Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte fall short in final race in Athens

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The winner of the last Michael PhelpsRyan Lochte duel of the Bulldog Grand Slam was Yannick Agnel.

Agnel, the French Olympic 200m freestyle champion, captured the 100m free at the Athens, Ga., meet on Sunday, upending the American stars in a U.S. Championships tuneup.

Agnel clocked 49.37 seconds to edge the 22-time Olympic medalist Phelps by .05. Lochte was fourth in 49.64. Agnel and Phelps both clocked faster 100m free times earlier this year.

Swimmers were preparing for the U.S. Championships from Aug. 6-10 in Irvine, Calif., a selection meet for the Pan Pacific Championships from Aug. 21-24 in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Phelps won two of his three events in three days in Athens, the fourth meet of his comeback after a 20-month retirement following the London Olympics. He finished ahead of Lochte in each race.

Lochte, in his first meet since an April aggravation of a major November knee injury, won the Phelps-less 200m individual medley final in 1:58.65 on Sunday, making him the 10th-fastest man this year and tops among Americans, according to SwimVortex.com. His first win of the meet allayed some concern about his knee.

The wonder going forward is which events Phelps and Lochte will swim at the U.S. Championships with the caveat that swimmers who qualify at Nationals for Pan Pacs can add more events at the latter meet.

Phelps has said he doesn’t want to swim the 400m IM or the 200m butterfly anymore. His other long-running events are the 100m butterfly, 200m freestyle and 200m IM. He’s also been known to enter the 100m free to earn 4x100m free relay duty.

Lochte has long been a rival to Phelps in the 200m free and 200m IM and also fancies the 100m free for relay consideration. He added the 100m fly to his repertoire last year, when Phelps was not swimming. He’s also won Olympic gold medals in the 200m back and 400m IM, though he hasn’t done too much of the grueling latter event since winning in London.

In other events Sunday, five-time 2012 Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt won the women’s 100m free in 54.64 over Olympians and World Championships relay medalists Megano RomanoAmanda Weir and Shannon Vreeland. Schmitt’s best this year is 54.46, second among Americans to Simone Manuel.

Tyler Clary bounced back from finishing third in the 200m IM to capture the 200m backstroke in 2:00.92, though he was 2.89 seconds faster in Charlotte on May 15.

Melanie Margalis won the women’s 200m IM in 2:10.71, ninth-fastest in the world and best for an American. Kylie Stewart, 18, took the women’s 200m back in 2:11.25.

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Karen Chen breaks U.S. Champs scoring record; Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold trail

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KANSAS CITY — A skater broke the U.S. Championships women’s short program scoring record Thursday night, but it wasn’t Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold.

Karen Chen, a 17-year-old former junior star who struggled the last two years, tallied 72.82 points at the Sprint Center to lead going into Saturday’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, is second, .87 of a point behind.

That leaves Wagner and Gold, who combined to win the last five U.S. titles, in third and fifth, respectively.

This is concerning for Wagner (1.88 behind Chen) and Gold (7.97 behind) given U.S. Figure Skating can send three women to worlds in two months. That selection will be made this weekend, primarily — but not totally — based off U.S. Championships results.

Tessa Hong is in fourth place, but at 14 years old is too young for senior worlds.

Full results are here.

Though Wagner and Gold are usually higher placed, the biggest surprise was Chen.

“My body’s still trembling right now,” she said, two hours after her performance.

Chen skated a clean program Thursday, rare for her in the last couple of seasons. Chen burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little has been heard from Chen since.

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

“Everyone has doubts, and I certainly do as well,” said Chen, who choreographed her short program. “But I just kept pushing and telling myself that I’m gaining more experience, I’m learning about everything in the process and I’m just going to keep getting better.”

Wagner bounced back from her last outing — her worst Grand Prix finish in 25 career starts — with a decent program. She needed to save a double Axel near the end of her short. The 2016 World silver medalist was the pre-event favorite.

“People do not understand how difficult of a position I am in,” said Wagner, a 25-year-old bidding to become the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 90 years. “It might seem like I’m on top of the world, or second from being top of the world, but this is a very tough position to be in. It’s mentally been weighing on my shoulders all season. To be able to come out and show people I am a fighter, I’m really proud of that.”

Gold needed to show a fighting spirit given her well-publicized disaster of a fall season. And she did. Her only miss in the short program was doubling a planned triple flip.

“I can feel a huge improvement as a skater. I think everyone can see it,” Gold said. “I have made comebacks before. This doesn’t feel like a major comeback in some ways, because I felt pretty solid. … A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kind of feel like I’m due for a good one.”

If Gold doesn’t improve in the free skate, she could be left off the worlds team for the first time in her senior career. However, Gold believes her strong credentials in recent seasons merit consideration.

“We’ve seen different controversies where people aren’t on the [nationals] podium, and they’re still selected for events,” Gold said. “Michelle Kwan has not gone to nationals and been selected for an Olympic team [in 2006]. I believe that I deserve to be on the world team, but I’m not on the selection committee. Of course, every athlete feels like they should be on the world team.”

Earlier Thursday, the pairs short program produced surprise leaders.

The U.S. Championships continue Friday with the short dance and men’s short program. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss wants Russia out of PyeongChang

Women’s Short Program
1. Karen Chen — 72.82
2. Mirai Nagasu — 71.95
3. Ashley Wagner — 70.94
4. Tessa Hong — 65.02
5. Gracie Gold — 64.85

 

Gwen Jorgensen pregnant, to sit out 2017 triathlon season

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: USA's Gwen Jorgensen followed by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig Hug (L) compete in the running portion of the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.(Photo by Jeff Pachoud-Pool/Getty Images)
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Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.

“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.

Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.

In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.

The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.

MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened