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. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN