 200 breast at trials and also came in second in the 50. He’s ranked No. 4 in the world in the 100 (59.99) and No. 2 in the 200 (2:08.34), and he’s only getting better at his young age.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cordes end a six-year gold-medal drought for U.S. men in the breaststrokes at a major international meet. On the other hand, he might still be a year or two away.

5. How will the 4×100 free relay turn out? The most anticipated event of every major swim meet has become this relay. We saw Jason Lezak‘s heroics in Beijing and then the French revenge in London.

“I do think this relay will be a big challenge for us,” Bowman said Friday. “There’s a very wide-open race. Any one of four teams, I think, could be in any position on the podium.”

Those four teams are the U.S., the defending world champion Aussies, the Russians and probably the French. This event is undoubtedly most important to Australia, whose yearlong swoon seemed to begin with a fourth-place disaster at the London Olympics.

It’s on the first night of competition, Sunday, and a gold-medal beginning for the Aussies would provide the confidence, especially for Magnussen, to get over the Stilnox controversy that spread over much of the last year.

On paper, Russia looks daunting, with four of the top eight 100 free swimmers in the world this year. But the times have not been spectacular all around, which makes predictions a bit tougher. Australia has three of the top 10. The U.S. has two — Adrian and Jimmy Feigen.

I’ll take Australia, and a motivated Magnussen to fire off a spectacular leg, for gold, the Russians for silver and the U.S. for bronze. But if previous years are any indication, predictions in this event are sure to go wrong.

FINA approves mixed relays; which nations would win?

Shaun White, Chloe Kim lead Team USA award winners

Shaun White, Chloe Kim
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Shaun White and Chloe Kim swept the Team USA Awards just like they swept the halfpipe gold medals in PyeongChang.

The snowboarders were named the top U.S. male and female Olympians on Thursday night at an awards show in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the Team USA White House visit.

The women’s hockey team, which beat Canada in a gold-medal game shootout, earned the Olympic team title.

The awards, hosted by Mike Tirico, air on NBCSN on May 12 from 6-7:30 p.m. ET.

The athlete and team winners for the PyeongChang Olympics and Paralympics were determined by online fan voting (50 percent) and members of the Olympic and Paralympic family, including journalists (the other 50 percent).

White, 31, earned his third Olympic halfpipe title in four Games by attempting back-to-back double cork 1440s at a contest for the first time and landing them on his third and final run. White overtook Japanese Ayumu Hirano for the gold with 97.75 points.

Kim, 18 and at her first Olympics, injected far less drama into her final the previous day. Her first-run score of 93.75 would have been enough for gold, but she tacked on a 98.25-point victory lap on her finale with the first back-to-back 1080s by a woman at an Olympics.

The male and female Paralympian winners were both Nordic skiers. Dan Cnossen, a retired Navy SEAL, earned six medals after coming to PyeongChang without any podium finishes in 24 career Paralympic and world championships biathlon and cross-country skiing events. Oksana Masters earned five PyeongChang medals after dislocating her right elbow before the Games.

In 2014, the first edition of the Team USA Awards, Sochi slopestyle snowboarding gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg, luge bronze medalist Erin Hamlin and ice dance gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the Olympian honors.

In 2016, Michael PhelpsKatie Ledecky and the women’s gymnastics team were the Olympian winners.

2018 Team USA Awards nominees (WINNERS IN BOLD)
Male Olympian
Red Gerard, Gold, Snowboard Slopestyle
Shaun White, Gold, Snowboard Halfpipe — WINNER
David Wise, Gold, Ski Halfpipe
John-Henry Krueger, Silver, Short Track Speed Skating (1000m)
Chris Mazdzer, Silver, Luge (singles)

Female Olympian
Jamie Anderson, Gold and Silver, Snowboard Slopestyle, Big Air
Chloe Kim, Gold, Snowboard Halfpipe — WINNER
Mikaela Shiffrin, Gold and Silver, Alpine Skiing (giant slalom, combined)
Elana Meyers Taylor, Silver, Bobsled
Brittany Bowe, Bronze, Speed Skating (team pursuit)

Olympic Team
Jessie Diggins/Kikkan Randall, Gold, Cross-Country Skiing (team sprint)
Men’s Curling, Gold
Women’s Hockey, Gold — WINNER

Olympic Coach
Jason Cork, Cross-Country Skiing — WINNER

Phil Drobnick, Curling
Mike Jankowski, Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding

Male Paralympian
Dan Cnossen, Gold, 4 Silvers, Bronze, Nordic Skiing — WINNER

Noah Elliott, Gold, Bronze, Snowboarding
Andrew Kurka, Gold, Silver, Alpine Skiing
Mike Schultz, Gold, Silver, Snowboarding
Andy Soule, Gold, Bronze, Nordic Skiing

Female Paralympian
Kendall Gretsch, 2 Golds, Nordic Skiing
Brenna Huckaby, 2 Golds, Snowboarding
Oksana Masters, 2 Golds, 2 Silvers, 1 Bronze, Nordic Skiing — WINNER
Brittani Coury, Silver, Snowboarding
Laurie Stephens, Bronze, Alpine Skiing

Paralympic Team
Sled Hockey, Gold — WINNER

Paralympic Coach
Gary Colliander, Nordic Skiing — WINNER

Guy Gosselin, Hockey
Graham Watanabe, Snowboarding

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USA Track and Field sets team for Penn Relays, live on NBC Sports

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World 100m champion Justin Gatlin headlines the U.S. roster for the Penn Relays, which air live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Friday
Penn Relays: 5-6 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday
Penn Relays: 12:30-3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold
Drake Relays: 3-5 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Gatlin is joined on the U.S. team for the Penn Relays in Philadelphia by U.S. 400m champion Fred Kerley, NCAA 800m champion Raevyn Rogers, plus Michael Cherry and Aaliyah Brown, who were part of U.S. medal-winning relays at last summer’s world outdoor championships.

They will compete Saturday in USA vs. the World races in the men’s and women’s 4x100m and 4x400m and men’s and women’s sprint medleys.

Women 4x100m pool
Aaliyah Brown
Destinee Brown
Destiny Carter
Tawanna Meadows
Candace Hill
Kyra Jefferson

Women 4x400m pool
Jasmine Blocker
Kendra Chambers
Daina Harper
Kyra Jefferson
T’sheila Mungo
Raevyn Rogers
Kiah Seymour
Jaide Stepter

Men 4x100m pool
Leshon Collins
Jeff Demps
Justin Gatlin
Cordero Gray
Tevin Hester
Remontay Mcclain
Bryce Robinson
Blake Smith
Justin Walker

Men 4x400m pool
Michael Berry
Marcus Chambers
Michael Cherry
Kyle Collins
Najee Glass
Fred Kerley
Calvin Smith
Marqueze Washington

The schedule (p.m. ET):

Women’s 4x100m — 12:38
Men’s 4x100m — 12:50
Women’s Sprint Medley — 2
Men’s Sprint Medley — 2:10
Men’s 4x400m — 2:35
Women’s 4x400m — 2:52

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