Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky, U.S. women 4×100 free relay win gold; Lochte, U.S. men get silver

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The opening night of swimming worlds saw Americans medal in all four finals, including the debuts of Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin in the 4×100-meter freestyle relays.

Katie Ledecky won what could be the first of four golds for the high school student in the 400 free. Connor Jaeger won what could be considered a surprising bronze in the men’s 400 free behind Chinese super favorite Sun Yang.

The relays capped the night with excitement. Megan Romano brought the U.S. past Australia to win the women’s 4×100 free, giving Missy Franklin a gold in the first of her eight events. The U.S. was down more than one second after Franklin’s leadoff leg, thanks to an absolute scorching 100 from Aussie Cate Campbell.

France came from fourth going into the final leg to win the men’s 4×100 free over the U.S. in the same one-two-three-four result from the Olympics. Lochte was given a slim lead going into his second leg but lost that lead to Australia, though the U.S.’ third leg, Anthony Ervin, took it back before France charged ahead on the anchor.

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Live resultsMen’s preview | Women’s preview

Follow the action here with live commentary:

Women’s 100 butterfly semifinals

Advances to final
1. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 57.10
2. Jeanette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 57.19
3. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 57.49
4. Dana Vollmer (USA) 57.84
5. Noemie Ip-Ting Thomas (CAN) 57.99
6. Katerine Savard (CAN) 58.00
7. Ilaria Bianchi (ITA) 58.29
8. Claire Donahue (USA) 58.44

Summary
Despite an average semifinal swim, Vollmer, the reigning world and Olympic champion and world-record holder at 55.28, can still be considered a favorite going into Monday’s final. But it’s certainly up for debate. The semifinal results opened the door for Sjostrom, Ottesen Gray and Coutts. Coutts, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, owned the fastest time in the world this year before Sjostrom took it in the semis. The reigning Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, China’s Lu Ying, failed to make the final.

source: Getty ImagesMen’s 400 freestyle final

Results
Gold: Sun Yang (CHN) 3:41.59

Silver: Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 3:44.82
Bronze: Connor Jaeger (USA) 3:44.85
4: Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 3:45.02
5. James Guy (GBR) 3:47.96
6. Devon Myles Brown (RSA) 3:48.40
6. Jordan Harrison (AUS) 3:48.40
8. Hao Yun (CHN) 3:48.88

Summary
Sun, the Olympic champion, was an overwhelming favorite coming into this final. We saw why. He took the lead between 50 and 100 meters and never relinquished it, winning in the world’s fastest time this year. Sun led by more than one second at the halfway point (when the American Jaeger moved into second). Sun could win triple gold in Barcelona with the 800 and 1,500 free still to come. Jaeger’s bronze is the first U.S. medal in the event at worlds since 1986. He was passed in the final 50 meters by Hagino.

Women’s 200 individual medley semifinals

Advances to final
1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:08.59
2. Ye Shiwen (CHN) 2:09.12
3. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 2:10.06
4. Sophie Allen (GBR) 2:10.23
5. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 2:10.66
6. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 2:10.70
7. Caitlin Leverenz (USA) 2:11.05
8. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:11.21

Summary
Hosszu had the fastest time for the second straight round over the Olympic champion Ye. Ye, 17, won both individual medleys at the Olympics, where she swam the final 50 of her 400 IM faster than Lochte did in his 400 IM. It appears the battle for gold will come down to the Hungarian and the Chinese. The busy Coutts swam in the 100 fly semifinals a half-hour ago, and she’ll be part of the Australian 4×100 free relay later in the night. Leverenz was the bronze medalist at the Olympics. Fellow American Elizabeth Beisel failed to make the final.

Men’s 50 butterfly semifinals

Advances to final
1. Nicholas Santos (BRA) 22.81
2. Cesar Cielo (BRA) 22.86
3. Yauhen Tsurkin (BLR) 22.90
4. Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 22.93
5. Andril Govorov (UKR) 22.97
6. Steffen Diebler (GER) 23.02
7. Florent Manaudou (FRA) 23.15
8. Eugene Godsoe (USA) 23.16

Summary
The 50 butterfly is an event not contested at the Olympics. Defending world champion Cielo was merely eighth in prelims, but he turned on the jets in the semis with the fastest time in the world this year … until his countryman went even faster in the second semifinal. Godsoe snuck into the final, while fellow American Matt Grevers, the Olympic champion in the 100 backstroke, was 12th out of 16 and missed the final, as did the fastest man from prelims, Roland Schoeman of South Africa. The Brazilians figure to fight for gold in the final, but it could be wide open.

Women’s 400 freestyle final

Results
Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA) 3:59.82
Silver: Melanie Costa Schmid (ESP) 4:02.47
Bronze: Lauren Boyle (NZL) 4:03.89
4. Jazmin Carlin (GBR) 4:04.03
5. Boglarka Kapas (HUN) 4:05.90
6. Andreina Pinto (VEN) 4:07.14
7. Camille Muffat (FRA) 4:07.67
8. Kylie Palmer (AUS) 4:08.13

Summary
Ledecky, a rising Maryland high school junior, easily won the first of what could be four gold medals at her first world championships. She’s got the 800 free (where she won Olympic gold), the 1,500 free and the 4×200 free relay left.

“I’m really in shock of the time,” Ledecky told Eurosport. “It shows you what happens when you get in a race with the best. … I didn’t know how fast I was going. … I couldn’t believe it when I looked up.”

There was chatter coming in that she could break Italian Federica Pellegrini‘s world record of 3:59.15 set during the fast suit era in 2009. She went out under the world-record pace through 300 meters before fading off of it. She settled for the second fastest time ever, only the second woman to break four minutes. The Olympic champion Muffat posted an average time in prelims this morning and was never a factor in the final.

Men’s 100 breaststroke semifinals

Advances to final
1. Christian Sprenger (AUS) 59.23
2. Kevin Cordes (USA) 59.78
2. Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) 59.78
4. Damir Dugonjic (SLO) 59.80
5. Felipe Lima (BRA) 59.84
5. Nicolas Fink (USA) 59.84
7. Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) 59.90
8. Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 59.92

Summary
The Olympic silver medalist Sprenger now owns the three fastest times in the world this year. He’s a big favorite going into Monday’s final. Cordes, an NCAA champion from the University of Arizona, set a new personal best to win the first semifinal. He’s now a medal favorite along with the Olympic champion van der Burgh.

source: Getty ImagesWomen’s 4×100 freestyle relay

Results
Gold: USA 3:32.31

Silver: Australia 3:32.43
Bronze: Netherlands 3:35.77
4. Sweden 3:36.56
5. Canada 3:37.09
6. Russia 3:38.45
7. Japan 3:39.45
8. Germany 3:39.57

Summary
Australian Cate Campbell, the fastest woman in the world this year, posted a 52.33, the second fastest leadoff leg of all time, according to Eurosport. She was more than one second faster than Missy Franklin on the opening leg. Natalie Coughlin, the most decorated women’s world medalist of all time, closed the gap on the second leg, but the U.S. still trailed by .72 seconds after Shannon Vreeland‘s third leg. Anchor Megan Romano brought the U.S. within a quarter-second after 350 and out-touched Alicia Coutts to win by .12. Franklin is now one for one in golds after the first of her potential eight events.

“I let the team down,” an emotional Coutts told Eurosport before being picked up immediately by a teammate’s comments in the TV interview.

Men’s 4×100 freestyle relay

Results
Gold: France 3:11.18

Silver: USA 3:11.42
Bronze: Russia 3:11.44
4. Australia 3:11.58
5. Italy 3:12.62
6. Germany 3:13.77
7. Brazil 3:14.45
8. Japan 3:14.75

Summary
France stole the gold, just as it did at the 2012 Olympics. The opening leg provided the showdown between Olympic gold and silver medalists in the individual 100 free — American Nathan Adrian and Australian James Magnussen. Adrian opened with the lead, a 47.95, just bettering Magnussen’s 48 flat. Magnussen had gone out in 47.49 at the 2011 worlds. Australia took a .31 lead on the second leg, passing Ryan Lochte, whose split was an average 47.80. Still, Lochte is one for one in medals after the first of his potential seven swims.

Anthony Ervin took a two tenths lead for the U.S. with a 47.44 on the third leg, as Russia moved into second. But the star of the relay was France’s third leg and anchor, Fabien Gilot and Jeremy Stravius, who posted 46.90 and 47.59. France jumped from fourth to first on the final two legs. U.S. anchor Jimmy Feigen swam his 100 in 48.23, the slowest non-leadoff leg from any swimmer on the top five countries.

You have to wonder what the U.S. would have done if Ricky Berens was kept on for the final rather than Feigen. Berens went 47.56 on anchor in the prelims, where Feigen went 48.39 on leadoff. In Feigen’s defense, he earned his spot on the relay final by finishing second in the individual 100 at trials, and the leadoff leg always has slower splits than the other three.

U.S. Figure Skating Championships pairs preview

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 02: Tarah Kayne and Daniel O'Shea of the United States react after completing their routine in the Pairs Free Skate on Day 6 of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 at TD Garden on April 2, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The U.S. pairs field opened up when Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim, the top American team internationally in recent seasons, pulled out of the national championships due to Scimeca’s September stomach surgery that kept them out all fall.

“Without Scimeca and Knierim, I don’t think the United States has a team that can challenge for the top six, or some moments, even the top 10 in the world,” NBC Olympics analyst Johnny Weir said. “Scimeca and Knierim are, far and away, the best team in the United States.”

The remaining field this week is led by Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, who upset Scimeca and Knierim for last year’s national title.

Kayne and O’Shea followed that up with the exact same finishes in the fall Grand Prix series as a year ago, opening up a question of whether they can repeat in Kansas City. Kayne’s knee injury hasn’t helped matters.

Enter Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who missed all of last season due to Denney’s knee surgery. They were looking strong until their most recent lower-level event in December, where they were fourth and finished behind another American pair, Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc.

Regardless of the two pairs that advance from the U.S. championships to the world championships in two months, it’s clear the U.S. is still lacking consistency in its weakest of the four disciplines.

None of the contending pairs after Kayne and O’Shea and Denney and Frazier have spent two full season together.

“Breakups, makeups, partner changes, coaching changes,” Weir said. “There’s a very high divorce rate within the pairs community of the United States compared to the rest of the world, where teams stick it out through thick and thin. As soon as the going gets tough for the U.S. pairs, they break up.”

Thursday
Pairs short program — 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Saturday
Pairs free skate; free dance — 3-6 p.m. ET, NBC

MORE: U.S. Championships broadcast schedule

Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea
Ages: 23/25
Hometown: Ellenton, Fla.
2016 U.S. champions
13th at 2016 World Championships

Kayne and O’Shea fell to the No. 2 U.S. pair at last year’s worlds, behind Scimeca and Knierim, who were ninth. In the fall, they had the third-best total score among U.S. pairs, nearly 20 points behind Denney and Frazier.

Johnny Weir’s Take: They haven’t had the most successful international season. They are coming in as defending national champions, which is a huge amount of pressure.

Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier
Ages: 21/24
Hometown: Canton, Mich.
2015 U.S. silver medalists
2014, 2016 Skate America silver medalists

Denney and Frazier came back after a full season off and repeated their best senior international result, a second place at Skate America in October. Their total was a full 16 points better than the next-best U.S pair this season. Denney and Frazier were 2013 World junior champions but hope to better their only senior worlds finish, 12th in 2015.

Tara Lipinski’s Take: Obviously, in American pairs, we haven’t been the strongest in the world. But if you’re going to look at who’s holding us up right now, it’s Denney and Frazier.

Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran
Ages: 26/26
Hometown: Montreal
2016 U.S. bronze medalists
Castelli: 2013, 2014 U.S. champion with Simon Shnapir

Castelli, a 2014 Olympian and team event bronze medalist with Shnapir, paired with Tran two years ago, but their first full season wasn’t until 2015-16. They finished sixth at the 2015 U.S. Championships and earned bronze last year, just missing the two-pair world championships team.

Tara Lipinski’s Take: Last year, I was so excited when they were such a new pair. So much to learn and getting to know each other. Marissa, looking back at her Olympic experience, I think she’s such a firecracker. I think she’s meant to be a competitive, winning pairs skater. You hope that this matchup can be right.

Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay
Ages: 33/27
Hometown: Ellenton, Fla.
Stellato: 2000 World junior silver medalist (singles)
Bartholomay: 12th at 2014 Olympics with Felicia Zhang

It’s not often in pairs where the woman is six years older than the man, but this team is truly unique. Stellato was the 2000 World junior silver medalist but ended her singles career as a teen due to injuries. After more than a decade away from competition, she joined the 2014 Olympian Bartholomay before this season. The duo has the fifth-highest score this season of the pairs in the U.S. Championships field.

Johnny Weir’s Take: Deanna was one of my favorite skaters when I was little. We traveled together on the Junior Grand Prix, and I always loved watching her. Having seen a couple of small video clips of them, I’m excited to see how they develop and how they perform underneath the bright lights. She has a very wonderful, experienced partner.

Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc
Ages: 21/26
Hometown: Euless, Texas
Cain: 2011 U.S. junior champion with Joshua Reagan

Cain and LeDuc may be the hottest team going into nationals. They outscored Denney and Frazier at a lower-level event last month with their best score in three lower-level events this season.

MORE: Olympic pairs champions skip 2016-17 season

Jamaica bobsled team crowdfunds for new coach

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14:  Winston Watts of Jamaica pilots a run during a Men's Two-Man Bobsleigh training session on day 7 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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The Jamaica bobsled team is asking for $60,000 to hire a coach through a crowdfunding campaign.

The Jamaicans hope to qualify men’s and women’s bobsled teams for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will mark the 30-year anniversary of their Olympic debut in Calgary, which inspired the 1993 Disney film “Cool Runnings.”

“We have the talent, the discipline and the determination, needed to contend in the 2018 Winter Olympics,” was written on the crowdfunding page. “With a coach on staff we believe we can not only contend for a medal, but also bring a medal home, and commemorate this outstanding achievement.”

The Jamaicans can attempt next season to qualify for the Olympics. It will not be easy. Jamaica has zero World Cup results this season, a best finish on the lower-level North American Cup of seventh and was briefly stranded in Canada.

Jamaica bobsled returned to the Olympics in Sochi, for the first time in 12 years, and was the last of 29 finishers in the two-man race.

That driver, Winston Watt, turned 49 years old in December and is no longer competing with the Jamaican program.

The new Jamaican program athletes include Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, a 2014 U.S. Olympic driver, and Michael Blair, a running back for the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers in 1998.

The Jamaicans recently had a coach, hiring U.S. Olympian and coach Todd Hays in July 2014.

MORE: Bobsled, luge, skeleton season broadcast schedule