Nathan Adrian

Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky win gold medals at world swimming championships Thursday

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The U.S.’ three best swimmers shined at the world championships Thursday, each picking up gold medals on the fifth night of finals in Barcelona.

Ryan Lochte won his first title of these worlds, crushing the field by more than a second in the 200-meter individual medley in 1 minute, 54.98 seconds. He won his third straight world title in the event and did it with the fastest time in the world this year.

Lochte appears to be rounding into form after an average split in the silver medal-winning 4×100 free relay Sunday and a fourth place in the 200 freestyle Tuesday. He has a potential four events left, including the final of the 200 backstroke Friday.

Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin led the U.S. 4×200 free relay team to gold. Ledecky, 16, took her third gold in as many events at the meet. Franklin, 18, now has four golds with three events left. She could become the first woman ever to win seven medals of any color at a single world championships.

Franklin’s anchor leg on the relay was particularly memorable. She dove in with a 1.12 second deficit to Australian Alicia Coutts, a seasoned veteran with five Olympic and seven world medals to her name. Franklin’s split time was 1.75 seconds faster than any of the other 31 swimmers in the relay final. The U.S. won by 2.84 seconds.

In the other anticipated final Thursday, Australia’s biggest star, James Magnussen, defended his 100 free world title. Americans Jimmy Feigen and Nathan Adrian took silver and bronze, respectively. Adrian had beaten Magnussen by .01 to win the Olympic title.

There was also another world record set — the third of the meet — plus a pair of Chinese victories in women’s finals. Scroll down for full results, video highlights and analysis.

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Live results 

Women’s 100 Freestyle Semifinals

Advance To Final
1. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 52.87
2. Cate Campbell (AUS) 53.09
3. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 53.29
4. Femke Heemskerk (NED) 53.68
5. Missy Franklin (USA) 53.78
6. Britta Steffen (GER) 53.85
7. Shannon Vreeland (USA) 53.99
8. Tang Yi (CHN) 54.09

Summary
Campbell is a heavy favorite in Friday’s final, but Franklin has a shot at a medal as she vies for a female record seven medals at a single worlds. Franklin was four tenths slower than in the morning prelims (where she set a personal best), but she still won her semifinal and was likely saving energy for the 4×200 free relay. Sjostrom, the 100 butterfly champion, swam a personal best, but she’s still a half second slower than Campbell’s world-leading time for 2013. Kromowidjojo is the Olympic champion.

Men’s 200 Individual Medley Final

Results
Gold: Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:54.98

Silver: Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:56.29
Bronze: Thiago Pereira (BRA) 1:56.30
4. Wang Shun (CHN) 1:56.86
5. Laszlo Csesh (HUN) 1:57.70
6. Daniel Tranter (AUS) 1:57.88
7. Daiya Seto (JPN) 1:58.45
8. Simon Sjodin (SWE) 1:59.79

Summary
With his first gold at this meet, Lochte becomes the fifth man to win three straight world titles in one event (Michael PhelpsAaron PeirsolIan ThorpeGrant Hackett). He was behind after 50 and 100 meters (Pereira led) but took a half-second lead after the breaststroke and cruised home. Lochte now has a gold, a silver and a fourth through three of a potential seven events. He posted the fastest 200 IM time in the world this year. Hagino, 18, won his second silver of the meet.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke Semifinals

Advance To Final
1. Rikke Moeller Pedersen (DEN) 2:19.11 WR
2. Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 2:19.85
3. Marina Garcia Urzainqui (ESP) 2:22.88
4. Micah Lawrence (USA) 2:23.23
5. Rie Kaneto (JPN) 2:23.28
6. Sally Foster (AUS) 2:24.14
7. Viktoriya Solntseva (UKR) 2:24.19
8. Martha McCabe (CAN) 2:24.68

Summary
The Dane Pedersen destroyed Rebecca Soni‘s world record of 2:19.59 from out of nowhere and couldn’t stop screaming after touching the wall. Pedersen’s previous best time was 2:20.53, and she was fourth at the Olympics. Efimova is the reigning world silver and Olympic bronze medalist. Lawrence was 1.5 seconds slower than her prelim personal best time, but she’s in the medal picture.

Men’s 100 Freestyle Final

Results
Gold: James Magnussen (AUS) 47.71

Silver: Jimmy Feigen (USA) 47.82
Bronze: Nathan Adrian (USA) 47.84
4. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 47.88
5. Vladimir Morozov (RUS) 48.02
6. Marcelo Chierighini (BRA) 38.28
7. Fabie Gilot (FRA) 48.33
8. Luca Dotto (ITA) 48.58

Summary
Magnussen defends his world title and takes down Adrian, who beat him by .01 at the Olympics. Feigen, who bounced back from a poor 4×100 free relay swim to qualify second into the final, wins a surprise silver over Adrian. Magnussen was fifth at the turn behind Morozov, who went out a quarter-second under world record pace. Magnussen won the world title despite going two tenths slower than his world-leading time of 2013. He celebrated by sitting on the lane line, flexing his biceps and pointing his index finger in the air.

Women’s 200 Butterfly Final

Results
Gold: Liu Zige (CHN) 2:04.59

Silver: Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 2:04.78
Bronze: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:05.59
4. Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) 2:06.09
5. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:06.58
6. Jiao Liuyang (CHN) 2:06.65
7. Camille Adams (USA) 2:07.73
8. Judit Ignacio Sorribes (ESP) 2:08.40

Summary
Liu, the 2008 Olympic champion and world record holder, was dead even with Belmonte Garcia going to the final 50. Of course, the crowd was going nuts. They were chanting the Spaniard’s name well after the race ended. Belmonte Garcia was trying to become the first Spanish swimmer born in Spain to win an Olympic or world title. Hosszu added bronze to her 200 IM gold. Adams was fifth at the Olympics and had qualified second into the final.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke Semifinals

Advance To Final
1. Daniel Gyurta (HUN) 2:08.50
2. Marco Koch (GER) 2:08.61
2. Andrew Willis (GBR) 2:09.11
2. Viatcheslav Sinkevich (RUS) 2:09.47
3. Michael Jamieson (GBR) 2:09.96
6. Matti Mattsson (FIN) 2:09.96
7. Akihiro Yamaguchi (JPN) 2:10.00
8. Ryo Tateishi (JPN) 2:10.01

Summary
Kevin Cordes
, the U.S. and NCAA champion, was a half-second under world record pace at 100 meters in his semifinal and faded badly to finish fourth and miss the final. Gyurta is the favorite, the Olympic champion and two-time defending world champion. Keep an eye out for Jamieson, who has the fastest time in the world this year, and Yamaguchi, 18, who broke Gyurta’s world record a month after the Olympics.

Women’s 50 Backstroke Final

Results
Gold: Zhao Jing (CHN) 27.29

Silver: Fu Yuanhui (CHN) 27.39
Bronze: Aya Terakawa (JPN) 27.53
4. Etiene Medeiros (BRA) 27.83
5. Mercedes Paris (ESP) 27.93
6. Georgia Davies (GBR) 27.96
7. Rachel Bootsma (USA) 28.05
8. Lauren Quigley (GBR) 28.33

Summary
This is not an Olympic event. Franklin actually entered it and qualified for the semifinals Wednesday before pulling out. Zhao upset her favored countrywoman Fu, who had been three tenths faster than everyone in the semifinals. Zhao also won this event in 2009. Terakawa was the 2011 silver medalist.

Men’s 200 Backstroke Semifinals

Advance To Final
1. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:55.16
2. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:55.88
3. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 1:56.14
3. Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) 1:56.14
5. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:56.24
6. Xu Jiayu (CHN) 1:56.42
7. Craig McNally (GBR) 1:56.97
8. Peter Bernek (HUN) 1:57.37

Summary
Lochte navigated his two-swim night pretty well after winning the 200 IM. He’ll look to dethrone the Olympic champion Clary. Irie, who has the fastest time in the world this year, took silver in the Olympic final, above Lochte’s bronze. Lochte is the defending world champion though. It would be a slight surprise to see anybody else medal, but Kawecki and the teen Hagino have a shot.

Women’s 4×200 Free Relay Final

Results
Gold: USA 7:45.14

Silver: Australia 7:47.98
Bronze: France 7:48.43
4. China 7:49.79
5. Spain 7:53.20
6. Canada 7:55.48
7. Italy 7:57.91
8. Japan 7:58.15

Summary
That makes three golds for Katie Ledecky and four golds for Missy Franklin at worlds. Ledecky has one event left (800 free) to finish four for four. Franklin, who swam an incredible anchor leg after going in more than one second behind Australia, has three events to go. Ledecky gave the U.S. the lead with a 1:56.32, beating the 200 free bronze medalist Camille Muffat of France. France took the lead after American Shannon Vreeland‘s second leg. Karlee Bispo of the U.S. swam the third leg, passing France, but being passed by Australia. Alicia Coutts of Australia took a 1.12-second lead onto the final leg. Franklin cut it to .06 after the first 50 of the anchor leg, then took a 1.16 lead on the next 50. Franklin’s 1:54.27 split was 1.75 seconds faster than any of the other 31 swimmers.

FINA president believes Phelps is coming back

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.