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

Winter Olympics late night: What to watch/stream

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NBC’s nighttime coverage leads into Thursday morning with Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin continuing their combined runs.

Elsewhere tonight, the USA take on Canada in the men’s curling semifinals. The USA will be looking to continue their improbable medal run, putting an end to Canada’s dominance in curling.

Continue reading below to check out what else is on schedule tonight in PyeongChang.


Alpine Skiing

Women’s combined continues from Wednesday night’s coverage into the early hours on Thursday. Lindsey Vonn, who just competed in the downhill on Tuesday, will have to find a way to quickly recover in time to be well enough to compete in the combined.

Mikaela Shiffrin will also be continuing her run. Though Shiffrin missed two of her other events last week, she is still considered a serious medal contender for the combined.

Women’s Combined Run 2 Stream Live Here 1:00a.m. EST / 10:00p.m. PST

Curling

It’s a massive Canada-USA double-header tonight. After the two countries battle it out for the gold in the women’s hockey tournament, they meet again in the semifinals of men’s curling.

The USA have been fantastic ever since they fell to 2-4 in group play, posting big wins over Switzerland, Great Britain, and their semifinal opponents. Confidence for this team has to be sky high, and they must certainly feel that they’ve got nothing to lose. Canada, since starting 5-0, have lost three of four.

Men’s Tournament

Semifinal 1 SWE vs. GBR/SUI Stream Live Here 6:05 a.m. EST / 3:05a.m. PST

Semifinal 2 USA vs. CAN Stream Live Here 6:05 a.m. EST / 3:05a.m. PST

Nordic Combined 

The Germans swept the large hill in the individual competition earlier this week, and should be heavy favorites to dominate the competition again in the team event. If Norway can have a better performance on the ski jump tonight, then they could challenge Germany for the top spot.

Team Large Hill Ski Jump Stream Live Here 2:30a.m. EST / 11:30p.m. PST

Short Track

It’s the hottest ticket in town, and the South Korean crowd is sure to be buzzing with several of their athletes in contention for gold. Cho Minjeong and Shim Sukhee have looked particularly strong in the women’s 1000m.

Seo Yira is leading the charge in the men’s 500m, but he’s in a tough quarterfinal group featuring 1000m champion Samuel Girard.

Men’s 500m Stream Live Here 5:00a.m. EST / 2:00a.m. PST

Men’s 5000m Relay Stream Live Here 5:00a.m. EST / 2:00a.m. PST

Women’s 1000m Stream Live Here 5:00a.m. EST / 2:00a.m. PST

Biathlon 

Germany, France, and Sweden lead the first line in the women’s relay. Vanessa Hinz and Laura Dahlmeier put Germany in front during the first stages of the mixed relay, and if they can shoot clear then Germany could run away with this one quickly.

Women’s 4x6km Relay Stream Live Here 6:15a.m. EST / 3:15a.m. PST

Hilary Knight: Heavy is the crown for the selfie queen

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Following three-time Olympian Hilary Knight on social media means pictures. Specifically, selfies.

Lots and lots of selfies.

The forward easily qualifies as the selfie queen of the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team. But it’s not because the 5-foot-11 Knight doesn’t try to share the photo duties documenting these Olympic moments with her teammates.

“I always ask someone else to do it, and they’re like, ‘No, no you just do it,'” Knight said with a laugh. “Just because of my arms. I have the angle or something figured out.

Knight stayed busy the night of the opening ceremonies at the Pyeongchang Games.

She’s also been documenting life in the athletes’ village.

Knight says she startles herself when she opens up her SnapChat app and finds it on selfie mode.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on there?” she said. “But I feel badly for posting all the selfies. At the same time, we’re trying to capture all these memories we have together because they’re something special.”