Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte scratches on final day of Mesa Grand Prix

Leave a comment

Ryan Lochte had an abrupt ending to the Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Ariz. The 11-time Olympic medalist pulled out of his two finals Saturday after warm-ups for reported health reasons.

Lochte was slated to swim the 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley finals on the third and final day of competition. He won the 100m butterfly, over Michael Phelps, on Thursday and the 200m freestyle Friday. He scratched out of the 200m back final Friday.

Lochte tore his left MCL and sprained his ACL after a teenage girl ran to him, he caught her and they both fell on Nov. 2. His knee hit a curb, Lochte’s publicist said. He was back racing in February, but he said he pushed the knee too hard in swimming at an Orlando meet, aggravating the injury. He did race in March, though.

Media in Mesa reported Lochte’s injury to be a knee, leg or hamstring.

Lochte’s coach in Charlotte is David Marsh.

Three-time 2008 Olympic medalist Katie Hoff led the winners Saturday, dominating the 200m individual medley by 1.69 seconds in 2:12.92.

Hoff, 24, took more than a year off after missing the 2012 Olympic Team but was reinvigorated for the sport while attending the World Junior Championships in Dubai in August.

“I think I just needed to step away for a little bit,” Hoff, who got engaged after throwing a ceremonial first pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays game Sunday, said on Universal Sports. “I watched all those fast kids enjoy it and swim fast. I thought, I’m not done. I want to be down there racing, too.”

Hoff dusted a field that included both of the U.S. 200m IM representatives at the 2013 World Championships, Caitlin Leverenz and Elizabeth Beisel. World Swimmer of the Year Katie Ledecky qualified fourth into the final, behind Hoff, Leverenz and Beisel, but scratched out of it.

Ledecky later won the 800m freestyle in 8:20.10. The Olympic and world champion Ledecky, 17, beat the second-place finisher, Danish world silver medalist Lotte Friis, by nearly 13 seconds. Ledecky swept the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles in Mesa.

In another dominating effort, world silver medalist Michael McBroom won the 1500m by nearly 31 seconds in 15:08.86. Three-time South African Olympian Darian Townsend took the men’s 200m IM by 1.73 seconds in 2:02.07.

Olympic 200m backstroke champion Tyler Clary won the 200m butterfly in 2:00.39, edging 2013 World Championships teammate Tom Luchsinger by .01. Rising star Becca Mann, 16, won the women’s 200m butterfly by 1.85 seconds in 2:12.10.

Olympic champion Matt Grevers was beaten in the 100m backstroke by Arkady Vyatchanin, 54.40 to 54.50. Two-time Mexican Olympian Fernanda Gonzalez captured the women’s 100m back by .67 in 1:01.58.

Three-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson completed a sweep of the breaststrokes, taking the 100m breast in 1:07.50, a whopping 1.43 seconds ahead of second-place Micah LawrenceSlovenia’s Damir Dugonjic took the men’s 100m breast over U.S. champion Kevin Cordes by .06. 

The next USA Swimming Grand Prix meet is in Charlotte, N.C., from May 15-18. Phelps is expected to compete there.

What’s next for Michael Phelps

Nathan Chen ushers in new era with record-breaking nationals short program

ST PAUL, MN - JANUARY 24: Nathan Chen looks on after competing in the Men's Free Skate at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championship on January 24, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY — Nathan Chen is in position to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 51 years and, as he said Friday night, help put the U.S. “back on the map” in men’s skating.

Chen, 17 and already an Olympic medal contender, tallied 106.39 points in the short program, taking Jeremy Abbott‘s U.S. Championships record of 99.86 from 2014 off the books.

He carries a whopping 17.72-point lead into Sunday’s free skate (4 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Chen, a past U.S. novice and junior champion, landed two quadruple jumps and continued his rise in a breakout senior season after taking silver at the Grand Prix Final last month.

He said after his skate that he’s ready to handle the tag of Olympic medal contender and to go for the world title in Helsinki in March.

“I’m able to stack up against these top-level skaters,” said Chen, who beat the reigning Olympic and world champions in the Grand Prix Final free skate. “That’s something I’ve strived for my whole life. I don’t think it’s something I should necessarily be afraid of, something that I’ve wanted my whole life.”

Chen leads the U.S. Championships over a member of the old guard, Ross Miner, a 25-year-old who made three straight U.S. podiums from 2011-13 but none since.

Vincent Zhou, who turned 16 three months ago, was third, but within .82 of Miner. Full results are here.

“Nathan Chen has always been a few steps ahead of me,” said Zhou, who won the 2013 U.S. junior title and finished fifth at the 2016 World Junior Championships, taking two years off in between to recover from a torn meniscus in his right knee and focus on school. “When he was intermediate, I was just a little preliminary admiring him. Now it feels amazing to start closing the gap.”

The U.S. will send two men to the world championships in two months, selected after Sunday’s free skate, and they likely won’t be the usual names. Neither Chen nor Zhou has been to senior worlds, and Miner’s last appearance was 2013.

The 2016 U.S. champion, Adam Rippon, is not competing this week due to a season-ending broken foot. The 2015 U.S. champion, Jason Brown, is in fourth place, 8.62 behind third-place Zhou. Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, fell twice and tumbled to 12th place Friday.

“It just wasn’t a good day,” Aaron said. “It’s not me.”

There are no more pressure-filled world championships than those one year before the Olympics, where skaters earn Olympic entries for their countries.

“That would definitely be a massive step up that I haven’t prepared for in the fullest, but it would be an absolute honor if I were to be able to go,” Zhou said. “But, for now, I’m setting more of my sights on junior worlds.”

Hopes will mostly be riding with Chen, who has a shot to become the first U.S. men’s medalist at an Olympics or worlds since Evan Lysacek took the 2010 Olympic title.

“We’re pushing back up to where we should be,” Chen said of the U.S. men. “We kind of sunk a little bit, but I think me and some of the other skaters coming up at this event will help bring the U.S. back on the map.”

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday with the pairs free skate, free dance and women’s free skate, with coverage starting at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

MORE: Ashley Wagner ‘sick’ of hearing about her age

Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen — 106.39
2. Ross Miner — 88.67
3. Vincent Zhou — 87.85
4. Jason Brown — 79.23
5. Grant Hochstein — 79.10

Maia, Alex Shibutani break U.S. Championships short dance record

Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY — Maia and Alex Shibutani broke the U.S. Championships short dance record held by Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White on Friday.

The defending national champion Shibutanis tallied 82.42 points at Sprint Center, easily taking down the Davis-and-White mark of 80.69 set at the 2014 U.S. Championships.

Scores have been higher this season overall, leading to records in international competitions, too.

“Didn’t know it was a record,” Maia Shibutani said. “It was our strongest performance of the short dance so far this season. That’s exactly what we want to be showing right now before we head to the second half of the season.”

The Shibutanis lead by 2.46 points over 2015 U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates going into Saturday’s free dance (3 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, three-time U.S. bronze medalists, are again third. Full results are here.

U.S. Figure Skating will send three dance couples to the world championships in two months. The Shibutanis, Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue were those three couples the past two seasons.

The U.S. is the world power in ice dance, impressively rising during Davis and White’s break since Sochi.

The Shibutanis took silver and Chock and Bates took bronze at the 2016 World Championships. Hubbell and Donohue made it three U.S. couples in the top six at worlds for the first time since 1955.

Chock and Bates had been the top U.S. couple since the Sochi Olympics up until last year’s U.S. Championships. The Shibutanis have topped Chock and Bates in their last three competitions together.

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

MORE: U.S. Championships broadcast schedule

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani — 82.42
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 79.96
3. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 79.72
4. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker — 72.60
5. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit — 67.17