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

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen make for contrasting favorites at U.S. Championships

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen
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Ashley Wagner and Nathan Chen trained on the same ice for the last three years. They enter this week’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City as favorites, but took different routes to arrive there.

Wagner, 25, seeks her fourth national title, following the worst Grand Prix result of her 10-year career.

Still, Wagner is the 2016 World Championships silver medalist, which carries the most weight of all with the PyeongChang Olympics coming in 13 months.

Wagner, the most accomplished U.S. women’s singles skater in a decade, can become the oldest U.S. women’s singles champion in 90 years.

“Mentally, I’m feeling very confident,” Wagner said last week. “At this point in my career it is very easy for me to get mentally worn out and worn down, but I usually feel strongest when my training is backing me up and when I know that I am physically fit.”

Chen, 17, is an even bigger favorite in the men’s field. The Salt Lake City native is already one of the most accomplished young skaters in U.S. history, taking two novice and two junior national titles.

In this his first senior international season, Chen had the best fall series of a U.S. man since Evan Lysacek won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Chen’s autumn culminated with a silver medal at December’s Grand Prix Final, beating the reigning Olympic and world champions in the free skate.

This week, Chen can become the youngest U.S. men’s singles champion in 51 years. He would do it one year after taking bronze and suffering a hip injury later that day that required season-ending surgery.

“I never thought that I would get there that fast,” Chen said.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule

Chen was already working with Armenian coach Rafael Arutyunyan in Los Angeles when Wagner joined the training group in the middle of 2013.

Chen was barely 14 years old at the time, but Wagner, by then already a two-time U.S. champion, had learned about him back in 2010.

Wagner saw Chen win the U.S. Championships novice division at age 10, beating skaters six and seven years older than him, including her younger brother, Austin.

“And my brother retired after that year because of Nathan Chen,” Wagner said with a hint of humor.

Under Arutyunyan, a noted jumping technician, Wagner developed into the top consistent challenger to the dominant Russians.

She endured failure — finishing fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships and last-place programs at the Grand Prix Final. She experienced success — national and international feats not done by an American since Michelle Kwan.

Most of the U.S. skaters whom Wagner came up with have retired. Her closest recent domestic rivals — Olympic teammates Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds — struggled with poor performances and injury, respectively, in the last year.

If Wagner prevails as she should in Kansas City, the next step is returning to the podium at the world championships in two months in Helsinki, where three Russians, three Japanese and a Canadian will try to keep her off of it. A second straight world medal would make Wagner the best U.S. hope for an Olympic women’s singles medal since 2006.

“The biggest thing about her is her mental toughness,” Chen said of Wagner, “especially when she goes to competitions and zones in on what she wants to do and comes out with the result she wants.”

MORE: Gracie Gold makes desperate move after rock bottom

Mental toughness is something Chen hopes to develop with experience. He already owns the physical tools, most notably an arsenal of quadruple jumps.

Chen, whose adorable 2010 U.S. Championships exhibition at age 10 aired on NBC, is now electrifying. He attempts six quads combined in two programs.

At his last event, the Grand Prix Final in December, Chen recorded the highest free skate score, bettering Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, who both were off their game. He finished second overall behind Hanyu, becoming the second-youngest men’s medalist in the event’s 22-year history.

NBC Olympics analyst Tara Lipinski, who took 1998 Olympic gold at age 15, has, like Wagner, known about Chen since 2010. Lipinski was in Spokane, Wash., for those U.S. Championships seven years ago.

“I remember thinking, oh boy, this kid is so talented, but not really thinking much of it because he was itty-bitty,” Lipinski said of Chen, who has grown a foot since 2010, to 5 feet, 5 inches. “Over time and with growth spurts, everything can change. But that’s why he’s so special. Every year, he improves. You talk about this quad revolution. He’s leading it.”

Chen responded to critics of his artistic skills this season by spending weeks away from Arutyunyan, which the coach supported.

“There is a brain of an adult in this kid’s head,” Arutyunyan said.

Chen went from Los Angeles to work in Michigan under Marina Zoueva, a Russian known for coaching the last two Olympic champion ice dance teams.

NBC Olympic analysts Johnny Weir and Lipinski saw an upgrade in Chen’s artistic components in his fall competitions. If he can challenge the top international skaters artistically, he can beat them with his jumping strength.

“The way that men’s figure skating is progressing, it’s about the quad game and how many you can do,” Wagner said. “It’s starting to look a little bit like ping-pong on the ice. … Going into the next couple of years, the ones that are going to stand out are the ones that do quads and are able to have a full, well-rounded program.”

In Sochi, the U.S. earned no singles figure skating medals for the first time since 1936.

The U.S. hasn’t earned men’s and women’s figure skating medals in the same Olympics since 2002, but it’s certainly looking possible with 13 months until PyeongChang.

“Of course, my goal would be to win the Olympics,” Chen said. “I feel like that’s everyone goal. It’s still a goal for me, but we’ll see how realistic it becomes over the next season.”

MORE: Jason Brown again slowed by injury going into U.S. Championships

Los Angeles 2024 Opening Ceremony plan includes multiple venues

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The Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid plans to use both the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and a to-be-built NFL stadium for its Opening Ceremony.

The ceremony would start with a portion of the torch relay at the Coliseum, with the flame making its way to the NFL stadium for the rest of the Opening Ceremony, including the cauldron lighting.

The Coliseum “will be filled with 70,000 spectators for a Hollywood-produced program of live entertainment, top musical performances and a live viewing and virtual-reality experience of all ceremony events at the L.A. [NFL] stadium at Hollywood Park,” according to an LA 2024 press release.

The Closing Ceremony will be similar, but in reverse, with the Coliseum hosting the formal portion and the NFL stadium opening for a live viewing experience.

The Coliseum hosted the ceremonies in 1932 and 1984, the previous two times Los Angeles hosted the Olympics.

Opening Ceremonies generally have one venue, though a cauldron has been lit outside the venue, such as at Vancouver 2010 and Rio 2016.

Los Angeles is bidding against Budapest and Paris for the 2024 Olympics.

International Olympic Committee members will vote to choose the 2024 host city on Sept. 13.

MORE: 2024 Olympic bidding news