US swimmer Natalie Coughlin talks during

Women’s stars fail to make Pan Pacific Championships team

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IRVINE, Calif. — The U.S. will fly 60 swimmers to Australia this week to prepare for the Pan Pacific Championships. It will depart without three swimmers who have combined to win 51 Olympic and World Championships medals.

Natalie Coughlin, Allison Schmitt and Katie Hoff were the three biggest names to enter the U.S. Championships last week and fail to make the top three in any individual event (or top four for a relay).

Therefore, they did not qualify for the Pan Pacific Championships. Therefore, they cannot qualify for the 2015 World Championships.

This year is the first year since 2000 and the Sydney Olympics that not one of Coughlin, Schmitt or Hoff will compete at a major international meet.

Coughlin, the oldest women’s swimmer at the U.S. Championships at 31, finished seventh in the 100m freestyle Wednesday and sixth in the 50m free Sunday.

Coughlin, who got really sick last week due to food poisoning from bad shrimp, said she feels good about moving forward with her career.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a meet before where I could say I did everything in my power to be ready, and I did,” she said. “There’s always going to be stumbles along the way.”

The three-time Olympian owns 32 combined Olympic and Worlds medals, the most of any U.S. woman ever.

“Sometimes it serves as motivation,” said Coughlin, noting Matt Grevers, who missed 2010 Pan Pacs and 2011 Worlds and won Olympic 100m back gold in 2012. “Sometimes you need that extra kick, that salt in the wound.”

U.S. Pan Pacs roster

Schmitt, a six-time Olympic medalist, failed to make the eight-woman final in all of her events — the 100m, 200m and 400m frees.

Schmitt, who won as many medals in London as Missy Franklin (five), also missed the 2013 World Championships team.

“The bigger picture is 2016,” said Schmitt, who recently signed with Adidas, whose slogan is “All In.” “Yeah, it’s disappointing, and I was hoping to do better this Nationals, but things happen. It gives me more motivation and things to work on.”

Hoff won three medals each at the 2005 Worlds, 2007 Worlds and 2008 Olympics. She missed the 2012 Olympic Team and took a yearlong sabbatical.

Hoff had strong results this spring, but injury kept her from showing that form in Irvine, where she pulled out of three events and was 27th in the prelims in the 100m free.

Add in the fact that reigning Olympic 200m breaststroke champion Rebecca Soni is retired and that Olympic 100m butterfly champion Dana Vollmer hasn’t competed in nearly a year. 

Franklin and Katie Ledecky will lead the U.S. women to Pan Pacs, but their surrounding cast will not include the other most recognizable recent names in U.S. women’s swimming.

Lochte outduels Phelps in finale

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