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.

Star goalie Ashleigh Johnson set to make U.S. Olympic water polo history

Ashleigh Johnson
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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. (AP) — Donna Johnson just wanted her five children to be safe around the pool at her Miami home. That was it, really, the first step in Ashleigh Johnson‘s path from prodigy to USA water polo.

Swim lessons turned into meets when their instructor told Donna Johnson her children were so good she had nothing left to teach them. When Ashleigh and her siblings continued to show athletic potential as they got older, Donna Johnson, a single mother and nurse from Jamaica, delivered a simple message to them.

“For everything that they do, it’s not about pressure, it’s about maximizing your potential,” she said.

Now her oldest daughter is about to make history this summer. Ashleigh, a goaltender blessed with jaw-dropping athleticism, is a lock for Rio de Janeiro, putting her on track to become the first black woman to play water polo for the U.S. Olympic team.

While this is just the fifth Games for the women’s tournament, Johnson’s ascension to elite goaltender is a welcome development for a sport looking for more diversity and growth outside of water polo-crazy Southern California.

Each of Johnson’s teammates is from the Golden State, and the same three Pac-12 schools — UCLA, Southern California and Stanford — dominate the roster. Seventy-five percent of USA Water Polo’s roughly 42,000 members live in California.

After starring at Ransom Everglades High School in Florida, Johnson opted for Princeton instead of USC.

“I think Ashleigh Johnson’s the future of our sport in the U.S.,” USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey said. “She’s an out-of-California athlete who grew up in Florida. She went to Princeton, high academic achiever from a different background than a lot of traditional water polo families are from.”

Just a short while ago, Johnson, 21, wasn’t interested in that future, at least with the national team. The thought of moving away from her tight-knit family and joining a new team in California wasn’t appealing to her, but several conversations with coach Adam Krikorian helped change her mind.

“I didn’t really know that the Olympics was a possibility for me,” Johnson said. “I thought it was just like coming and training like I had been doing for years, but just living out here, and he made me realize that the Olympics was a great opportunity and a possibility for me.”

Krikorian first heard of Johnson about 10 years ago when he was the head coach at UCLA. Nicolle Payne, one of his assistants with the Bruins and a former national team goaltender, was working a camp in Miami when she sent an email to Krikorian about America’s next great goaltender.

“She said, ‘Adam, keep this name in your mind,’ and she told me her name — Ashleigh Johnson,” Krikorian said. “‘She is the most amazing goalie I have ever seen.”‘

It’s easy to see what got Payne’s attention.

The 6-foot-1 Johnson has long arms, perfect for firing outlet passes for U.S. counterattacks and guarding the top parts of the goal, and she cuts through the water with impressive ease. Sick of swimming in high school, she was offered an out by her mother and coach if she won the 50-meter freestyle at states as a sophomore. So she won and walked away.

She collected 54 saves while helping the United States qualify for the Olympics at a tournament in the Netherlands in March, including 10 stops in an 11-6 victory over Italy in the final, capping an 8-0 performance for the Americans. But that gifted sprinter is still inside her.

At a recent practice, assistant coach Chris Oeding gave the team a chance to cut short the swimming portion of training if the players could assemble a sub-1:40 200-yard freestyle relay team. Krikorian and assistant coach Dan Klatt offered a nodding Johnson as a candidate, but four different players were chosen.

They made the time, but Johnson stole the show by swimming the second leg alongside the relay, leaving Krikorian and Klatt shaking their heads as she churned through the pool like a motorboat.

“She’s a freak,” Princeton coach Luis Nicolao said. “She’s just athletic. I often joke she could probably start for our basketball team, track team, swim team, she just has that natural ability to succeed at anything she does.”

Johnson and her sister, Chelsea, play for Nicolao with the Tigers. They have two older brothers, Blake and William, and one younger brother, Julius.

Their parents got divorced when Ashleigh was little, and Donna Johnson raised the kids mostly on her own. It’s a challenging juggling act not lost on her children.

“I mean she’s such a hard-working, loving and determined woman,” Ashleigh said, “and she’s taught me that hard work ethic and just to try my best at everything and love what I do.”

Chelsea Johnson, who joked that she followed her sister to Princeton because she didn’t want to play against her, said she sees similarities between Ashleigh and their mother.

“I think the biggest thing from her, she and Ashleigh, is that she’s always smiling, no matter what,” she said. “Like her and Ashleigh, not matter what they’re doing, no matter how hard the thing is, they’re always smiling and trying to make everyone around them feel better about whatever’s happening.”

VIDEO: Ashleigh Johnson stands out on U.S. water polo team

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross beat top-ranked Brazilians for first time

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross
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Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Brazil’s best beach volleyball team for the first time and extended the longest winning streak of their partnership in winning the Moscow Grand Slam on Sunday.

“That just shows our growth,” Ross said. “We’re still on the up and up.”

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, an Olympic silver medalist, beat Olympic qualifying top seed Larissa and Talita 22-20, 21-17 in the final for their third straight international title.

Walsh Jennings and Ross have now won 22 straight FIVB World Tour matches, the best run of their three-year parternship. Walsh Jennings last reached a streak this long from 2007 to 2010, when she won 78 straight international matches with Misty May-Treanor and Nicole Branagh, according to BVBInfo.com

The Americans had lost all three of their previous matches (one a one-set exhibition) versus Larissa and Talita:

Feb. 27, 2015 — 26-24 in Rio de Janeiro
Aug. 23, 2015 — 21-18, 21-16 in Long Beach, Calif.
March 20, 2016 — 22-20, 21-19 in Vitoria, Brazil

Larissa and Talita, seeking to become Brazil’s first Olympic women’s beach volleyball champions in 20 years, have won 12 of their 20 international tournaments since pairing in July 2014.

The FIVB World Tour continues in Hamburg, Germany, next week, the final event in Olympic qualifying. Walsh Jennings and Ross are expected to play there.

Walsh Jennings and Ross and Larissa and Talita are already qualified for the Rio Games.

MORE: Logan Tom continues volleyball career in Indonesia