Swimmers Franklin, Lochte return to the pool in Austin

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Missy Franklin is back.

The 17-year-old swimmer, who won four gold medals and one bronze at the London Olympics last summer, recently made waves when she returned to high school meets. Now she’ll make her 2013 debut at the national level at this weekend’s Austin Grand Prix.

Franklin will be joined by 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and a host of other Olympians, including Chloe Sutton, Kate Ziegler, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers, Ricky Berens, Tyler Clary and Conor Dwyer. The meet will be contested at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center at the University of Texas.

Action starts Friday morning with prelims; finals will be Friday-Sunday night.

Here are three things to watch at the meet:

Low numbers
Typically at these Grand Prix meets, swimmers have to navigate a chaotic scene in the pool during warm-ups. There are so many swimmers that it’s a wonder collisions don’t occur. (Actually they do – Michael Phelps broke his goggles after colliding with Australian Cate Campbell at the 2009 World Championships.) We won’t see those kinds of problems in Austin this weekend, however. It’s a much smaller field at this meet, with some events like the women’s 200m breaststroke boasting just seven swimmers. Others like the men’s 200m freestyle has 38 entries.

We checked with USA Swimming, who told us the reason is that the time standards were lowered for Austin and for the next Grand Prix meet in Orlando. For the three meets after that, the times are a bit more lax – so we should see bigger fields then.

Men’s 100m freestyle
With nine Olympians in the field (including the top seven seeds), this will probably be the most exciting race of the meet. There’s Nathan Adrian, who won the gold medal in London by .01 of a second. Lochte’s there too, as is Jimmy Feigen, Garrett Weber-Gale, Grevers, Berens, Anthony Irvin, Dwyer and Charlie Houchin. That group owns a combined 31 Olympic medals.

Missy’s medals
How many races will Missy Franklin win? She’s entered in six events – 100m/200m/400m freestyle, 100m/200m backstroke and the 200m IM. The backstroke is her best stroke so figure she’ll win those two races. She’s strong in the 100m and 200m freestyle – let’s go with one gold and one silver. The 400m freestyle is a toss up. Franklin’s not known as an IMer but she’s not competing against a real strong field, so let’s assume she’ll at least win a medal (silver, for the sake of this blog post). That’s five medals – three gold and two silver. Agree?

Watch the action Saturday and Sunday night on Universal Sports TV.

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future

Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future