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

Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey

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As sports organizations and notable hockey figures express support of the U.S. women’s team, several players say they rejected overtures from USA Hockey to serve as replacements for the upcoming world championships.

Two players told The Associated Press on Friday that USA Hockey reached out to them to gauge their interest for the worlds, which begin next week in Plymouth, Michigan.

Brittany Ott, a goaltender for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, and Annie Pankowski, a junior forward at the University of Wisconsin, said the email from USA Hockey was not an invitation but rather an inquiry about their availability.

“I responded to that email and I said I’m not willing,” Pankowski said.

A third player, goalie Lauren Dahm, told the AP on Saturday she also turned down an invitation. Dahm plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Boston Blades.

The U.S. team has said it plans to boycott the worlds over a wage dispute with USA Hockey, which confirmed Thursday it would begin reaching out to potential replacement players. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

“From a personal standpoint I have never been invited to a USA Hockey series or camp or anything like that and I would honestly love to be invited to something like that,” Ott said by phone. “However at the current time, this is a fight that I believe in and I’m definitely going to stand up and help fight as much as I can.”

Many players posted a version of a Jerry Rice quote on Twitter on Friday: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC.” Not all players who tweeted that message were asked by USA Hockey if they could play.

On Saturday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the chorus of support for the players, saying on Twitter the organization stands behind their pursuit of fairness and equality.

“These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers,” Smith tweeted. “Of course, they have the NFLPA’s support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol posted his support on Twitter, calling players competitors and role models.

On Friday, the NHL Players’ Association and Major League Baseball players posted messages of support. The NHLPA posted on Twitter that it supports players and panned USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements, adding that the decision “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

The MLBPA encouraged all female hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period. The sides met for 10-plus hours Monday, but players have called USA Hockey’s counterproposal “disappointing.”

USA Hockey said Thursday its priority was to have all the players selected for the national team on the ice March 31 when the tournament begins. But the organization added that it informed players’ representatives it would begin reaching out to potential replacements with the tournament coming up.

Star national team forward Hilary Knight said last week she wished USA Hockey luck putting together a suitable team of replacements to defend the gold medal because the player pool was united in the dispute. Ott and Pankowski said they had not heard from any players expressing a willingness to play in worlds.

“It’s a very unified front,” Ott said. “It’s a tight-knit community that we have in women’s hockey here. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow. We’re all standing together.”

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World Figure Skating Championships pairs preview

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Volosozhar and Trankov couldn’t do it. Neither did Shen and Zhao. Nor Gordeeva and Grinkov.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford can win a third straight pairs world title next week, a feat not seen since Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev of the Soviet Union won six in a row from 1973 through 1978.

But they don’t feel like favorites.

“We’re coming in a little more under the radar,” Radford said.

They lost their two most recent international competitions — third at the Grand Prix Final in December; second at the Four Continents Championships in February.

Duhamel and Radford are seeded fifth by best international scores this season going into the world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

“Sometimes it feels like worlds last year was so long ago,” Radford said.

Last year in Boston, Duhamel and Radford had the performance of their seven-year partnership in the world championships free skate. They tallied a personal-best 153.81 points, more than seven points clear of their previous best.

It was easily enough to overtake Chinese short-program leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were relegated to silver behind the Canadians for a second straight year.

This season, Duhamel and Radford haven’t come within 13 points of their 2016 World Championships total. Duhamel went through “an unforeseeable circumstance” in her personal life in November that she chooses not to reveal.

They implemented the throw triple Axel, but Duhamel fell three times in a four-event stretch this fall. They lost by nearly 13 points at December’s Grand Prix Final, which ended with a Duhamel backstage meltdown.

“We never fell like that at home [in practice],” Duhamel said on the IceTalk podcast. “It started to shake us up a little bit.”

They replaced the throw triple Axel in their program. Without it in February, both skaters had trouble with jumps at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue and finished nearly 13 points behind Sui and Han.

“We kind of went back to square one, to the drawing board after Four Continents, reassessing what’s gone on this season, why are we underperforming, why are we not succeeding in competition the way we are training,” Duhamel said.

They made program changes, notably on their throw and jump entrances and overhauling the footwork in their short program.

Duhamel adopted a rescue dog from South Korea. Radford, who had surgery over the summer to remove a cyst from his ankle bone, leaned on a sports psychologist.

“I personally feel a lot more relaxed and seemless,” Radford said. “That feeling has come a little bit later this season.”

Five pairs could take gold in Helsinki in perhaps the most wide-open event.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and (French-born) Bruno Massot won both of their fall Grand Prix events but missed the Grand Prix Final after she tore an ankle ligament. They returned to take silver at the European Championships in January with the best score of their two-year partnership.

Young Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov stepped up to win the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, and then the European Championships. But free-skate struggles have dogged them this season.

Another Russian pair, Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, are perhaps the biggest wild card. They missed the fall season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury, but then beat Tarasova and Morozov in their season debut at the Russian Championships. Stolbova fell on their throw triple flip in both programs at the European Championships in January, and they finished fourth.

Then there are Sui and Han, looking to break through for a first senior world title in their sixth try (though Sui is just 21 years old, and Han 24). They missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at Four Continents and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

U.S. pairs Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim and Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier have both missed significant time due to injury in the last two years. They are behind the top pairs from Canada, China and Russia.

The U.S. hasn’t put a pair in the world championships top five since 2006, and that doesn’t figure to change next week.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.