Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky breaks world record, Michael Phelps wins at Pan Pacs

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Katie Ledecky broke a world record for the fourth time this year, and Michael Phelps won his first international race since the London Olympics on Saturday.

Ledecky clocked 3 minutes, 58.37 seconds to win the 400m freestyle at the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. The 17-year-old rising high school senior broke her world record of 3:58.86 set at the U.S. Championships on Aug. 9.

Ledecky has broken world records in the 400m free, 800m free and 1500m free this year. She won her fourth gold medal of the meet Saturday, adding to her 200m and 800m free titles and with the 4x200m free relay.

And she’s not satisfied yet.

“I have some long-term goals,” Ledecky told reporters in Gold Coast, smiling. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’ll get there.”

Phelps, who hasn’t broken a world record since 2009, notched his biggest victory Saturday since coming out of competitive retirement in April.

He won the 100m butterfly in 51.29 seconds, relegating Ryan Lochte to second place in 51.67. Phelps is the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champion and owns the fastest 100m fly time in the world this year, 51.17 from the U.S. Championships two weeks ago.

“It definitely feels good to see the one next to your name, not second or losing by this or losing by that,” said Phelps, who finished fourth in the 100m free and won gold with the 4x200m free relay team earlier in the meet. “I think I’ll be able to sleep a little easier.”

Phelps and Lochte also swam in the 4x100m free relay Saturday. The U.S. took second behind Australia.

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.

Lochte failed to make the World Championships team in the 100m fly. As it stands, there is only one potential head to head between Phelps and Lochte slated for Worlds next year, the 200m individual medley if both come through in that event at Pan Pacs on Sunday.

In other events Saturday, Missy Franklin finished fourth in the 200m backstroke, 1.33 behind Australian winner Belinda Hocking. Franklin, the Olympic and World champion and world record holder in the event, is swimming through a bad back at Pan Pacs.

Franklin came back to swim the second leg of the 4x100m free relay as the U.S. took silver behind Australia. The Aussies, with three of the four women who broke the relay world record July 24, clocked 3:32.46. The U.S. swam 3:34.23.

Olympic champion Tyler Clary won the men’s 200m back in 1:54.91. The World champion Lochte opted not to swim it in prelims earlier, knowing he was already busy with the 100m fly and 4x100m free finals Saturday.

Beijing Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan won the men’s 400m free in 3:43.15 over Japanese star Kosuke Hagino and American Connor Jaeger. Park’s time was the fastest in the world this year.

Australian Alicia Coutts won the women’s 100m fly in 57.64. American Kendyl Stewart took bronze, her first major international medal.

Women’s 400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) 3:58.37 WR
2. Cierra Runge (USA) 4:04.55
3. Lauren Boyle (NZL) 4:05.33

Men’s 400m Freestyle
1. Park Tae-hwan (KOR) 3:43.15
2. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 3:44.56
3. Connor Jaeger (USA) 3:45.31

Women’s 100m Butterfly
1. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 57.64
2. Lu Ying (CHN) 57.76
3. Kendyl Stewart (USA) 57.82

Men’s 100m Butterfly
1. Michael Phelps (USA) 51.29
2. Ryan Lochte (USA) 51.67
3. Hirofumi Ikebata (JPN) 52.50

Women’s 200m Backstroke
1. Belinda Hocking (AUS) 2:07.49
2. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 2:07.61
3. Elizabeth Beisel (USA) 2:08.33
4. Missy Franklin (USA) 2:08.82

Men’s 200m Backstroke
1. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:54.91
2. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 1:55.14
3. Mitchell Larkin (AUS) 1:55.27

Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
1. Australia 3:32.46
2. U.S. 3:34.23
3. Japan 3:39.06

Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
1. Australia 3:12.80
2. U.S. 3:13.36
3. Brazil 3:13.59

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Curling siblings secure mixed doubles Olympic quota spot for U.S.

Rich Harmer/USA Curling
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The United States will be represented when mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, thanks, in part, to the performance of siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton at the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.

Although the Hamiltons finished well off the podium in 10th, their work, coupled with a third place finish at the 2016 World Championships by Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson, is all the U.S. needed to lock in an Olympic spot for 2018. The bronze won by Polo and Peterson in 2016 was the first time the United States had won a world championship medal in mixed doubles curling, according to TeamUSA.org.

The Hamiltons opened the 2017 World Championships with a perfect 7-0 record through pool play, but a 6-5 loss to Finland in a match that needed extra ends took them out of contention for a medal. Wins against Hungary and Italy moved them into position to get the necessary points to land the Olympic quota spot. In their final match at the 2017 Worlds the Hamiltons fell to Russia, 5-7.

At the top of the 2017 World Championship final standings, Switzerland won the gold, Canada took silver and China left with bronze.

The eight mixed doubles team field set to compete in PyeongChang includes China, Canada, Russia, Switzerland, United States, Norway, Finland and hosts Korea. Curling begins in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, one day ahead of the Opening Ceremony, with competition lasting throughout the entire span of the Olympic Games.

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President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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