Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin wins record-breaking sixth gold medal; U.S. men DQ’d in medley relay at world championships

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Missy Franklin ended the world swimming championships with a history-making title, while Ryan Lochte was left with a familiar feeling of disappointment in Barcelona on Sunday.

Franklin led off the U.S. women’s 4×100-meter medley relay in her signature stroke, the backstroke, giving the Americans a lead they would only build on. Jessica HardyDana Vollmer and Megan Romano took their turns on the way to a 3-minute, 53.23-second finish, two seconds better than silver medalist Australia.

“I’m not really sure where that came from, but I’m really happy with that,” Franklin said, according to The Associated Press. “I knew I had to get out there for my team. We had really tough competition in that race, so we were sitting there in the ready room and we said, ‘No matter what happens, we’re just going to do our best and have fun and we can’t let each other down if we do that.’ So I just went out there and it hurt really, really bad, but now we’re done and we’re all super excited.”

It marked Franklin’s sixth gold of the meet, breaking her tie with American Tracy Caulkins, East German Kristin Otto and Australian Libby Trickett for most golds won by a woman at a single world championships. Otto holds the record for most golds won at an Olympics, six at the 1988 Seoul Games.

Franklin, 18, also stands alone with the most career world championships gold medals by a woman (nine). She keeps getting better. She won three golds at her first world championships in 2011 and four golds at the 2012 Olympics. She and another U.S. teen, Katie Ledecky, a quadruple gold medalist with two world records, were the stars of the eight days at the Palau Sant Jordi. Ledecky was named female swimmer of the meet.

Lochte’s meet could have gone better. Three golds and one silver is nothing to pout about, but it’s also his least fruitful major international meet since the 2008 Olympics.

Lochte appeared to win gold No. 4 in the men’s medley relay. The U.S. touched first by 1.45 seconds, but the Americans were disqualified because Kevin Cordes took off for the second leg too early (by the smallest margin possible, .01).

“A relay disqualification is not a particular individual’s fault,” said Nathan Adrian, who swam the anchor leg, according to the AP. “It’s Team USA’s fault and it falls on all of our shoulders.

“If us four ever step up again, we’re never going to have a disqualification, that’s for sure. It will really motivate him. I don’t doubt if in the next couple years we’re going to have the fastest breaststroker in the world swimming for Team USA. This could be a catalyst for that.”

It was eerily similar to what happened the only other time Lochte was on the medley relay at a major international meet. In 2007, Ian Crocker left .01 too early on the butterfly leg in the preliminary heat. Memorably, this cost Michael Phelps an eighth gold medal at those worlds before he went eight for eight at the Beijing Olympics. Lochte swam the leadoff backstroke on that relay heat.

The U.S. easily won the medal table at the pool (29 medals, 13 golds). Australia and China were second with 13 medals and five golds, respectively. The U.S. also won 29 medals at the 2011 worlds but had more golds (16).

But the best comparison is to the last world championships held the year after the Olympics. The U.S. surpassed its medal haul from 2009, 22 medals and 10 golds, when Phelps was on the roster. It’s clear the U.S. will get along fine with Phelps out of the picture (whether that’s for good or a finite period of time). Franklin, Ledecky and Lochte are now a three-pronged face of USA Swimming.

Also Sunday, Chase Kalisz, 19, took silver in his only event at his first worlds, the 400 individual medley. Matt Grevers (50 back), Jessica Hardy (50 breast) and Elizabeth Beisel (400 IM) all won bronze medals.

Chinese superstar Sun Yang became the second man to sweep the distance freestyles in winning the 1,500 free, and Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu swept the individual medleys by touching first in the 400 IM. Sun was named the male swimmer of the meet.

Scroll down for full results, analysis and quotes from the final day of the world swimming championships. Check out full coverage on NBC from 4-6 p.m. Eastern time, too.

Full results

Men’s 50 Backstroke Final

Gold: Camille Lacourt (FRA) 24.42
Silver: Jeremy Stravius (FRA) 24.54
Silver: Matt Grevers (USA) 24.54
4. Aschwin Wildeboer (ESP) 24.58
5. Sun Xiaolei (CHN) 24.76
6. Daniel Orzechowski (BRA) 24.87
7. Jonatan Kopolev (ISR) 25.14
8. Guy Barnea (ISR) 25.19

Lacourt adds this gold to his 2011 co-world title with Stravius in the 100 back and his 2011 silver in the 50 back. Stravius completes his medal set (also gold in 4×100 free relay, bronze in 100 back). Grevers adds silver to his gold in the 100 back. He still has the leadoff leg in the 4×100 medley relay to come.

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

Gold: Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 29.52
Silver: Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) 29.59
Bronze: Jessica Hardy (USA) 29.80
4. Breeja Larson (USA) 29.95
5. Jennie Johansson (SWE) 30.23
6. Rikke Pedersen (DEN) 30.72
7. Moniek Nijhuis (NED) 31.31
Petra Chicova (CZE) DSQ

Efimova, who held the world record for eight hours Saturday, came within .04 of the mark set by Meilutyte in the semifinals. Hardy equaled her American record, which was the world record about 33 hours ago. Hardy added her second bronze of the meet, also getting third in the 100 breast. Larson went under 30 seconds for the first time.

Men’s 400 Individual Medley

Gold: Daiya Seto (JPN) 4:08.69

Silver: Chase Kalisz (USA) 4:09.22
Bronze: Thiago Pereira (BRA) 4:09.48
4. Tyler Clary (USA) 4:10.39
5. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 4:10.77
6. David Verraszto (HUN) 4:13.68
7. Dan Wallace (GBR) 4:13.72
8. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 4:17.46

Hagino, 18, opened up a two-second-plus lead after 200 meters. His teammate Seto made up the deficit, led after 300 and came home for a surprise gold. Kalisz, 19, in his only event of his first world championships, came back from fourth at 300 to sneak in for silver. It’s only the second time in the last 14 world championships or Olympics that an American did not win the 400 IM.

Women’s 50 Freestyle Final

Gold: Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 24.05
Silver: Cate Campbell (AUS) 24.14
Bronze: Francesca Halsall (GBR) 24.30
4. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 24.45
5. Jeanette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 24.66
5. Bronte Campbell (AUS) 24.66
7. Simone Manuel (USA) 24.80
8. Dorothea Brandt (GER) 24.81

Kromowidjojo, the Olympic champion, upset the Australian Cate Campbell, who was the top qualifier, fastest woman in the world this year and only woman in the field who has gone sub-24. Campbell had the slowest reaction time in the field and couldn’t recover. With Halsall’s bronze, Britain avoids going medal-less a year after hosting the Olympics. The American Manuel, 17, lowered her personal best for the third straight swim.

“I think I should have gone faster,” Kromowidjojo, who matched her personal best time from the Olympic final, told Eurosport.

Men’s 1,500 Freestyle Final

Gold: Sun Yang (CHN) 14:41.15

Silver: Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 14:42.48
Bronze: Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) 14:45.37
4. Connor Jaeger (USA) 14:47.96
5. Michael McBroom (USA) 14:53.95
6. Jordan Harrison (AUS) 15:00.44
7. Pal Joensen (FAR) 15:03.10
8. Daniel Fogg (GBR) 15:05.92

Sun is giving Lochte a run for his money as the world’s best male swimmer. He became the second man to sweep the distance freestyles at a world championships, joining Australian Grant Hackett. Sun also won bronze in the 4×200 free relay, posting the second fastest split of all time. It really makes you wonder where Sun could have finished had he entered the individual 200 free, where Lochte took fourth.

Sun, 22, is now the current Olympic champion in the 400 and 1,500 (the 800 isn’t part of the Olympic program), the current world champion in the 400, 800 and 1,500 and the world record holder in the 1,500. He absolutely toyed with Cochrane in this final. Cochrane led Sun by a tenth at the 800 mark, and even paced at 1,400, before Sun decided to take it up a notch. The Canadian held on for his fourth straight silver in the 1,500 at a worlds or Olympics. Jaeger had won bronze in the 400 free; McBroom silver in the 800 free.

Women’s 400 Individual Medley Final

Gold: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 4:30.41

Silver: Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 4:31.21
Bronze: Elizabeth Beisel (USA) 4:31.69
4. Maya DiRado (USA) 4:32.70
5. Hannah Miley (GBR) 4:34.16
6. Szuszanna Jakabos (HUN) 4:34.50
7. Ye Shiwen (CHN) 4:38.51
8. Miyu Otsuka (JPN) 4:39.21

Hosszu was 2.16 seconds under world record pace at 300 meters but couldn’t get it due to Ye’s extraordinary final 100 in her world record at the 2012 Olympics, where she outsplit Lochte on the final 50. Hosszu became the first woman to sweep the individual medleys at a world championships since American Katie Hoff in 2005 and 2007. Belmonte Garcia won her third medal of the meet (silver, 200 butterfly, bronze 200 IM). Ye gained 11 pounds after the Olympics and went medal-less in Barcelona, swimming 10 seconds slower in this final than the Olympics. Beisel was the defending world champion and Olympic silver medalist. DiRado knocked almost two seconds off her personal best at her first world championships.

“I feel awful,” Hosszu told Eurosport. “It actually hurt more than ever before. After the morning, I was a little bit concerned because the morning hurt pretty bad, too.”

Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay

Gold: France 3:31.51

Silver: Australia 3:31.64
Bronze: Japan 3:32.26
4. Russia 3:32.74
5. Germany 3:33.97
6. Italy 3:34.06
7. Hungary 3:34.09
United States DSQ

The U.S., which touched the wall first, was disqualified because of world championships rookie Kevin Cordes leaving too early on the second leg. His reaction time of -.04 was the exact same reaction time Ian Crocker had in 2007, the last time the U.S. was DQ’d from this event at a major international meet. In 2007, that was .01 too fast. That was also the only other time Lochte was a part of this relay. 

Grevers, the 100 backstroke world and Olympic champion, gave the U.S. a two tenths lead after 100. Cordes, 19, seventh in the 100 breast final, dropped behind Australia (and world champion Christian Sprenger) by .34. Lochte, seventh in the 100 butterfly, retook the lead by .75, with France moving ahead of Australia. Adrian, the bronze medalist in the 100 free, had no problem holding onto (and extending) that lead.

But the gold goes to France, the first time a nation other than the U.S. or Australia won this event at a worlds or Olympics.

Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay

Gold: United States 3:53.23

Silver: Australia 3:55.22
Bronze: Russia 3:56.47
4. China 3:57.30
5. Japan 3:58.06
6. Great Britain 3:58.67
7. Canada 4:00.19
8. Germany 4:01.81

Franklin, the world champ in the 100 back, gave the U.S. a .31 lead after the first 100 meters. Hardy, bronze medalist in the 100 breast, upped it to 1.91 seconds over Russia (Austraila is really weak on breast). Volllmer, the bronze medalist in the 100 fly, brought it to a 3.24 lead over Russia. Even Cate Campbell, the 100 free gold medalist for Australia, couldn’t catch American Megan Romano.

Franklin earned a record-breaking sixth gold medal at a single world championships. No woman had won more than five previously. The U.S. swept all three women’s relays in Barcelona, the first time one nation had ever done that.

Shaun White’s band a surprise Lollapalooza headliner

New generation of male figure skaters owns spotlight at worlds; preview

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Nobody in the men’s field at figure skating worlds owns an Olympic or world title for the first time since 1985. This could lead to the best U.S. men’s results in years.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan combined to win every gold medal since 2011, but all of them ended their seasons at the Olympics.

This week in Milan, the four leading men, who just competed in their first Olympics, are all 20 years or younger. And that includes two Americans.

Nathan Chen can become the first world singles champion from the U.S. since Evan Lysacek in 2009. Chen and Vincent Zhou could be the first U.S. men to finish in the top five together since Lysacek and Johnny Weir in 2005. Chen, Zhou and Max Aaron could make up the best U.S. trio at a worlds in more than 20 years.

Start with Chen. The 18-year-old said he planned to compete this week regardless of what happened at the Olympics, but after his struggles in the team event and individual short programs, the quad master nailed his free skate, came home to California and said he took maybe one day off of training before this event.

Chen is one of three men in the gold-medal hunt, along with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China. While Chen largely struggled at the 2017 Worlds and in PyeongChang, Uno and Jin each made the podium at both events. And each can come close to or equal Chen in quad numbers.

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Zhou, 17, has a chance to become the youngest man to earn a world medal since Hanyu in 2012. Or the first man to win the world junior title one season and make the world senior podium the next since Yevgeny Plushenko in 1997-98.

Zhou is riding momentum. He struggled in the fall and entered nationals in January ranked fifth among Americans for the season. He placed third to make the Olympic team and then landed three clean quads in his Olympic free skate to jump from 12th to sixth.

“I did better there than a lot of people thought I would,” Zhou told NBC Sports research last week. “I knew I was capable of that all season.

“I want to reach my ultimate goal of being Olympic champion, and my best chance is in 2022 … because by 2026 I will probably be old and creaky with four prosthetic limbs.”

Aaron made it to Milan after Olympian Adam Rippon gave up his spot, and the top two alternates (Jason Brown and Ross Miner) both declined. Still, Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, is seeded seventh in the men’s field based on top scores this season.

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Carolina Kostner the sentimental favorite at figure skating worlds

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is without question the favorite at this week’s world figure skating championships, especially after the sprightly Russian’s training partner and rival Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrew because of injury.

She won’t be the sentimental favorite, though.

That would be Carolina Kostner, the ageless Italian star who could be competing at worlds for the last time on home soil. The 2012 champion and six-time world medalist seemed to indicate that retirement could be looming after she finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, where she was chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Kostner will have a huge home crowd behind her when the event begins Wednesday in Milan.

“Decisions like that should never be taken in a hot moment. It will come naturally,” said Kostner, who no longer can compete with the sport’s high-fliers when it comes to technical marks, but whose elegant artistry and presentation often make up the difference.

“She is an example of perseverance, of a long-lasting athlete,” Medvedeva said. “I have trouble imagining how someone can stay in that shape for a very long time. When you see people like Carolina, you understand that if she can do something, then that something is possible. If you love what you do, you put all of yourself into it, like Carolina Kostner.”

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When asked about retirement, Kostner brought up her cousin, Isolde Kostner, who won three Olympic Alpine skiing medals before deciding to step away from competition.

“She stopped skiing shortly before the (2006) Olympics in Italy,” Caroline Kostner said. “Many did not understand why she wouldn’t pull through because it was her home country, and she said, ‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop.’ And I haven’t felt it yet.”

The biggest story at the world championships in an Olympic year tends to be who is missing rather than who shows up. The grind of competing for an entire season builds toward the quadrennial event, and athletes who medal or intend to retire rarely press on to worlds. Then there are the injuries, which accumulate during the year.

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