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

Results
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

Summary
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

Results
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

Summary
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

Results
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

Summary
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

Results
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

Summary
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

Results
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

Summary
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

Results
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

Summary
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

Results
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

Summary
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

Results
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

Summary
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

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.

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