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

Yulia Stepanova, doping whistleblower, appeals her Olympic ban

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 06:  Yuliya Stepanova looks on after finishing last in the Womens 800m heats during day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium on July 6, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for European Athletics )
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Whistleblower Yulia Stepanova‘s hopes of competing in the Summer Olympics are all but over. Her fight to expose doping and corruption is not.

“It’s OK to lose a good fight,” Stepanova’s husband, Vitaly Stepanov, told The Associated Press on Monday.

They have appealed to the International Olympic Committee to reverse its decision, handed down Sunday, that denies Stepanova a chance at competing in the Rio Games, which begin Aug. 5. The decision, the Stepanovs claim, is based on incorrect information, including the IOC’s framing of Stepanova’s decision to become a whistleblower as a too-little-too-late desperation play made after the Russian team had cast her aside.

It’s a conclusion that both the World Anti-Doping Agency and track’s governing body, the IAAF, disagree with; both recommended Stepanova be allowed to compete in Rio.

But Stepanov said he received several signals that the IOC would not go along, beginning with a general lack of interest from the key decision makers. He said that during the push for Olympic eligibility, he spoke with two separate IOC officials for a total of 90 minutes.

“I think what the IOC didn’t do is spend enough time to understand how big the problem is in Russia and how much covering up is happening in Russian sports,” he said.

Stepanova was the 800-meter runner who was entrenched in the Russian doping system but later came forward with details about the cheating. That triggered investigations that led to the banning of the Russian track team from the Olympics. After receiving more information about Russian sports as a whole, the IOC opted against a ban of the entire Russian team.

Part of that decision included a ruling that any Russian with a previous doping ban would not be allowed in Rio. That includes Stepanova, though the legality of that ruling is in question: In 2011, the Court of Arbitration for Sport invalidated the IOC’s Rule 45, which called for Olympic bans for any athlete who’d served more than a six-month doping penalty. CAS said it amounted to double jeopardy.

It was one of several facets from the decision handed down Sunday that indicated the difficulty the IOC had in finding the right balance between, as president Thomas Bach called it, “individual justice and collective responsibility.” There also were political concerns; a Russian official addressed the IOC executive board and told members not to cave into geopolitical pressure.

While Russia largely welcomed the decision, it was roundly criticized by those in the anti-doping world. The move to ban Stepanova was widely viewed as the worst part of the judgment.

“The decision to refuse her entry in to the Games is incomprehensible and will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Stepanov said his wife got a bout of the stomach flu on Sunday – making a bad day that much worse.

She was training for the Olympics, knowing that if she made it, she would not compete for a medal, the way she had in the past.

“Her goal is to participate,” Stepanov said. “In my view, she deserved to be an Olympian a lot more than when she was a doped athlete.”

But the odds are against her.

Stepanov said there is no money to fund an appeal to CAS, which would have the last say on her possible ban.

“Sunday was a day to cry a little, to get disappointed,” Stepanov said. “But today’s Monday. We feel we’re trying to fight for the right thing, so we wake up and start fighting again.”

MORE: Russian whistleblower denied bid to compete in Rio Olympics

Gabby Douglas ‘a very strong possibility’ for all-around, Martha Karolyi says

Gabby Douglas
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Gabby Douglas has “a very strong possibility” to get a chance to defend her Olympic all-around title in Rio, U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said Monday.

“Gabby’s preparation is in a very, very good direction, and I foresee that she can be in the all-around, but we’re not taking this decision as of now yet,” Karolyi said.

The U.S. will put no more than three women from its five-woman team in the all-around in qualifying. The top two Americans in qualifying will advance to the all-around final, the most prestigious individual competition in the sport.

“We have a tentative lineup, but that’s absolutely tentative and we would not reveal that lineup at the moment yet, because most likely there will be changes as time goes,” said Karolyi, adding that the lineup won’t be finalized until next week.

Simone Biles is considered a lock to be one of the all-arounders in qualifying. Who joins her is unclear.

Douglas and Aly Raisman were tapped at the 2015 World Championships, with Biles and Douglas topping Raisman in qualifying and then going one-two in the all-around final.

However, both Raisman and first-year senior Laurie Hernandez finished higher than Douglas in the all-around at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials in the last month.

Karolyi said that Douglas, who fell off the balance beam on both nights at the Olympic Trials, has improved at a pre-Olympic training camp. Karolyi also said that Douglas would not perform the difficult Amanar vault in Rio, which carries five tenths more in start value than the vault Douglas used at the Olympic Trials.

Biles and Raisman both perform the Amanar. If Biles, Douglas and Raisman do the all-around in qualifying, Douglas will go in with a start-value disadvantage in the chase to grab two available final spots.

In 2012, Douglas, Raisman and Jordyn Wieber all did the all-around in qualifying, with the 2011 World all-around champion Wieber finishing third out of the Americans (and fourth overall), missing the all-around final.

MORE: USA Gymnastics agrees to buy Karolyi Ranch