Dana Vollmer

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

Leave a comment

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

North Korea could qualify for PyeongChang Olympics in pairs figure skating

Bronze medalists Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik of North Korea pose for photographers during the victory ceremony of the Pairs event of Figure Skating competition at Makomanai Indoor Skating Rink at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, northern Japan, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
AP
Leave a comment

Perhaps the most intriguing result of the just-completed Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, when it comes to looking ahead to the PyeongChang Olympics, came in pairs figure skating.

To no surprise, China took the top two spots. But the bronze medalists from North Korea turned heads.

Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik tallied 177.40 points, easily distancing pairs from South Korea, Japan and Australia for the last place on the podium.

With that score, it appears Ryom and Kim became the first North Korean athletes to be favored to qualify for the PyeongChang Olympics, though they likely can’t seal the deal for another seven months.

One of the biggest international Olympic storylines over the 11 months is whether North Korea will be present at the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Despite winning at least four medals at every Summer Games since boycotting Seoul 1988, North Korea didn’t have any athletes at the Sochi Olympics and just two at Vancouver 2010. There’s no guarantee North Korea can qualify any athletes for PyeongChang.

There is also the question of another potential boycott of a South Korea-hosted Olympics, but North and South Korea have shown solidarity at recent Games.

The nations marched together under one flag at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Sydney and Athens. In Rio, North and South Korean gymnasts posed for a selfie together. And North Korea did compete in the two Asian Games hosted by South Korea in the last 30 years, in 2002 and 2014.

Enter Ryom and Kim. Their Asian Winter Games pairs score was a whopping 20-point improvement on their tally from the 2016 Four Continents Championships, their only other recent major international event. North Korean athletes don’t typically compete often internationally.

Ryom and Kim are still a ways off from vying for global podiums (177.40 would have placed 14th at the 2016 Worlds).

But with their Asian Winter Games result, the North Koreans are suddenly favorites to qualify for the PyeongChang Olympics, should they enter the last qualifying event in Germany in September.

Here’s how it works:

A maximum of 20 pairs can qualify for the Olympics, beginning at the world championships next month, with no more than three spots per country.

At worlds, 16 of those 20 Olympic quota spots for 2018 will be filled.

If the results hold anything close to form, those 16 quota spots will be spread among Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the U.S.

After worlds, four qualifying spots will remain available. Those quota spots will be decided at the last Olympic qualifier, Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, in late September.

The final four spots can only be attained by countries not already qualified in each event. And only one spot is available per country.

If one excludes Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the U.S., here are the highest-scoring pairs this season via the International Skating Union (and thus the early favorites for Nebelhorn):

  1. Duskova/Bidar (CZE) — 189.09
  2. Ziegler/Kiefer (AUT) — 165.63
  3. Suto/Boudreau-Audet (JPN) — 164.96
  4. Alexandrovskaya/Windsor (AUS) — 159.26

The North Koreans would slot in second place in those standings with their Asian Games score of 177.40.

What’s more, Boudreau-Audet and Alexandrovskaya still needed to fulfill citizenship requirements to be eligible to compete in PyeongChang, as of 2016 reports. If either can’t, then the North Koreans’ path to PyeongChang gets that much easier.

Four years ago, a different North Korean pair missed qualifying a Sochi Olympic quota spot by .99 of a point at Nebelhorn Trophy.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Snow volleyball hopes to stake claim in Winter Olympics

In this March 2016 photo released by Chaka2 GmbH, Austria's Michael Leeb, serving, and Florian Schnetzer face off against Poland's Michal Matyja and Rafal Matusiak, far court, during a snow volleyball match in Wagrain-Kleinarl, Austria. The sport's international governing body hopes tournaments from the Alps to the Andes will earn snow volleyball a spot in the Olympics and make volleyball the first sport to be played in both the Winter and Summer Games. (Thomas Leskoschek/Chaka2 GmbH via AP)
AP
Leave a comment

Beach volleyball is moving to the mountains and swapping its sand for snow.

A spinoff of the sun-splashed sport familiar to Summer Olympic fans and seaside frolickers, snow volleyball is spreading from the Alps to the Andes and making a run at the Winter Games. If all goes well, volleyball officials say, their sport would be the first to appear in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

“Our key message is to be the No. 1 family sport in the world,” Fabio Azevedo, the general director of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think it fits perfectly to our plan.”

Itself an offshoot of the more traditional indoor game, beach volleyball has grown into one of biggest attractions of the Summer Games, thanks no doubt to the bikini and boardshorts uniforms and the party atmosphere.

Now the FIVB wants a piece of the Winter Olympics, and it sees snow volleyball as the way in. With a European tour already established, volleyball officials have set out an agenda that would bring the new snow sport to Asia, Argentina and the United States with an eye toward approval as a demonstration sport at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

“They want to push it ultimately to the Winter Olympics,” said Martin Kaswurm, whose company manages the Snow Volleyball European Tour. “It’s not something we put into the mouths of the FIVB. It’s something they had as a goal themselves.”

The continental circuit, which kicks off this weekend in the Czech ski resort of Spindleruv Mlyn, was officially sanctioned by volleyball’s European governing body for the first time last winter. Azevedo said the goal is to have a world tour next year and a fully-fledged world championship in 2019. A spot in the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne — where the FIVB has its headquarters — is also on the federation’s radar.

From there, snow volleyball could apply for status as a demonstration sport at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Azevedo hopes to have at least an informal display at the Winter Games next year in Pyeongchang, South Korea, even if it’s just stringing up a net in a plaza somewhere.

“We definitely want to be there and show people what snow volleyball is like,” he said. “Being really conservative, in order to climb this mountain step by step, I think the Olympics in 2026.”

While Olympic ice hockey and field hockey have different rules, different equipment and different governing bodies, snow volleyball is almost identical to the beach game. The tactics and rules are also similar to the two-a-side beach sport, and many of the competitors come from beach volleyball.

“Basically, we’ve just changed the surface,” Kaswurm said. “They only thing different is that they wear soccer shoes.”

The atmosphere also resembles beach volleyball, with disc jockeys cranking out music and cheerleaders — in lederhosen instead of bikinis — pumping up the crowd .

“Music, it’s inside our DNA, man,” Azevedo said.

Usually there is a hot tub courtside, and traditionally the winners will jump in after their matches to celebrate (and warm up).

“If you’re brave enough and have your swimsuit — or not — you can just jump in. And with the drinks and other friends you can enjoy the view on the center court and all the mountains around,” said Bobb Kufa, the 2016 Czech beach champion. “Pure happiness.”

Austrian national champion Flo Schnetzer said the crowd especially loves the post-match hot tub celebration.

“The people laugh when they see people in their underwear jumping into the whirlpool,” he said. “It’s so much fun to play in such an amazing atmosphere and to play in such an amazing place. The crowd is really crazy; they love it. They like to party and they like to celebrate in the mountains.”

But playing on a mountain has its own challenges.

Mostly, because the snow is slicker than sand there is more of a premium on players who can read and react quickly than on tall ones who can block. It’s also easier to jump on the compacted snow, so shorter players can be more effective blockers and height is less of an advantage.

“Snow volleyball is for smart and flexible players,” Kufa said. “All the moves are much slower. That means you have to be smarter – especially in defense. You have to decide the direction you want to go, and that’s all. You can’t take it back – otherwise you find yourself on your back with the shoes up to the air.”

The thinner air also slows the players down.

“You can really feel it,” Schnetzer said. “It’s really intense after just a short time. So you need to be physically really well prepared to be able to play on the mountains.”

And let’s not forget the cold.

“It is a mountain, so you should be ready for weather changes and be prepared for all kinds of weather,” Kufa said.

So far, the tournaments have been scheduled at resorts — with free admission — as something for the skiers to watch when they need a break. For the players at an event in Iran earlier this month, it was a quick diversion from the Kish Island beach event scheduled the following week.

That’s one big advantage snow volleyball has over other sports trying to join the Olympic program: It already has a strong federation and a ready pool of potential players from the beach game, including 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Martins Plavins of Latvia and the top beach players from several European countries.

Three-time Olympian Phil Dalhausser, a 2008 gold medalist, said he would wait until his beach career is over to give it a try.

“I would be too afraid of hurting myself,” said Dalhausser, who was born in Switzerland but has spent most of his life near the beaches of Florida and California. “The snow probably would be pretty slippery.”

Dalhausser said anything that gets people to watch and play any form of volleyball is good for the sport. And once fans see snow volleyball, Azevedo said, they will be hooked — just like those who have come to follow the beach version every four years at the Summer Olympics.

“Both of them are two parties,” Azevedo said. “But if you organize a party in your home, it’s probably different than a party I am organizing in my home. So, there are two different energies. But I can tell you you are going to enjoy both of them.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross map out new Olympic cycle