Chase Kalisz continues impressive weekend with world-leading time

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In the last two nights, Chase Kalisz set a personal best in the 200m breaststroke and posted the fastest time in the world this year in the 400m individual medley in Atlanta.

Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM silver medalist, is setting up well for the U.S. Championships next month and the world championships in Budapest in July.

On Friday, Kalisz won the 200m breast in 2:10.74, lowering his personal best in the event at a second straight meet. Kalisz came into the year with a 200m breast best of 2:12.43 from 2014.

Kalisz rarely races the 200m breast and might not contest it at nationals, where the top two per event qualify for worlds. Kalisz now ranks third in the U.S. in the 200m breast this year.

“My endurance is kind of getting back to where I want to be,” Kalisz, coming off his senior season at the University of Georgia, told media Friday night. “Last year, I was consistent almost every single day, and I’m finally back to that level.”

Kalisz came back Saturday and won the 400m IM in 4:09.43, the best time in the world this year by .58 of a second. The 400m IM is his signature event. Kalisz is looking to duel Japan’s Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto, the Olympic gold and bronze medalists, and Hungarian Dávid Verrasztó at worlds.

Kalisz’s time Saturday was his fastest-ever outside of a major international meet or a U.S. Championships by 1.58 seconds.

Also Saturday, Katie Ledecky won for the second straight night.

The four-time Rio Olympic champion took the 200m freestyle in 1:56.26 after dominating the 400m free on Friday.

Ledecky was 1.44 seconds slower in the 200m free than at this same meet last year but also said she was “racing a little bit tired” due to recent hard training. She ranks No. 4 in the world in the 200m free this year, while leading the 400m and 800m free rankings.

Simone Manuel, the co-Olympic 100m free champion, followed her 100m free win from Friday by taking the 50m free on Saturday. Manuel clocked 24.73 seconds, not her best time this year, but still broke the pool record set by Amy Van Dyken at the 1996 Olympics.

Ryan Murphy, who swept the backstrokes in Rio, won the 200m back Saturday in 1:55.82, dousing Rio Olympic finalists Jacob Pebley (1:56.43) and Ryosuke Irie (1:57.85). Murphy ranks third in the world in the 200m back this year.

The meet concludes Sunday, with finals streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app from 7-8:30 p.m. ET.

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Oldest Olympic high jump champion retires

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Spain’s Ruth Beitia, who in Rio became the oldest Olympic high jump champion by six years, announced her retirement at age 38 on Wednesday.

Beitia was pending medical results for possible arthritis, according to Marca.

She followed her Olympic title with silver at the European Indoor Championships in March but didn’t crack the top three at any 2017 Diamond League meet and was 12th at the world championships in August, her final meet.

Beitia capped a decorated career in Rio with her first Olympic medal. She did so against a field that did not include the reigning Olympic or world champions from Russia.

Beitia cleared 1.97 meters to win in Rio, the shortest gold-medal height since 1980, to become the oldest Olympic gold medalist in any jumping event. German long jumper Heike Drechsler previously held the age record.

Two women in the Rio heptathlon — gold medalist Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium and Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson — cleared 1.98 meters in that competition.

Beitia previously retired after finishing fourth at the 2012 Olympics, then came back to win her first World Outdoor Championships medal, a bronze, in 2013.

“A medal in Rio would be the last dream I have left to accomplish in this sport,” she said before the Olympics.

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Nate Holland still motivated by repeated Olympic heartbreak

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At 38 years old, Nate Holland knows PyeongChang would likely be his last chance to add an Olympic medal to a trophy case already blinding with seven X Games snowboard cross gold medals.

“I’m not there to get top 10 and go check out a hockey game,” Holland said last month. “I’ve had three Olympics that I’ve done that.”

Holland entered all three Olympics since snowboard cross debuted as the reigning X Games champion. A medal contender, if not the favorite.

He washed out each time. In the quarterfinals in Torino. In the four-man final in Vancouver. In the first elimination round in Sochi.

“There’s something about these five rings that give me a lot of drive, ambition and joy,” Holland said on NBC after his 2014 disappointment, “but they do cause a lot of heartbreak.”

Some snowboarders are ambivalent about the Olympics. Not Holland.

He remembers watching the 1988 Calgary Winter Games growing up in Idaho, a decade before snowboarders were let in. After snowboard cross was added in 2003, a motivated Holland made the subsequent World Cup team and reached the podium.

Holland chalked up a 14th-place finish in Torino in 2006 to being “young and reckless.” The miss that sticks with him to this day is Vancouver 2010, when he was the only finalist not to earn a medal.

“That’s probably the No. 1 memory of racing is that feeling of failure when I got to the bottom,” he said. “Out of a four-man heat, they’re ushering me off, pushing me out of the finish corral.

“Dude, you gotta leave. What are you doing here still? We’ve got to do a podium ceremony.”

“I’m still out of breath. My heart rate’s at 180 still.”

“What’s going on? No, dude, you need to leave. Thanks for coming, goodbye.”

“Those are motivating factors in the gym when all I want to do is go home and go change some diapers,” Holland said.

Holland and wife Christen (who commissioned that trophy case as a Christmas gift) welcomed daughter Lux on Nov. 1, 2015. Lux is already riding on her own three-foot Burton board. In Uggs.

“Thank God for FaceTime,” Holland said. “I’m able to call every day when I’m in Europe and have breakfast with my daughter.”

Her dad is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic snowboarder in the sport’s two-decade history and the oldest medalist from any country.

“Some say I’m too old,” Holland says. “I say BS.”

Holland is realistic, though. The man who used to ride by the motto “wreck or win” has become more calculated and listens to his body. The Advil doses are more frequent. He enjoys the spa.

“I come back every year and there’s definitely some question in my mind whether I’m fast,” said Holland, whose detailed injury history included coming back from a December 2013 broken clavicle to win X Games and make the Olympic team. “Every year, I give myself a little pat on the back. I’m like, all right, I’m still in that group. I’m not sitting three seconds out.”

Holland was the fastest at the PyeongChang venue on Feb. 27, 2016, winning the Olympic test event.

He may have picked up nuances on the new Olympic course that the riders half his age have not, but Holland also hasn’t made a World Cup podium since. Snowboard cross was cut from the X Games after 2016.

If Holland can’t crack the top three at any of the four Olympic selection events in December and January, he might be left off the U.S. team.

Holland said he won’t work any harder this winter than he did in 2006, 2010 or 2014. Each time, he felt satisfied with what he put in. What he left the Olympics with — Team USA clothes, maybe some hockey ticket stubs — is what’s unfulfilling.

“You want something that you can’t have,” he said. “I don’t have an Olympic medal, and I’m really passionate about it.”

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