Dana Vollmer

Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin advance to semifinals; Dana Vollmer goes for gold at swimming world championships

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Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin safely advanced in their first individual swims of the world championships in Barcelona Monday morning.

Lochte qualified joint ninth, taking it easy in the final 50 meters, into Monday evening’s 200-meter freestyle semifinals. Franklin was the top qualifier into the 100 backstroke semis. They’re both favored to reach the eight-swimmer finals Tuesday night.

Lochte, who won silver as part of the 4×100 free relay Sunday, will be looking to defend his world title in the 200 free, which used to be one of the deepest events in men’s swimming during the Michael Phelps era. There isn’t much competition left now outside of French Olympic champion Yannick Agnel. Lochte is in seven overall events in Barcelona, the busiest program at a major international meet in his career.

Franklin is in the second of her planned eight events after helping the U.S. women to gold in the 4×100 free relay Sunday. She’s the Olympic champion in the 100 back but didn’t swim it at 2011 worlds.

In other notable prelim swims Monday, Lithuanian Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte nearly broke Jessica Hardy‘s world record in the 100 breaststroke. American Katie Ledecky, who won the 400 free Sunday, came back to qualify second into Tuesday’s final of the 1,500 free, a non-Olympic event. Ledecky could win four golds at her first worlds.

In addition to Lochte and Franklin in semifinals, four finals are on the docket Monday (noon ET, Universal Sports) — men’s 100 breast (with U.S. and NCAA champion Kevin Cordes), women’s 100 butterfly (with Olympic champion Dana Vollmer), men’s 50 butterfly and the women’s 200 individual medley (with Olympic champion Ye Shiwen).

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

Here’s the order of events in Monday’s evening session:

Men’s 100 Breaststroke Final

Field
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

Preview
The Olympic silver medalist Sprenger is a heavy favorite. He’s been three-quarters of a second faster than everyone this year, posting a 59.05 at the Australian championships in April and the three fastest times in the world overall. The silver and bronze are up for grabs with Cordes, van der Burgh and Scozzoli the favorites. The U.S. and NCAA champion Cordes, 19, swam a lifetime best in the semifinals. Van der Burgh is the reigning Olympic champion. Scozzoli is ranked No. 2 this year and took silver at 2011 worlds.

Medal Picks
Gold: Sprenger (AUS)
Silver: van der Burgh (RSA)
Bronze: Cordes (USA)

Women’s 100 Butterfly Final

Field
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

Preview
The medals will likely be shared among the top four qualifiers. Vollmer’s status as favorite took a hit in the semifinals Sunday night. After, she said she had been dealing with an illness. She’s the defending world champion, reigning Olympic champion and the world-record holder. Sjostrom, who won the 2009 world title at age 15, posted the fastest time in the world this year in the semis. Ottesen Gray, the 2011 world champ in the 100 free, has never finished better than sixth in this event at a major international meet. Coutts swam three events Sunday night and burst into tears after the 4×100 free relay, where she was passed on anchor by American Megan Romano. Coutts is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and world silver medalist.

Medal Picks
Gold: Vollmer (USA)
Silver: Sjostrom (SWE)
Bronze: Coutts (AUS)

Men’s 100 Backstroke Semifinals

Field
1. Ashley Delaney (AUS) 53.60
2. David Plummer (USA) 53.62
3. Jiayu Xu (CHN) 53.63
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 53.66
5. Jeremy Stravius (FRA) 53.85
6. Matt Grevers (USA) 53.92
7. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 53.94
8. Laszlo Cseh (HUN) 54.06
9. Bastiaan Lijesen (NED) 54.07
10. Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) 54.20
10. Camille Lacourt (FRA) 54.20
12. Christopher Walkerhebborn (GBR) 54.23
13. Feiyi Cheng (CHN) 54.30
14. Gareth Kean (NZL) 54.37
15. Darren Murray (RSA) 54.64
16. Charles Francis (CAN) 54.72

Preview
Delaney is the fastest qualifier, but he’s still just the ninth fastest man this year. Plummer, who beat Olympic champion Grevers at nationals in June, is looking to better his fifth-place finish at 2011 worlds. He’s tied for second fastest in the world this year with the Japanese teen sensation Hagino, silver medalist in the 400 free Sunday. The No. 1 man in 2013 is Stravius, who anchored the French 4×100 free relay team to gold Sunday. Stravius and Lacourt shared the world title in 2011. All the medal contenders advanced out of prelims.

Women’s 100 Breaststroke Semifinals

Field
1. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) 1:04.52
2. Jessica Hardy (USA) 1:05.18
3. Yuliya Efimoiva (RUS) 1:05.24
4. Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN) 1:06.30
5. Viktoriya Solnceva (UKR) 1:06.79
6. Breeja Larson (USA) 1:06.83
7. Marina Garcia Urzainqui (ESP) 1:07.18
8. Jennie Johansson (SWE) 1:07.21
9. Sally Foster (AUS) 1:07.59
10. Alia Atkinson (JAM) 1:07.76
11. Satomi Suzuki (JPN) 1:07.79
12. Fiona Doyle (IRL) 1:07.88
13. Petra Chocova (CZE) 1:08.18
14. Moniek Nijhuis (NED) 1:08.29
15. Samantha Marshall (AUS) 1:08.33
16. Kim Janssens (BEL) 1:08.36

Preview
Meilutyte, the surprise Olympic champion at age 15, came within .07 of Hardy’s world record in Monday morning’s prelims. If she doesn’t break the world record in the semifinals, she probably will in the final. Two-time reigning world champion Rebecca Soni is not swimming this year, leaving Hardy and Larson to carry the U.S. hopes. They’re both in the top five in the world this year, should make the final and will fight with Efimova and Pedersen for silver and bronze.

Men’s 50 Butterfly 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

Preview
Only one U.S. man (retired Ian Crocker) has medaled in this non-Olympic event since it was introduced at worlds in 2001. Godsoe will have a tough time making the podium here, but he’s got a shot given how bunched the field is. The Brazilians are one-two favorites but the order is debatable. Cielo, the world-record holder in the 50 and 100 free, is the defending world champion.

Medal Picks
Gold: Cielo (BRA)
Silver: Santos (BRA)
Bronze: Bousquet (FRA)

Women’s 100 Backstroke Semifinals

source: AP
AP

Field
1. Missy Franklin (USA) 59.13
2. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 59.40 — WILL REPORTEDLY SCRATCH
3. Elizabeth Pelton (USA) 59.94
4. Yuanhui Fu (CHN) 1:00.01
5. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 1:00.02
6. Simona Baumrtova (CZE) 1:00.05
7. Aya Terakawa (JPN) 1:00.09
8. Sinead Russell (CAN) 1:00.17
9. Belinda Hocking (AUS) 1:00.39
10. Daryna Zevina (UKR) 1:00.43
11. Cloe Credeville (FRA) 1:00.70
12. Duane Da Roche Marce (ESP) 1:00.80
13. Yanxin Zhou (CHN) 1:00.99
14. Mercedes Peris Minguet (ESP) 1:01.19
15. Lauren Quigley (GBR) 1:01.23
16. Karin Prinsloo (RSA) 1:01.25

Preview
Only one woman was within a half-second of Franklin in Monday morning’s prelims, and only one woman has been within a half-second of her this year. Expect her to be the top qualifier into Tuesday’s final. Franklin, 18, swept the backstrokes at the Olympics but didn’t swim the 100 at the last world championships. The Hungarian Hosszu will reportedly scratch out of the semifinals, making Franklin an even bigger favorite. Pelton didn’t make the Olympic team in this event and was eliminated in the semifinals at 2011 worlds. Seebohm and Terakawa, the Olympic silver and bronze medalists, are the second and third fastest women in the world this year. The 2011 world champion, Zhao Jing of China, was not entered in the event.

Men’s 200 Freestyle Semifinals

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Field
1. Robbie Renwick (GBR) 1:46.88
2. Nicolas Oliveira (BRA) 1:46.99
3. Sebastiaan Verschuren (NED) 1:47.24
4. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:47.33
5. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 1:47.34
6. Yannick Agnel (FRA) 1:47.40
7. Danila Izotov (RUS) 1:47.76
8. Pieter Timmers (BEL) 1:47.89
9. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:47.90
9. Conor Dwyer (USA) 1:47.90
11. Matthew Stanley (NZL) 1:48.01
12. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 1:48.05
13. Velimir Stjepanovic (SRB) 1:48.12
14. Yunqi Li (CHN) 1:48.18
15. Shun Wang (CHN) 1:48.19
16. Clemens Rapp (GER) 1:48.37

Preview
The medal contenders played it close to the vest in the prelims Monday morning. Throw away the seeds. The top qualifiers for Tuesday’s final should be the Olympic champion Agnel, the world champion Lochte and the 2013 world leader Izotov. Keep an eye on Hagino, too, who’s entered in six individual events. Two of the top four fastest men this year — Sun Yang and Jeremy Stravius — were not entered in this event. World record holder Paul Biedermann and Olympic silver medalist Park Tae-Hwan are not in Barcelona, and, of course, two-time world champion Michael Phelps is retired.

Women’s 200 Individual Medley Final

Field
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 — WILL REPORTEDLY SCRATCH
7. Caitlin Leverenz (USA) 2:11.05
8. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:11.21

Preview
It appears Ye won’t have as easy of a final as she did in the Olympics, where she swept the individual medleys. Hosszu bettered the Chinese teenager and defending world champ in both the prelims and the semis and must be considered the favorite now. Everybody else is probably looking for bronze, led by the Olympic and world silver medalist Coutts. The Aussie will be swimming her second final of the night. Leverenz won bronze at the Olympics and, despite her seed, is the fourth fastest woman this year.

Medal Picks
Gold: Hosszu (HUN)
Silver: Ye (CHN)
Bronze: Coutts (AUS)

Video: Phelps answers questions on comeback speculation

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)
AP
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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
TODAY
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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