Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin wins fifth gold, Katie Ledecky wins fourth gold at world swimming championships

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The next to last day of the world swimming championships belonged to a pair of U.S. female teenagers.

Missy Franklin, 18, cruised to victory in her signature event, the 200-meter backstroke, in 2 minutes, 4.76 seconds. It marked her fifth gold of the meet, matching the record for most golds by a woman at a single world championships.

She could break that mark in her final event, the medley relay, on Sunday. If she wins a medal of any kind Sunday, she’ll tie the record for most medals won by a woman at a single worlds, currently shared by East German Kristin Otto and Americans Shirley Babashoff and Tracy Caulkins. Otto also won six golds at the 1988 Olympics.

Franklin’s coolest prize might have been a soccer jersey (No. 2016) given to her by Brazilians after her victory.

Katie Ledecky, 16, finished her first world championships with her fourth gold medal (in as many events) and her second world record. She followed up her Olympic title in the 800 freestyle with the world title in the event, coming back to beat Denmark’s Lotte Friis in 8:13.86.

Ledecky is the second woman to sweep the distance freestyles at a world championships, joining German Hannah Stockbauer, who did it in 2003 at the same Palau Sant Jordi pool in Barcelona.

An eye-popping stat on Ledecky and the 800: her world record is more than three seconds faster than her age group’s national record in the 800 free relay. USA Swimming correspondent Mike Gustafson pointed that out.

Also Saturday, Ryan Lochte took sixth in the 100 butterfly, a new event for him on the worlds stage. South African Chad le Clos won it, adding to his 200 fly world and Olympic titles.

The world’s fastest swimmer was crowned in the men’s 50 free. Brazilian Cesar Cielo won the splash and dash for the third straight time at worlds, celebrated vigorously and then cried uncontrollably on the medal stand. 

Another world record was set in the women’s 50 breaststroke, and a 17-year-old American woman made the finals of the 50 free with a personal best time, too. Scroll down for full results, analysis and quotes.

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Live results

Women’s 50 Butterfly Final

Results
Gold: Jeanette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 25.24

Silver: Lu Ying (CHN) 25.42
Bronze: Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 25.53
4. Francesca Halsall (GBR) 25.70
5. Inge Dekker (NED) 25.83
6. Melanie Henique (FRA) 25.96
7. Farida Osman (EGY) 26.17
8. Dana Vollmer (USA) 26.46

Summary
This is a non-Olympic event. Vollmer, the Olympic champion in the 100 butterfly, was a medal hope after recovering from her illness that kept her to bronze in the 100 earlier this week. But Ottesen, the gold-medal favorite, took the lead off the start and never let up. Kromowidjojo adds a second bronze to her third in the 100 free. Halsall’s fourth means Britain still has no medals in Barcelona this week.

Men’s 50 Freestyle Final

Results
Gold: Cesar Cielo (BRA) 21.32

Silver: Vladimir Morozov (RUS) 21.47
Bronze: George Bovell (TRI) 21.51
4. Nathan Adrian (USA) 21.60
5. Florent Manaudou (FRA) 21.64
6. Anthony Ervin (USA) 21.65
7. Roland Schoeman (RSA) 21.85
8. Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 21.93

Summary
Cielo had his typical screaming, splashing, flexing celebration. The Brazilian world record holder won his third straight world title in the splash and dash. Ervin had a terrible start after his best swim ever in the semifinals. Manaudou was a disappointment after winning the Olympic title and qualifying fastest into the final. Adrian did well as he has never medaled in this event at a worlds or Olympics. Bovell, 30, wins his first worlds or Olympics medal since a 200 individual medley bronze in 2004.

“I was surprised and pleased at the same time,” Cielo told BBC Two. “It was a great feeling, and I couldn’t be happier. … This time I had a little luck on my side.”

Women’s 200 Backstroke Final

Results
Gold: Missy Franklin (USA) 2:04.76

Silver: Belinda Hocking (AUS) 2:06.66
Bronze: Hilary Caldwell (CAN) 2:06.80
4. Daryna Zevina (UKR) 2:08.72
5. Elizabeth Pelton (USA) 2:08.98
6. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:09.08
7. Sinead Russell (CAN) 2:10.46
8. Daria Ustinova (RUS) 2:11.30

Summary
Franklin wins her fifth gold of the meet, matching a world championships record for a woman. She was the extremely heavy favorite here, the Olympic and world champion and the world record holder. She led after every split and won by daylight. Franklin has one event left, the medley relay Sunday, to set a record with six golds. Hocking repeats her silver from 2011 worlds. Pelton came in with a great shot at silver given she is the second fastest in the event this year.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke Semifinals

Advance To Final
1. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) 29.48 WR
2. Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 29.88
3. Jessica Hardy (USA) 29.90
4. Breeja Larson (USA) 30.20
5. Petra Chocova (CZE) 30.31
6. Rikke Pedersen (DEN) 30.57
7. Moniek Nijhuis (NED) 30.61
8. Jennie Johansson (SWE) 30.66

Summary
Meilutyte broke an eight-hour-old world record by three tenths of a second — a large margin in a 50-meter event. Efimova broke Hardy’s world record in this non-Olympic event in the morning prelims. Both of Hardy’s breaststroke world records have been beaten in Barcelona (Meilutyte also took her 100 breast mark). Hardy still won bronze in the 100 breast, and she’s one of the three medal favorites here going into Sunday’s final with Meilutyte and Efimova. If any slip up, Larson would be the favorite to replace them on the podium.

“This is the best feeling in the world,” Meilutyte told BBC Two. “No matter if it’s semi or not, I have it. It’s amazing.”

Men’s 100 Butterfly Final

Results
Gold: Chad le Clos (RSA) 51.06
Silver: Laszlo Cseh (HUN) 51.45
Bronze: Konrad Czerniak (POL) 51.46
4. Steffen Diebler (GER) 51.54
5. Evgeny Korotyshkin (RUS) 51.57
6. Ryan Lochte (USA) 51.58
7. Matteo Rivolta (ITA) 51.65
7. Yauhen Tsurkin (BLR) 51.55

Summary
Lochte was in seventh place at the 50, and throughout the final 50 you expected a Michael Phelps-like comeback to get on the podium. It didn’t happen. Had Lochte repeated his personal best from the semifinals, he would have finished fourth. He has the medley relay left Sunday to finish the meet with a potential four golds and one silver. Le Clos jumped from fifth at the turn to complement his 200 butterfly world title earlier this week. Afterward, le Clos’ dad invited Lochte to his family’s gold-medal party and then cried on BBC Two coverage. Cseh won his ninth career world championship medal.

Women’s 50 Freestyle Semifinals

Advance To Final
1. Cate Campbell (AUS) 24.19
2. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 24.33
3. Jeanette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 24.54
4. Francesca Halsall (GBR) 24.61
5. Bronte Campbell (AUS) 24.62
6. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 24.65
7. Dorothea Brandt (GER) 24.85
8. Simone Manuel (USA) 24.91

Summary
The Australian Campbell sisters went one-two in lanes right next to each other in the second semifinal. Cate won the 100 freestyle earlier this week and is a big favorite to take the final Sunday. Kromowidjojo is the Olympic champion, defending world silver medalist and the second fastest in the world this year. She ought to win silver. Halsall will hope to win Britain’s first medal at worlds Sunday. Manuel, who turned 17 Friday, squeaked into the final with a personal best. Natalie Coughlin, the most decorated female swimmer in worlds history, missed the final.

Men’s 50 Backstroke Semifinals

Advance To Final
1. Camille Lacourt (FRA) 24.39
2. Jeremy Stravius (FRA) 24.45
3. Guy Barnea (ISR) 24.73
4. Matt Grevers (USA) 24.79
4. Daniel Orzechowski (BRA) 24.79
6. Aschwin Wildeboer (ESP) 24.90
7. Jonatan Kopolev (ISR) 24.95
7. Sun Xiaolei (CHN) 24.95

Summary
American David Plummer surprisingly missed the final, finishing 16th and last among all semifinalists despite coming in with the fastest time in the world this year. He reportedly slipped at the start, an issue for multiple swimmers this week. Instead, the French duo that shared the 100-meter backstroke world title in 2011 go in as favorites. Grevers, the 100 back champ this year, is also a medal threat. Barnea won the first semifinal, which is notable because Israel has never won a world medal.

Women’s 800 Freestyle Final

Results
Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA) 8:13.86 WR

Silver: Lotte Friis (DEN) 8:16.32
Bronze: Lauren Boyle (NZL) 8:18.59
4. Boglarka Kapas (HUN) 8:21.21
5. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 8:21.99
6. Chloe Sutton (USA) 8:27.75
7. Martina de Memme (ITA) 8:29.37
8. Andreina Pinto (VEN) 8:37.29

Summary
Ledecky was more than one second behind Friis at the halfway point, where Friis was almost a half-second under world record pace. Ledecky passed Friis by 650 meters and pulled away over the final 100 for an easy win and her second world record of the meet. She broke the mark held by Rebecca Adlington, who had predicted days before the race that Ledecky would take it. Ledecky finished her first world championships with four golds in four events. The 16-year-old became the second woman to sweep the distance freestyles (400, 800, 1,500) in worlds history (though the 1500 has only been a part of the worlds program since 1997).

What Jason Lezak is doing in retirement

Tony Azevedo retires after 5 Olympics in water polo

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Tony Azevedo of the USA in action during the USA vs Italy Waterpolo group match at Julio de Lamare Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
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Tony Azevedo is ending one of the greatest water polo careers in U.S. history, retiring after a record five Olympics at age 35.

Azevedo, the first American to play in five Olympic water polo tournaments, said it was a tough decision but a necessary one to spend time with his family — wife Sara and two kids, according to the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.

“The traveling and everything for them would be too much,” said Azevedo, who has a 3-year-old boy and a girl born after the Rio Olympics. “It’s time.”

Azevedo was a teenage prodigy dubbed the “Kobe Bryant of water polo.” A ball boy at the 1996 Olympics, Azevedo made a list of about 13 goals as a “slow, fat, chubby kid” who wanted to start on his high school team.

He reached all of those goals except for one — a gold medal. Azevedo made his Olympic debut out of high school in 2000 and then helped lead the U.S. to silver at Beijing 2008, his lone Olympic or world championships medal in 13 combined appearances. He led the U.S. in goals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

“If anyone asks, am I going to miss the swimming? No. Am I going to miss the games? No. Are you going to miss the Olympics? No,” Azevedo said. “I’m going to miss those days of grinding with your teammates.”

Azevedo was one of the top U.S. stories of the Rio Olympics, since he was born in the Brazilian city and lived there for 23 days before moving to Southern California. Azevedo, whose father was a Brazilian national team member, played for a Sao Paulo club team for much of the past Olympic cycle.

The U.S. went 2-3 in Rio, failing to advance out of group play.

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Five takeaways from World Alpine Skiing Championships

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Five thoughts after an unpredictable world alpine skiing championships, looking ahead to the Olympics … 

1. Expect Mikaela Shiffrin to be busier in PyeongChang

Shiffrin chose not to enter the super-G or super combined in the first week at worlds, in order to maximize her medal potential in the giant slalom and slalom in the final weekend. It paid off with silver and gold medals.

It seems unlikely that Shiffrin adopts the same, two-race slate in PyeongChang. The 2018 Olympic schedule has the giant slalom and slalom in the first week, followed by the speed events of super-G, downhill and super combined.

Consider also Shiffrin’s mindset going into St. Moritz.

“Right now, I’m going with [only giant slalom and slalom] because I just don’t think that I have quite enough experience in speed [events] to be able to count on winning a medal in those events yet,” she said. “But by the time we go to South Korea next year, maybe I could. I might be in a position where I can at least be in contention for medals in giant slalom, slalom, combined, super-G and maybe even downhill, only because nobody’s ever skied on that track before.”

The women get their first look at the 2018 Olympic venue with World Cup races in two weeks, a downhill and super-G. Shiffrin said before worlds that she planned to travel to South Korea for training but to leave before the races start. She wanted to prioritize the following week’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

What’s for sure is we can learn plenty about Shiffrin’s Olympic potential in speed events this weekend. She’s set to race at the World Cup stop in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, which is made up of two combineds and a super-G.

If Shiffrin enters all three events, it will bring her career World Cup start total in downhill, super-G and combined up to 10 races. Her best finish in her first seven starts was fourth in a super-G last month.

“I have a lot of goals there,” Shiffrin said of speed events after bagging her third straight slalom world title Saturday. “Hopefully, some day, I’d like to win in super-G and downhill, but I think it’ll take some time before I can do that consistently. It’s definitely a long road from here. I still feel like I just started.”

2. Lindsey Vonn must heal

Vonn made it clear at worlds that she wasn’t 100 percent recovered from breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Her right hand movement was so limited that she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail, let alone comfortably grip a ski pole at 75 miles per hour.

After skiing out of the opening super-G, troubled by that hand, she duct-taped her glove to her ski pole, placed fifth in the super combined and third in the downhill. She said the bronze medal felt like gold given her latest injury comeback.

Vonn became the oldest woman to earn a world championships medal. In PyeongChang, she can become the oldest woman to earn an Olympic Alpine medal.

Vonn’s biggest hurdle is her own health. A smooth finish to the season, regardless of wins, and a normal offseason is key.

“I want to be in a position at the Olympics where I’m at my top form not just struggling to kind of make it back into the mix,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s a different ballgame when I’m prepared.”

3. U.S. lacks young stars

Worlds went about to form for the entire U.S. team. Shiffrin and Vonn were the only medalists. No man placed in the top 10 for the first time since 1997.

Injuries and, especially, aging are the concerns.

Four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso, out since November 2015 hip surgery, was on the team but didn’t enter any events. The top U.S. men on the World Cup in recent seasons, Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman, went out with season-ending injuries in January. Bode Miller, who has trained but not raced this season, was in the NBC Sports commentary booth.

All of them are 32 years and older. Maybe some summon one last Olympic medal surge next year, but what about after that?

Shiffrin is the only American younger than age 28 who owns a World Cup victory. U.S. men earned Youth Olympic and junior worlds gold medals last year, but they look destined for 2022.

4. Marcel Hirscher approaches Austrian legends

Hirscher was the best skier in St. Moritz, despite reportedly spending days in bed before his first race. He earned two golds and missed a third by .01 in the super combined.

Only Tony Sailer owns more individual world titles among Austrian men. Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season, which no man from any country has accomplished.

He’s at 43 World Cup wins, 11 shy of the Austrian men’s mark held by Hermann Maier. At 27 years old, Hirscher ought to eclipse it.

But Hirscher’s résumé has a gaping hole — no Olympic gold medal. He was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom by countryman Mario Matt. And there’s no certainty Hirscher will be a favorite in PyeongChang.

For years, he was the world’s second-best giant slalom skier behind the now-injured Ligety, who could reclaim the throne next season, though that is a tall order.

In slalom, young Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen has been neck and neck with Hirscher but had a poor worlds.

The super combined is the most unpredictable event, but even there Frenchman Alexis Pinturault has won six of the 11 World Cup races since 2013.

5. Surprises in St. Moritz

Most races provided surprise medalists.

In all five men’s events, either the gold or silver medalist had not won a World Cup race in at least two years (or, in three cases, never made a World Cup podium). Women’s medalists in downhill, super-G, giant slalom and the super combined had never won a World Cup race.

New names were going to emerge regardless, considering the list of recent stars not racing (retired Tina Maze, Ligety, Miller, Aksel Lund Svindal) and those who did compete but were slowed or forced out by injury (Vonn, Anna Veith, Gut).

More surprises could be in store in PyeongChang given, as Shiffrin said, it’s a new track for everybody.

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