Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky wins 2 Pan Pacs titles; Missy Franklin places 3rd

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Katie Ledecky won two events in a 50-minute span, while Missy Franklin was third in the top final of the 100m backstroke to open the Pan Pacific Championships on Thursday night.

Ledecky, 17, captured the 200m freestyle in 1 minute, 55.74 seconds in Gold Coast, Australia. She came back less than an hour later and nearly broke her world record in the 800m free, prevailing in 8:11.35. Her world record, set June 22, is 8:11.00.

“It was my first big international double,” Ledecky told reporters in Gold Coast. “I wanted to see how I could handle it. I’m really happy with how I handled it.”

Franklin, who was questionable to swim Thursday due to a back injury, took bronze behind Australians Emily Seebohm and Belinda Hocking in the 100m back. Franklin, 19, also won the 200m free consolation final in a time that would have placed second to Ledecky.

Franklin won both the 100m back and 200m free at the 2013 World Championships, where she bagged six gold medals.

Franklin said she had to remind herself to be proud of her swims given the circumstances of “intense” pain that made her “terrified” and kept her from putting any pressure on her back on Tuesday.

“Honestly, it has nothing to do with my times, nothing to do my with places,” said Franklin, smiling and laughing throughout the interview. “Just kind of fighting back against life right now.”

The rising California sophomore said it was scary the first night with the back problems, since she had never had spasms before. She couldn’t walk unassisted until Wednesday, when she was on “a bunch of medication” and was able to “sort of wobble around.” She’s had acupuncture and ice massages.

Franklin said after Thursday’s races that she felt ready to swim again Friday, but that she would take the meet day by day.

“I think this is definitely something that’ll pass,” she said. “I think now that I’m aware of it, now that I know my lower back gets a little tight, it’s definitely something we can prevent and make sure it never gets this bad again.”

The Pan Pacific Championships is the biggest swim meet of the year for the U.S. and a qualifying meet for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia. NBC will have coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.

Ledecky and Franklin qualified for Worlds in both of their Thursday events, setting up a potential showdown in the 200m free in Kazan, Russia, next summer.

“I wanted to swim tonight because I knew there was a Worlds spot on the line,” Franklin said. “I miss being able to get up and race [Ledecky].”

Ryan Lochte took fifth in his first Pan Pacs event, the 200m freestyle, to qualify for Worlds. Australian Thomas Fraser-Holmes won in 1:45.98, nine tenths slower than his fastest time in the world this year.

Michael Phelps is scheduled to make his meet debut in the 100m freestyle preliminary heats Friday morning (8 p.m. ET on Thursday).

Olympic champion Matt Grevers was upset in the 100m back by Japanese Olympic bronze medalist Ryosuke Irie, 53.02 to 53.09. Grevers’ time from the preliminary heats Thursday morning would have won gold.

U.S. Olympian Cammile Adams scored the biggest international victory of her career, taking the 200m butterfly over Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi, who still has the fastest time in the world this year.

Connor Jaeger clipped two-time Olympic medalist Ryan Cochrane of Canada by .18 in the 1500m free.

Results

Women’s 200m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) 1:55.74
2. Bronte Barratt (AUS) 1:57.22
3. Shannon Vreeland (USA) 1:57.38

Men’s 200m Freestyle
1. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 1:45.98
2. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:46.08
3. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 1:46.36
4. Conor Dwyer (USA) 1:46.45
5. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:46.75

Women’s 100m Backstroke
1. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 58.84
2. Belinda Hocking (AUS) 59.78
3. Missy Franklin (USA) 1:00.30

Men’s 100m Backstroke
1. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 53.02
2. Matt Grevers (USA) 53.09
3. Ryan Murphy (USA) 53.27

Women’s 800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) 8:11.35
2. Lauren Boyle (NZL) 8:18.87
3. Brittany MacLean (CAN) 8:20.02

Women’s 200m Butterfly
1. Cammile Adams (USA) 2:06.61
2. Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) 2:06.68
3. Katie McLaughlin (USA) 2:07.08

Men’s 200m Butterfly
1. Daiya Seto (JPN) 1:54.92
2. Leonardo de Deus (BRA) 1:55.28
3. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:55.42

Men’s 1500m Freestyle
1. Connor Jaeger (USA) 14:51.79
2. Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 14:51.97
3. Mack Horton (AUS) 14:52.78

Pan Pacs men’s preview | women’s preview

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order