Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte

Five takeaways from U.S. Swimming Championships

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IRVINE, Calif. — These U.S. Championships offered a glimpse of what could be in 2016 at the halfway point between Olympics. Here are takeaways from the past week to note as swimmers prepare for the Pan Pacific Championships:

1. The U.S. must go faster in Australia.

Katie Ledecky was sensational, Missy Franklin bagged three titles and Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte showed signs of returning to form. We’ll get to all of them specifically later, but it was surprising to see only two world-leading times set in Irvine — Ledecky’s world record in the 400m freestyle and Phelps’ preliminary clocking in the 100m butterfly.

Pan Pacs, which are in Gold Coast, Australia, from Aug. 21-25, are largely a U.S.-Australia showdown. In individual Olympic events, the U.S. is even, 13-13, in fastest times this year versus the Aussies, who had their Nationals in April and sent their best swimmers to the Commonwealth Games in July.

If Pan Pacs end up being that tight for golds, it will be a big swing from the last few major international meets. Australia sank in London, with one gold medal and 10 overall in the pool (the U.S. had 16 golds with 30 total). The Aussies improved slightly at the 2013 World Championships, but the Americans still bagged way more golds (13 to 3) and total medals (29 to 13).

2. What happens when Katie Ledecky gets challenged?

Janet Evans brought up an interesting point when discussing Ledecky on Sunday. Yes, Ledecky has been spectacular this year, breaking world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m frees.

The 17-year-old can’t go personal bests and record breakers every time she swims, though. And now her times are targets for every other distance swimmer in the world.

At some point, maybe in the distant future, she will come back to Earth and plateau, at least for a period. Likewise, she will eventually lose an important race.

How will she respond to such adversity, Evans asked. Well, Ledecky has gone through a rough international meet before. She was ill at Duel in the Pool in Glasgow, Scotland, in December, finishing sixth in the 400m free and making one podium, second in the 200m free.

She’s seemed to rebound quiet nicely from that.

That’s a bit different from getting flat-out beat while fit and healthy, and at a major international meet, which Duel in the Pool is not.

Video: Ledecky breaks 400m free world record

3. Ryan Lochte has as much to prove as Michael Phelps.

You could make an argument Phelps was having a better meet than Lochte going into Sunday.

Neither had a victory, but at least Phelps had posted that world-leading 100m fly time before getting out-touched by .01 in the final. He also would have been near (perhaps better than) Lochte’s second-place time in the 100m free if not for that flukey missed turn.

Phelps is coming off a 20-month competitive retirement. Lochte, who is one year older than Phelps, is coming off nine months of knee problems, beginning with that overzealous fan encounter in November, then coming back too early in February and finally a re-tear of an MCL in the spring.

Remember, Phelps and Lochte faced off in three finals in a July meet, Lochte’s first in three months. And Phelps was faster in all of them.

Lochte edges Phelps in 200m IM

4. Missy Franklin’s dominance is being tested.

The bubbly rising Cal sophomore became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships last year. She goes into Pan Pacs ranking no higher than No. 3 in the world in her four primary individual events — 100m and 200m frees and backstrokes.

Franklin said after Nationals that she was still learning how to taper under a new coach, Teri McKeever in Berkeley. We’ll see if she’s timed it right at Pan Pacs, where she could face women who have been faster than her this year in all of her events.

Those are three Aussies in the 100m free, Ledecky and Aussie Emma McKeon in the 200m free, Aussie Emily Seebohm in the 100m back and three Aussies in the 200m back (though one, Meagen Nay, missed Commonwealths due to injury).

5. New (teen) talent has yet to fully break through.

Here are the U.S. swimmers ranked in the top three in the world in individual Olympic events — Franklin, Lochte, Ledecky, Phelps, Nathan Adrian, Tyler ClaryKevin CordesAnthony Ervin, Matt GreversTom Shields and Melanie Margalis.

Of those 11, eight are individual Olympic champions. A ninth, Cordes, won the 100m and 200m breaststrokes at the 2013 U.S. Championships.

That leaves Shields, who swept the 100m and 200m butterflies, and Margalis, who won the 200m IM, as the major international meet rookies.

Both were born in 1991. It appears as if the U.S. might not have a teen sensation splash on the international scene this year. In 2011, it was Franklin. In 2012, it was Ledecky. Last year, Chase Kalisz won a Worlds silver.

*Correction: An earlier version of this article failed to mention Ervin having one of the three fastest times in the world this year in an event.

U.S. roster for Pan Pacs

Three U.S. ice dance teams into GP final with NHK 1-3 finish

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U.S. ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani notched a victory and two personal bests on their way to the top of the NHK Trophy podium in Nagano, Japan. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, also of the U.S., earned the bronze. With podium finishes, both duos are into the Grand Prix Final held in two weeks in Barcelona.

U.S. couple Madison Chock and Evan Bates already qualified for the final by winning medals at Skate America and Cup of China earlier this season, making for an unprecedented three team force in the ice dance discipline of the Grand Prix Final.

The “ShibSibs” now own the highest total score of any ice dance team in the Grand Prix circuit this season, 174.43. They were the only team to crack into the 174-barrier. Their free dance, the second component of their overall score, was also a personal best. The NHK Trophy win was the siblings’ second career Grand Prix title across six seasons on the circuit. Their previous gold medal came from the 2011 NHK Trophy.

The U.S. traditionally has strong ice dance representation at the Grand Prix Final. Last year, in their first appearance, Chock and Bates earned silver medals. The Shibutanis have competed twice in the final and finished fourth in the 2014 event. Hubbell and Donohue will make their Grand Prix Final debut this year.

U.S. Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White own five consecutive Grand Prix Final ice dance gold medals from the 2009-10 season through 2013-14. They have not competed for the past two seasons.

MORE: Ladies, men’s and pairs results from NHK and Grand Prix Final analysis

World records fall at Weightlifting World Championships

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 27:   Yue Kang of China (L) and Olga Zubova of Russia (R) help Jong Sim Rim of North Korea to the podium after they finished with the top total scores in the women's 75kg weight class during the 2015 International Weightlifting Federation World Championships at the George R. Brown Convention Center on November 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Article by Dan Levinsohn

Ten world records fell this week at the IWF World Weightlifting Championships, which concluded last night in Houston, shedding light on who will contend for a medal next summer in Rio.

The tournament brought together 609 lifters from a record breaking 98 participating countries, with men competing in eight different weight classes and women in seven.

The athletes didn’t waste any time getting to work rewriting the record books. On the first night of competition in the men’s 56kg division, London gold medalist Om Yun Chol of North Korea lifted a 171kg in the clean and jerk. His previous world record stood at 170kg, set at the 2014 Asian Games.

Though Om claimed his fifth total title at the World Weightlifting Championships with 302kg, he barely took gold over China’s snatch winner and London silver medalist, Wu Jingbiao, who lifted the same total weight. Om ultimately won through body weight tiebreaker. Neither the snatch nor the total lifts were all-time bests.

Some of the other world records included Azerbaijan’s Boyanka Kostova winning 112kg in the snatch and 252kg total in the women’s 58kg division, China’s Deng Wei lifting 146kg in the 63kg category’s clean and jerk, and Russia’s Aleksey Lovchev lifting a 264kg clean and jerk and a 475kg total in the men’s +105kg competition. Snatch world record holder and London gold medalist Behdad Salimi of Iran (+105kg) could not compete in this year’s Championships due to a recent knee injury; he recorded his highest-ever total, 465kg, at the 2014 Asian Games.

Asian countries continued to dominate most fields, with China placing first in six of the 15 total categories and North Korea and Chinese Taipei winning one title each. Overall, Chinese women won 11 gold medals, nine silver, and one bronze, ranking first in the overall medal table. Though China’s men won seven gold medals, three silver, and one bronze, Russia’s men took first place with seven golds, four silvers, and two bronzes.

The United States saw particularly impressive results from its female athletes, who finished 14th overall in the women’s medals. In the 75kg division, Jenny Arthur placed seventh in the clean and jerk with 138kg; she placed eighth in total with 244kg. In the +75kg category, Sarah Robles claimed a 122kg snatch and 157kg clean and jerk for a sixth place total finish of 279kg.

Perhaps the Championship’s most dramatic moment occurred during the women’s 75kg event. North Korea’s Rim Jong-Sim, who previously won gold in the 69kg division at the London Olympics, injured herself during her third snatch attempt (video here). First, she tore the labrum in her left hip. Then, defying doctor’s orders, she injured a stretch muscle and hurt her left knee on three subsequent clean and jerk attempts. She collapsed soon after her lift and was eventually hoisted onto the awards-ceremony podium by her fellow athletes, ultimately finishing second.

NBC Researcher Dylan Howlett contributed to this article from Houston.