Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin 4th in 100 free, win Pan Pacs relay golds

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Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin didn’t win individual medals at the Pan Pacific Championships on Friday, but they were part of U.S. relay victories.

Phelps, in his first international meet since the London Olympics, and Franklin, swimming three days after being helped off the pool deck with back spasms, were both fourth in 100m freestyle finals won by Aussies in rainy Gold Coast, Australia.

They were part of a U.S. 4x200m free relay sweep, though.

“Being able to get back on the podium — it feels amazing,” Phelps said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s a good first day. Good first international meet back. There’s no better way to finish this, lovely, rainy night then being able to step up with your teammates and win a gold medal.”

Phelps clocked 48.51 seconds in the 100m free final, an event he doesn’t usually contest at major international meets. He finished behind Australian national champion Cameron McEvoy (47.82), U.S. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (48.30) and Australian World champion James Magnussen (48.36).

The men’s 100m free was billed as a marquee race at the four-day meet. Adrian and Magnussen, separated by .01 at the Olympics, were expected to vie for the gold.

“I’m not surprised that [McEvoy] won,” Adrian told reporters in Gold Coast. “I’m a little surprised that I went a little slow. … It’s silly to think that it’s just going to be James and I winning every time. … It’s definitely not a two-man game anymore.”

Phelps came back with Ryan LochteConor Dwyer and Matt McLean to barely win the 4x200m free relay over Japan, by .13. The Japanese lead after each of the first three legs before McLean edged ahead on anchor.

Franklin went 53.87 in the women’s 100m free, won by Australian World champion Cate Campbell in 52.72. Campbell’s winning margin, over her silver medalist sister, was a cushioned .73. American Simone Manuel took bronze.

Franklin joined Katie LedeckyShannon Vreeland and Leah Smith to capture the 4x200m free relay by 1.07 seconds over Australia.

“I think we take a lot of ownership with this event,” Franklin said. “They’re not something we like to lose.”

Ledecky, the 200m and 800m free gold medalist Thursday, erased a 1.2-second deficit on the anchor leg for the comeback win.

“I knew I had to sort of think of it as my individual race and not swim it too fast in the first 100,” Ledecky said.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have Pan Pacs coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.

Pan Pacs are not only the biggest meet for U.S. and Australian swimmers this year, but times from Pan Pacs and the U.S. Championships will also determine the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Phelps may have missed the 100m free medals, but he earned a spot on the 2015 Worlds team as the second fastest American behind Adrian. Franklin, too, can swim the 100m free at Worlds, with Manuel.

In other events, U.S. Olympians Jessica Hardy and Elizabeth Beisel won the 100m breast and 400m individual medley, respectively.

Japan notched wins in the men’s 100m breast (Yasuhiro Koseki) and men’s 400m IM (Kosuke Hagino).

American Kevin Cordes was the top qualifier into the 100m breast final but was disqualified after he appeared to try to take off his goggles during the final, likely because they filled with water.

Men’s 100m Free
1. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 47.82
2. Nathan Adrian (USA) 48.30
3. James Magnussen (AUS) 48.36
4. Michael Phelps (USA) 48.51

Women’s 100m Free
1. Cate Campbell (AUS) 52.72
2. Bronte Campbell (AUS) 53.45
3. Simone Manuel (USA) 53.71
4. Missy Franklin (USA) 53.87

Men’s 100m Breast
1. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) 59.62
2. Felipe Silva (BRA) 59.82
3. Glenn Snyders (NZL) 1:00.18
DQ. Kevin Cordes (USA)

Women’s 100m Breast
1. Jessica Hardy (USA) 1:06.74
2. Kanako Watanabe (JPN) 1:06.78
3. Breeja Larson (USA) 1:06.99

Men’s 400m IM
1. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 4:08.31
2. Tyler Clary (USA) 4:09.03
3. Chase Kalisz (USA) 4:09.62

Women’s 400m IM
1. Elizabeth Beisel (USA) 4:31.99
2. Maya DiRado (USA) 4:35.37
3. Keryn McMaster (AUS) 4:38.84

Men’s 4x200m Free Relay
1. USA 7:05.17
2. Japan 7:05.30
3. Australia 7:08.55

Women’s 4x200m Free Relay
1. USA 7:46.40
2. Australia 7:47.47
3. Canada 7:58.03

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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
TODAY
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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