Dana Vollmer

Meilutyte breaks world record; Franklin, Lochte advance to finals at swim worlds as U.S. wins two more medals

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The second night of the world swimming championships provided a few surprises, but Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin didn’t disappoint, advancing to their first individual finals in Barcelona.

Lochte is the second qualifier into the 200-meter freestyle final Tuesday night. Franklin overcame a slip at the start to gain the top seed into the 100 backstroke final, also Tuesday. Lochte, already with a 4×100 free relay silver, is on the second of a planned seven events this week. Franklin, a gold medalist in the 4×100 free relay, is on No. 2 of eight.

The big international news came in the semifinals of the 100 breaststroke, where Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte broke the world record.

Two Americans medaled among the four finals Monday. Olympic champion Dana Vollmer took bronze in the 100 butterfly, overcoming illness. Eugene Godsoe was a surprise silver medalist in the 50 butterfly, an event that’s not on the Olympic program.

The other finals saw Hungarian Katinka Hosszu win the 200 individual medley (Olympic champion Ye Shiwen was fourth), and Australian favorite Christian Sprenger take the 100 breaststroke.

Scroll down for event-by-event results, video and analysis.

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Live results | Swimming on newspaper front pages

Men’s 100 Breaststroke Final

Results
Gold: Christian Sprenger (AUS) 58.79
Silver: Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) 58.97
Bronze: Felipe Lima (BRA) 59.65
4. Damir Dugonjic (SLO) 59.68
5. Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) 59.70
6. Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 59.90
7. Kevin Cordes (USA) 1:00.02
8. Nic Fink (USA) 1:00.10

Summary
The Olympic champion van der Burgh blazed out, making the turn two tenths under world-record pace. He couldn’t sustain it and got ran down by the favored Aussie, who came into the final with the three fastest times in the world this year. Sprenger had finished second to van der Burgh in London. Both Americans are collegians and will only get better.

Women’s 100 Butterfly Final

Results
Gold: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 56.53
Silver: Alicia Coutts (AUS) 56.97
Bronze: Dana Vollmer (USA) 57.24
4. Jeannette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 57.27
5. Katerine Savard (CAN) 57.97
6. Ilaria Bianchi (ITA) 58.11
7. Noemie Ip-Ting Thomas (CAN) 58.13
8. Claire Donahue (USA) 58.30

Summary
Sjostrom took the world title back from Vollmer, who was the reigning Olympic champion and world-record holder. Vollmer had said Sunday she was feeling ill and still has the 50 fly and medley relay left. Sjostrom won the world title as a 15-year-old in 2009 and was the fastest qualifier into the final. Coutts picked up her second silver after bursting into tears following losing the lead on anchor of the 4×100 free relay Sunday.

“I just kept telling myself that it was less than a minute and that my body can pull it together,” Vollmer said on Universal Sports. “Last night I felt horrible.”

Men’s 100 Backstroke Semifinals

Advanced To Final
1. Matt Grevers (USA) 52.97
2. David Plummer (USA) 53.10
3. Jeremy Stravius (FRA) 53.23
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 53.41
5. Camille Lacourt (FRA) 53.42
6. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 53.68
7. Ashley Delaney (AUS) 53.74
8. Gareth Kean (NZL) 53.81

Summary
The five fastest men in the world this year were among the top six qualifiers into Tuesday’s final. Grevers, the reigning Olympic champion, posted the fastest time in the world this year to win his semifinal. Plummer, who beat Grevers at nationals, is in great shape to medal as well. Stravius, who anchored France to 4×100 free relay gold Sunday, had the world’s fastest time before Grevers took it. Stravius and Lacourt shared the world title in 2011. Both Japanese men could also factor into the medals. It’s a stacked final.

Women’s 100 Breaststroke Semifinals

Advanced To Final
1. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) 1:04.45 WR
2. Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 1:05.29
3. Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN) 1:05.99
4. Jessica Hardy (USA) 1:06.10
5. Breeja Larson (USA) 1:06.61
6. Viktoria Solnceva (UKR) 1:06.67
7. Jennie Johansson (SWE) 1:06.96
8. Marina Garcia (ESP) 1:07.12

Summary
Meilutyte broke the world record by one tenth, the first world record set this year. Meilutyte, who stunned Rebecca Soni to win Olympic gold at age 15, was .07 off the world record in the prelims. Hardy was the previous world-record holder and looks likely to fight for a bronze. Meilutyte is a huge gold-medal favorite, and Efimova is a clear pick for silver going into Tuesday’s final.

Men’s 50 Butterfly Final

Results
Gold: Cesar Cielo (BRA) 23.01
Silver: Eugene Godsoe (USA) 23.05
Bronze: Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 23.11
4. Nicholas Santos (BRA) 23.21
5. Andriy Hovorov (UKR) 23.22
6. Yauhen Tsurkin (BLR) 23.28
6. Steffen Diebler (GER) 23.28
8. Florent Manaudou (FRA) 23.35

Summary
The 50 fly is not an event contested at the Olympics. Cielo, the world-record holder in the 50 free and 100 free, defended his world title, as expected. But the surprise story was Godsoe, 25, who won silver in his first major international meet after being the last man to qualify into the final.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” Godsoe told Universal Sports. “I knew for the 50 fly, if you have a lane, you have a shot.”

Women’s 100 Backstroke Semifinals

Advanced To Final
1. Missy Franklin (USA) 59.31
2. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 59.38
3. Elizabeth Pelton (USA) 59.44
4. Aya Terakawa (JPN) 59.80
5. Fu Yuanhui (CHN) 59.82
6. Daryna Zevina (UKR) 59.90
7. Simona Baumrtova (CZE) 59.99
8. Belinda Hocking (AUS) 1:00.24

Summary
Franklin, swimming the second of a potential eight events, slipped off the start but came back to become the top qualifier into Tuesday’s final. Franklin didn’t contest this event at 2011 worlds but won it at the 2012 Olympics. She’s a big favorite for gold after the second fastest in the morning prelims, Katinka Hosszu, scratched the event to focus on the 200 individual medley. Seebohm and Terakawa, the Olympic silver and bronze medalists, will fight for the same medals in the final. As will Pelton, who just missed making the Olympic team by finishing third in two events at trials.

“I totally slipped,” Franklin told Universal Sports. “Definitely not what we want, but that’s good that it happened now and not tomorrow. … Even though it happens, you just have to continue on like you’re swimming a normal race. We’ve kind of prepared for something like that to happen.”

Men’s 200 Freestyle Semifinals

Advanced To Final
1. Danila Izotov (RUS) 1:45.84
2. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:46.06
3. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:46.87
4. Robbie Renwick (GBR) 1:46.95
5. Yannick Agnel (FRA) 1:47.01
6. Conor Dwyer (USA) 1:47.05
7. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 1:47.21
8. Cameron McEvoy (CHN) 1:47.31

Summary
Lochte, the defending world champion, is easily into the final of his first individual event at worlds — and second event of a planned seven. The slight edge as favorite may have to go to Izotov, who also owns the world’s fastest time of 2013 (1:44.87). Hagino qualified for two finals Monday and already has a silver from the 400 free. Agnel, the champion in London, has yet to show his Olympic form in Barcelona, having swum a poor leadoff leg in Sunday’s 4×100 free relay.

“It felt kind of smooth,” Lochte told Universal Sports. “I know there’s a lot left. I kind of didn’t push myself until the last 75 (meters).”

Women’s 200 Individual Medley Final

Results
Gold: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:07.92
Silver: Alicia Coutts (AUS) 2:09.39
Bronze: Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 2:09.45
4. Ye Shiwen (CHN) 2:10.48
5. Caitlin Leverenz (USA) 2:10.73
6. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:10.95
7. Sophie Allen (GBR) 2:11.32
8. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (GBR) 2:12.03

Summary
The Olympic gold medalist and defending world champion Ye was lucky to get fourth. She was eighth after 150 meters. Remember, Ye came under scrutiny at the 2012 Olympics for swimming a faster final 50 meters in her 400 IM victory than Lochte did in his. Hosszu opted out of a potential medal in the 100 back to focus on this event. It paid off big time. Coutts won her second silver of the night.

Video: Michael Phelps answers questions on comeback speculation

Ashley Caldwell will win or lose Olympic aerials gold with triples

AP
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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — As a teenager, Ashley Caldwell never had problems hanging with the boys when it came to doing the biggest flips off the aerials ramp. Now in her 20s, she sees no reason for that to change.

Caldwell will make or miss her third U.S. Olympic team, then potentially win or lose the gold medal in South Korea, by doing triple flips off the kicker while most of the women are doing doubles. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition that sets the bar high, and sends a certain message, regardless of whether she finishes first or last.

“It’s not just about trying to be there by myself,” Caldwell says. “It’s about maybe inspiring some younger girls to say, `I should be able to push to whatever I’m capable of doing, not necessarily what people say my gender is capable of doing.”‘

Caldwell never shirked from joining the teenage boys when they started moving to the bigger kickers and adding an extra flip to the doubles they did as kids.

Triples are the price of admission for the men, and while not unheard of among the women, the list of athletes who will try them is short: Jacqui Cooper, Alla Tsuper and Xu Mengtao are among the few who have tried them over the years. They’re also among the best to ever fly off a ramp.

At the Sochi Olympics, Lydia Lassila of Australia became the first woman to land a quadruple-twisting triple flip on snow in training. The next night, she brought it to the medals round, and though she touched her hand to the ground on the landing, she won a bronze medal anyway and stole the headlines.

“That’s who I’m inspired by,” Caldwell said that night. “She’s trying to push the sport so that girls are jumping like the boys, and she’s doing it, and it’s really impressive.”

At freestyle world championships earlier this month, Caldwell sent her message when she became the first woman to cleanly land that same triple-flipping, quadruple-twisting jump in competition (video here).

“It was the first time I had every coach come up to me and shake my hand before the score even came up,” said Todd Ossian, who works with Caldwell as head coach of the U.S. aerials team.

And yet, Caldwell was oh-so-close to not being able to even try that winning jump.

Aerials competitions go through a series of qualifying and elimination rounds that include only one jump each. Consistency is rewarded, and most women train a variety of double flips to make it through the rounds, then bring out their most intricate jump – more often than not, also a double – for when the medals are awarded.

Caldwell doesn’t go that route. She tries triples every time she steps onto the hill.

It adds extra – some might say unnecessary – risk to the early rounds. When the field was being cut from 12 to nine at world championships, for instance, Caldwell didn’t land her triple flip. She was able to squeak into the top nine and advance only because her degree of difficulty for the triple was so high.

“I’m OK sacrificing some good competition results to increase my consistency on the triple,” says Caldwell, giving a nod to the reality that training days on snow are precious and she needs to use them to focus on the jumps she’ll be performing when the contests start.

The recently ended season tested the limits of how much Caldwell was willing to sacrifice. In meet after meet, from Moscow to Minsk to an Olympic test event in South Korea, difficulties with the triple kept her far away from the podium. In the World Cup standings, Caldwell finished 10th.

To her, that’s more a badge of honor than a sign of failure. In a sport that oddly transforms daredevils into conformists, and rewards consistency over risk-taking, Caldwell plans to keep pushing anyway.

In doing triples, her mission is as much about winning as bringing others along for the ride.

“I want the crowd to feel like they know who won,” Caldwell said. “I want it to be impressive. I just want people to say, `That’s sweet. That’s what’s deserved.’ If a lot of girls are doing triples up there and I fall, there would still be a lot of girls who would do well. I’m cool with that. If I mess up, that’s OK. But I want the sport to look good.”

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VIDEO: Top U.S. aerials skier crashes hard at World Cup

World Figure Skating Championships women’s preview

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Ashley Wagner has not watched any of Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva‘s programs this season, but this much Wagner knows without looking:

“She is technically flawless, and if there is an athlete that we should be chasing, obviously it’s Yevgenia,” Wagner said.

Medvedeva, a 17-year-old from Moscow, is the biggest favorite across all four disciplines at next week’s world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

Wagner is the 2016 World silver medalist, the first U.S. woman on the podium in 10 years, but it would be shocking if she upgrades to gold next week. Realistically, she’s at best fighting for a silver or bronze along with Russians Anna Pogorilaya and Maria Sotskova, Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman, Italian Carolina Kostner and Japan’s Mai Mihara.

Medvedeva is in her own class.

Undefeated since November 2015. Winner of her last 11 events in her first two seasons at the senior level. She can become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

In fact, another gold would give Medvedeva the most dominant two-season stretch by a female skater since Katarina Witt‘s stronghold in the mid-1980s.

“I really appreciate her in the sport because she is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said.

What sets Medvedeva apart is that she has been polished, from her triple-triple jump combinations and spins to her performance quality, since turning 16 in her senior debut season a year ago.

And her consistency. All other recent Russian stars — 2014 Olympic champions Adelina Sotnikova and Yulia Lipnitskaya and 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva — simply could not put together two straight world-class seasons at the senior level.

Given that history, Wagner is not fully sold on Medvedeva.

“Time will tell,” said Wagner, who has joked that she needs to skate like “a robot” to compete with Medvedeva. “She is not part of this normal cycle of Russian athletes. I feel like they have one or two seasons of dominance, and then they kind of disappear. So we will see what happens to her, but she seems to be going very strong.”

Medvedeva, whose mom was a skater, started in the sport at age 3, inspired like many by the great Yevgeny Plushenko.

Figure skating is popular and storied in Russia, but Medvedeva is rarely recognized back home, where she still spends weekends watching cartoons. She does have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram, though.

Medvedeva’s scores from her four international competitions this season are the four highest scores in the world, all above 220 points. This despite falling at one competition, having one jump called under-rotated at another and stepping out of a landing at another.

Nobody else in next week’s field has cracked 217 points — in their careers.

At December’s Russian Championships, Medvedeva added a second triple toe loop onto a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, knowing she would get zero points for the superfluous jump. She did it three minutes into her free skate (with controversial music from a film about Sept. 11, 2001), when most skaters would be tired.

Medvedeva has shown disappointment when not breaking records and talked about adding a quadruple Salchow to her arsenal. She speaks some English in interviews, even though she hasn’t taken English classes in two years, according to Icenetwork.

“Sometimes I feel like I am two people: the grown-up and the kid,” she said in the fall, according to Icenetwork. “The first one is able to understand and execute difficult programs, while the other one is just like … watching cartoons all the time!”

Medvedeva was last outscored in the short program at last year’s world championships in Boston. She placed third behind Gracie Gold and Pogorilaya, with Wagner in fourth.

In the free skate, Medvedeva and Wagner climbed to gold and silver, respectively. Wagner tallied personal bests for both programs at the 2016 Worlds, yet still finished 7.47 points behind Medvedeva.

Wagner has been unable to replicate those kinds of skates this season. In two international events, her best total is 196.44 points, which seeds her eighth going into worlds. She was also beaten by surprise Karen Chen at the U.S. Championships in January.

“This year is not the year I’m planning on peaking,” Wagner said. “Next year is the year that I am like in it to kill. … This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year and even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me, I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

As noted, the pressure is on Wagner to lead an inexperienced U.S. team of three women in Helsinki. She’ll be joined by training partner Mariah Bell and Chen. The two worlds rookies have been less impressive than Wagner internationally this season. They’re seeded 10th and 16th.

The two best results out of Wagner, Chen and Bell must add up to no more than 13, or else the U.S. will only get two women’s spots at the Olympics for the second time in the last six Winter Games.

There is an outside chance of a Russian sweep, given the second-best skater this season, Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, withdrew due to injury. Pogorilaya, the 2016 World bronze medalist, has the next two highest scores this season after Medvedeva and Miyahara.

Russia also has Sotskova, the most impressive of the first-year senior skaters.

The experienced category is led by Osmond, having her best results since debuting as a senior in 2012, and Kostner, the six-time world medalist back after two years off. They’re seeded third and fourth.

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