Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky leads strong U.S. showing in first day of swimming worlds prelims

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The world swimming championships began in the pool Sunday morning with preliminary heats in the following events:

Women’s 100-meter butterfly
Men’s 400-meter freestyle
Women’s 200-meter individual medley
Men’s 50-meter butterfly
Women’s 400-meter freestyle
Men’s 100-meter breaststroke
Women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay
Men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay

The first night of semifinals and finals begins at noon Eastern time. NBC will have coverage from 2:30-4:30. Here are the events:

Women’s 100 butterfly semifinals
Men’s 400 freestyle final
Women’s 200 individual medley semifinals
Men’s 50 butterfly semifinals
Women’s 400 freestyle final
Men’s 100 breaststroke semifinals
Women’s 4×100 final
Men’s 4×100 final

Led by Katie Ledecky in the 400 free, the U.S. is the top seed in three of the four finals following Sunday morning’s prelims. The Americans also topped the field in both sets of 4×100 free relay heats. The only final Sunday evening that won’t feature an American top seed is the men’s 400 free, where Chinese Olympic champion Sun Yang is a heavy favorite. We should get our first looks at Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin in the 4×100 free relays finals as well.

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Results, start lists | Men’s preview | Women’s preview

Here’s a rundown of the results from Sunday morning’s preliminary session:

Women’s 100 butterfly

Advancing to semifinals
1. Dana Vollmer (USA) 57.22
2. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 57.28
3. Katerine Savard (CAN) 57.31
4. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 57.56
5. Jeanette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 57.79
6. Noemie Ip-Ting Thomas (CAN) 58.11
7. Ilaria Bianchi (ITA) 58.22
8. Brittany Elmslie (AUS) 58.27
9. Jemma Lowe (GBR) 58.38
10. Claire Donahue (USA) 58.58
11. Ingvild Nicoline Snildal (NOR) 58.83
12. Lu Ying (CHN) 58.93
13. Tao Li (CHN) 58.94
14. Evelin Verraszto (HUN) 58.95
15. Daynara De Paula (BRA) 59.16
16. Natsumi Hoshi (JPN) 59.18

Summary
Vollmer, the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder at 55.28, posted the second fastest time in the world this year to the lead the qualifiers into Sunday evening’s semifinals. The eight-woman final is Monday evening. The world’s fastest time of 57.18 still belongs to Coutts, the fourth fastest qualifier. Coutts is the reigning world silver medalist and Olympic bronze medalist. The reigning Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, Lu of China, qualified 12th out of 16 swimmers into the semifinals. The medals should come down to those three, plus Sjostrom, Savard and Ottesen.

Men’s 400 freestyle

Advancing to final
1. Sun Yang (CHN) 3:44.67
2. Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 3:45.74
3. Jordan Harrison (AUS) 3:46.85
4. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 3:46.92
5. Devon Myles Brown (RSA) 3:47.17
6. Hao Yun (CHN) 3:47.49
7. Connor Jaeger (USA) 3:47.83
8. James Guy (GBR) 3:47.86

Summary
Sun is the only one of the medalists from 2011 worlds or the 2012 Olympics swimming in Barcelona. Reigning world champion Park Tae-Hwan of South Korea is taking the year off, world-record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany is out after dealing with illness this year and London bronze medalist Peter Vanderkaay is retired. That leaves Sun, the Olympic champion, who is attempting a 400-800-1500 triple at these championships. His time was well off his world lead of 3:42.96, but he’s a very clear favorite after going one second faster than anyone else in Sunday’s heats. The silver and bronze should be shared among Cochrane, the London silver medalist in the 1,500, Harrison, Hagino and the U.S. champion Jaeger. Of note, the second fastest swimmer in the world this year, Australia’s David McKeon, and U.S. runner-up Matt McLean failed to make the final.

Medal picks
Gold: Sun (CHN)
Silver: Cochrane (CAN)
Bronze: Harrison (AUS)

source: Getty ImagesWomen’s 200 individual medley

Advancing to semifinals
1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:08.45
2. Ye Shiwen (CHN) 2:10.20
3. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 2:11.12
4. Elizbeth Beisel (USA) 2:11.16
5. Caitlin Leverenz (USA) 2:11.54
6. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (GBR) 2:11.64
7. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 2:11.88
8. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 2:12.11
9. Kanako Watanabe (JPN) 2:12.28
10. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:12.31
10. Sophie Allen (GBR) 2:12.31
12. Miho Teramura (JPN) 2:12.91
13. Wenqing Zhang (CHN) 2:13.40
14. Viktorlia Andreeva (RUS) 2:13.61
15. Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson (CAN) 2:13.84
16. Beatriz Gomez Cortes (ESP) 2:13.98

Summary
You may remember Ye, 17, from the 2012 Olympics, where she swept the individual medleys and swam a faster final 50 in her 400 IM than Ryan Lochte did in his. Well, Ye was beaten in her preliminary heat by the Hungarian Hosszu, the budding all-around swimmer who set a world-leading time. All the major players are safely into Sunday evening’s semifinals (final is Monday evening), including Olympic and world silver medalist Coutts and both Americans.

Men’s 50 butterfly

Advancing to semifinals
1. Roland Schoeman (RSA) 23.02
2. Rafael Munoz Perez (ESP) 23.17
3. Florent Manaudou (FRA) 23.18
4. Andril Govorov (UKR) 23.19
5. Piero Codia (ITA) 23.21
6. Matt Grevers (USA) 23.29
7. Eugene Godsoe (USA) 23.31
8. Cesar Cielo (BRA) 23.32
9. Matt Targett (AUS) 23.36
10. Wu Peng (CHN) 23.43
11. Nicholas Santos (BRA) 23.45
11. Yauhen Tsurkin (BLR) 23.45
13. Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 23.49
14. Steffen Deibler (GER) 23.50
14. Benjamin Proud (GBR) 23.50
16. Mario Todorovic (CRO) 23.53

Summary
This is event is not part of the Olympic program. Schoeman, 33, the triple 2004 Olympic medalist, posted the world’s second fastest time this year to lead the qualifiers into Sunday evening’s semifinals. The world lead (23.00) is still held by Bousquet. This event is wide open going into the semis with the entire field within a half-second of each other — not surprising for a 50-meter race. Cielo is the defending world champion. Grevers and Godsoe aren’t among the 10 fastest in the world this year, but don’t count them out of making the final.

Women’s 400 freestyle

Advancing to final
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) 4:03.05
2. Melanie Costa Schmid (ESP) 4:04.20
3. Jazmin Carlin (GBR) 4:04.85
4. Lauren Boyle (NZL) 4:04.96
5. Kylie Palmer (AUS) 4:05.01
6. Camille Muffat (FRA) 4:05.53
7. Boglarka Kapas (HUN) 4:05.61
8. Andreina Pinto (VEN) 4:06.02

Summary
Ledecky, 16, the Olympic champion in the 800, sent a message by blistering the field by one second in Sunday morning’s heats. She could be on her way to the first of three individual gold medals with the 800 and 1,500 still to come. The only woman who could stop her is Muffat, the Olympic champion, who still holds the world lead this year (4:02.64). The other 2011 world and 2012 Olympic medalists — Federica PellegriniRebecca Adlington and Allison Schmitt — are not swimming the event in Barcelona. The only other woman to go sub-4:04 this year, Australian Bronte Barratt, did not advance out of the prelims. So it could be a two-woman race for gold between Ledecky and Muffat — if Muffat swims much faster than she did Sunday morning.

Medal picks
Gold: Ledecky (USA)
Silver: Muffat (FRA)
Bronze: Costa Schmid (ESP)

Men’s 100 breaststroke

Advancing to semifinals
1. Christian Sprenger (AUS) 59.53
2. Kirill Strelnikov (RUS) 59.80
3. Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) 59.88
3. Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 59.88
5. Glenn Snyders (NZL) 59.92
6. Kevin Cordes (USA) 1:00.01
7. Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) 1:00.02
8. Felipe Lima (BRA) 1:00.06
9. Ross Murdoch (GBR) 1:00.08
9. Hendrik Feldwehr (GER) 1:00.08
11. Nicolas Fink (USA) 1:00.18
12. Michael Jamieson (GBR) 1:00.20
13. Joao Junior Gomes (BRA) 1:00.24
14. Mattia Pesce (ITA) 1:00.32
15. Damir Dugonjic (SLO) 1:00.36
16. Giedrius Titenis (LTU) 1:00.44

Summary
The Aussie Sprenger, silver medalist to van der Burgh at the Olympics, now owns the two fastest times in the world this year and is the only man to go under 59.75. World No. 2 and reigning world silver medalist Scozzoli as well as van der Burgh must also be considered major medal threats, should they make Monday’s final. Kitajima, 30, the greatest breaststroker of all time, showed a strong swim after missing the medals at the Olympics. Also watch Cordes, the rising University of Arizona junior, who is in good position to make the eight-man final.

Women’s 4×100 freestyle relay

Advancing to final
1. USA 3:36.22
2. Australia 3:36.46
3. Canada 3:38.03
4. Sweden 3:38.07
5. Russia 3:38.32
6. Netherlands 3:38.41
7. Germany 3:39.19
8. Japan 3:39.24

Summary
The U.S. and Australia were clear ahead of the eight qualifiers into Sunday evening’s final despite sitting their best freestylers (Missy Franklin and Shannon Vreeland for the U.S., Cate Campbell for Australia). Expect them to be added to the final quartets. Also expect the Netherlands to make a big move up in the final, given it sat Olympic 100-meter champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo out of the prelims. The medals should be split among those three nations, as they were at the Olympics, where it went Australia-Netherlands-U.S. This one could be close this evening coming down to the anchor leg.

Medal picks
Gold: U.S.
Silver: Australia
Bronze: Netherlands

Men’s 4×100 freestyle relay

Advancing to final
1. USA 3:11.69
2. Russia 3:12.43
3. Australia 3:13.04
4. France 3:14.01
5. Italy 3:14.13
6. Brazil 3:14.41
7. Germany 3:14.70
8. Japan 3:15.46

Summary
The most exciting event in swimming should provide more fireworks come Sunday evening. The top four nations are in the medal picture, and I could see any one of three of them winning gold. The Americans used Jimmy FeigenAnthony ErvinRicky Berens and Conor Dwyer to post the top prelim time. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian will surely be added for the final, and you’ve got to believe Ryan Lochte will be, too. Russia came into Barcelona with four of the top eight 100 freestylers in the world this year and only used two of them in the prelims. The reigning world champion Aussies will add world leader James Magnussen for the final. Olympic champion France might not have enough speed to beat all of the U.S., Russia and Australia, but it could sneak in for a medal.

Medal picks
Gold: Russia
Silver: U.S.
Bronze: Australia

FINA approves mixed-gender relays

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

AP
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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics