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

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

“You know what makes me happy? This is done. Now we’ve done it, we’ve beaten them and put it to rest,” Walsh Jennings said, according to USA Volleyball.

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

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

Ashleigh Johnson
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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — 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