Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky, U.S. women 4×100 free relay win gold; Lochte, U.S. men get silver

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The opening night of swimming worlds saw Americans medal in all four finals, including the debuts of Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin in the 4×100-meter freestyle relays.

Katie Ledecky won what could be the first of four golds for the high school student in the 400 free. Connor Jaeger won what could be considered a surprising bronze in the men’s 400 free behind Chinese super favorite Sun Yang.

The relays capped the night with excitement. Megan Romano brought the U.S. past Australia to win the women’s 4×100 free, giving Missy Franklin a gold in the first of her eight events. The U.S. was down more than one second after Franklin’s leadoff leg, thanks to an absolute scorching 100 from Aussie Cate Campbell.

France came from fourth going into the final leg to win the men’s 4×100 free over the U.S. in the same one-two-three-four result from the Olympics. Lochte was given a slim lead going into his second leg but lost that lead to Australia, though the U.S.’ third leg, Anthony Ervin, took it back before France charged ahead on the anchor.

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Live resultsMen’s preview | Women’s preview

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Women’s 100 butterfly semifinals

Advances to final
1. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 57.10
2. Jeanette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 57.19
3. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 57.49
4. Dana Vollmer (USA) 57.84
5. Noemie Ip-Ting Thomas (CAN) 57.99
6. Katerine Savard (CAN) 58.00
7. Ilaria Bianchi (ITA) 58.29
8. Claire Donahue (USA) 58.44

Summary
Despite an average semifinal swim, Vollmer, the reigning world and Olympic champion and world-record holder at 55.28, can still be considered a favorite going into Monday’s final. But it’s certainly up for debate. The semifinal results opened the door for Sjostrom, Ottesen Gray and Coutts. Coutts, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, owned the fastest time in the world this year before Sjostrom took it in the semis. The reigning Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, China’s Lu Ying, failed to make the final.

source: Getty ImagesMen’s 400 freestyle final

Results
Gold: Sun Yang (CHN) 3:41.59

Silver: Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 3:44.82
Bronze: Connor Jaeger (USA) 3:44.85
4: Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 3:45.02
5. James Guy (GBR) 3:47.96
6. Devon Myles Brown (RSA) 3:48.40
6. Jordan Harrison (AUS) 3:48.40
8. Hao Yun (CHN) 3:48.88

Summary
Sun, the Olympic champion, was an overwhelming favorite coming into this final. We saw why. He took the lead between 50 and 100 meters and never relinquished it, winning in the world’s fastest time this year. Sun led by more than one second at the halfway point (when the American Jaeger moved into second). Sun could win triple gold in Barcelona with the 800 and 1,500 free still to come. Jaeger’s bronze is the first U.S. medal in the event at worlds since 1986. He was passed in the final 50 meters by Hagino.

Women’s 200 individual medley semifinals

Advances to final
1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:08.59
2. Ye Shiwen (CHN) 2:09.12
3. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 2:10.06
4. Sophie Allen (GBR) 2:10.23
5. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 2:10.66
6. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 2:10.70
7. Caitlin Leverenz (USA) 2:11.05
8. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:11.21

Summary
Hosszu had the fastest time for the second straight round over the Olympic champion Ye. Ye, 17, won both individual medleys at the Olympics, where she swam the final 50 of her 400 IM faster than Lochte did in his 400 IM. It appears the battle for gold will come down to the Hungarian and the Chinese. The busy Coutts swam in the 100 fly semifinals a half-hour ago, and she’ll be part of the Australian 4×100 free relay later in the night. Leverenz was the bronze medalist at the Olympics. Fellow American Elizabeth Beisel failed to make the final.

Men’s 50 butterfly semifinals

Advances to final
1. Nicholas Santos (BRA) 22.81
2. Cesar Cielo (BRA) 22.86
3. Yauhen Tsurkin (BLR) 22.90
4. Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 22.93
5. Andril Govorov (UKR) 22.97
6. Steffen Diebler (GER) 23.02
7. Florent Manaudou (FRA) 23.15
8. Eugene Godsoe (USA) 23.16

Summary
The 50 butterfly is an event not contested at the Olympics. Defending world champion Cielo was merely eighth in prelims, but he turned on the jets in the semis with the fastest time in the world this year … until his countryman went even faster in the second semifinal. Godsoe snuck into the final, while fellow American Matt Grevers, the Olympic champion in the 100 backstroke, was 12th out of 16 and missed the final, as did the fastest man from prelims, Roland Schoeman of South Africa. The Brazilians figure to fight for gold in the final, but it could be wide open.

Women’s 400 freestyle final

Results
Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA) 3:59.82
Silver: Melanie Costa Schmid (ESP) 4:02.47
Bronze: Lauren Boyle (NZL) 4:03.89
4. Jazmin Carlin (GBR) 4:04.03
5. Boglarka Kapas (HUN) 4:05.90
6. Andreina Pinto (VEN) 4:07.14
7. Camille Muffat (FRA) 4:07.67
8. Kylie Palmer (AUS) 4:08.13

Summary
Ledecky, a rising Maryland high school junior, easily won the first of what could be four gold medals at her first world championships. She’s got the 800 free (where she won Olympic gold), the 1,500 free and the 4×200 free relay left.

“I’m really in shock of the time,” Ledecky told Eurosport. “It shows you what happens when you get in a race with the best. … I didn’t know how fast I was going. … I couldn’t believe it when I looked up.”

There was chatter coming in that she could break Italian Federica Pellegrini‘s world record of 3:59.15 set during the fast suit era in 2009. She went out under the world-record pace through 300 meters before fading off of it. She settled for the second fastest time ever, only the second woman to break four minutes. The Olympic champion Muffat posted an average time in prelims this morning and was never a factor in the final.

Men’s 100 breaststroke semifinals

Advances to final
1. Christian Sprenger (AUS) 59.23
2. Kevin Cordes (USA) 59.78
2. Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) 59.78
4. Damir Dugonjic (SLO) 59.80
5. Felipe Lima (BRA) 59.84
5. Nicolas Fink (USA) 59.84
7. Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) 59.90
8. Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 59.92

Summary
The Olympic silver medalist Sprenger now owns the three fastest times in the world this year. He’s a big favorite going into Monday’s final. Cordes, an NCAA champion from the University of Arizona, set a new personal best to win the first semifinal. He’s now a medal favorite along with the Olympic champion van der Burgh.

source: Getty ImagesWomen’s 4×100 freestyle relay

Results
Gold: USA 3:32.31

Silver: Australia 3:32.43
Bronze: Netherlands 3:35.77
4. Sweden 3:36.56
5. Canada 3:37.09
6. Russia 3:38.45
7. Japan 3:39.45
8. Germany 3:39.57

Summary
Australian Cate Campbell, the fastest woman in the world this year, posted a 52.33, the second fastest leadoff leg of all time, according to Eurosport. She was more than one second faster than Missy Franklin on the opening leg. Natalie Coughlin, the most decorated women’s world medalist of all time, closed the gap on the second leg, but the U.S. still trailed by .72 seconds after Shannon Vreeland‘s third leg. Anchor Megan Romano brought the U.S. within a quarter-second after 350 and out-touched Alicia Coutts to win by .12. Franklin is now one for one in golds after the first of her potential eight events.

“I let the team down,” an emotional Coutts told Eurosport before being picked up immediately by a teammate’s comments in the TV interview.

Men’s 4×100 freestyle relay

Results
Gold: France 3:11.18

Silver: USA 3:11.42
Bronze: Russia 3:11.44
4. Australia 3:11.58
5. Italy 3:12.62
6. Germany 3:13.77
7. Brazil 3:14.45
8. Japan 3:14.75

Summary
France stole the gold, just as it did at the 2012 Olympics. The opening leg provided the showdown between Olympic gold and silver medalists in the individual 100 free — American Nathan Adrian and Australian James Magnussen. Adrian opened with the lead, a 47.95, just bettering Magnussen’s 48 flat. Magnussen had gone out in 47.49 at the 2011 worlds. Australia took a .31 lead on the second leg, passing Ryan Lochte, whose split was an average 47.80. Still, Lochte is one for one in medals after the first of his potential seven swims.

Anthony Ervin took a two tenths lead for the U.S. with a 47.44 on the third leg, as Russia moved into second. But the star of the relay was France’s third leg and anchor, Fabien Gilot and Jeremy Stravius, who posted 46.90 and 47.59. France jumped from fourth to first on the final two legs. U.S. anchor Jimmy Feigen swam his 100 in 48.23, the slowest non-leadoff leg from any swimmer on the top five countries.

You have to wonder what the U.S. would have done if Ricky Berens was kept on for the final rather than Feigen. Berens went 47.56 on anchor in the prelims, where Feigen went 48.39 on leadoff. In Feigen’s defense, he earned his spot on the relay final by finishing second in the individual 100 at trials, and the leadoff leg always has slower splits than the other three.

Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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