Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin set for first individual finals at world swimming championships

Ryan Lochte

It starts to get busy for Missy Franklin on Tuesday.

The four-time 2012 Olympic gold medalist swims twice in the evening session (Universal Sports, noon ET) at the world swimming championships after qualifying into the 200-meter semifinals Tuesday morning. Franklin will also swim in the final of the 100 backstroke, where she is the clear favorite for gold.

Franklin, working on the second and third events of a potential eight-event schedule in Barcelona, qualified safely fifth into the 200 free semifinals. The top eight women from the semis will reach Wednesday’s final. She should have no problems there.

But before that, she swims in the 100 backstroke final. By semifinal times, it would appear this final should be close among the Olympic champ Franklin (59.31), Olympic silver medalist Emily Seebohm (59.38) and American Elizabeth Pelton (59.44).

However, Franklin slipped off the start in Monday’s semifinals and still posted the fastest time. There’s talk Franklin could challenge the world record of 58.12 held by Britain’s Gemma Spofforth.

The other American superstar, Ryan Lochte, also swims his first individual final in the first event of Tuesday’s evening session. Lochte, in the second of a potential seven events, is the defending world champion in the 200 free, but he finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics.

He’s the second fastest qualifier into the eight-man final and will have to overtake Russian top seed Danila Izotov, who also owns the fastest time in the world this year set before the world championships.

Americans could win four of Tuesday’s five finals. Katie Ledecky will battle defending world champ Lotte Friis of Denmark in the women’s 1,500 free. Ledecky already won gold in the 400 free and may win four total golds in Barcelona. 

Matt Grevers will attempt to follow up his Olympic title with a world title in the men’s 100 backstroke, where another American, David Plummer, is the No. 2 seed behind him.

The last final, the women’s 100 breaststroke, is an open-and-shut case. Lithuanian Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte, 16, broke the world record in the semifinals Monday.

In other preliminary action Tuesday, all three medalists from the men’s 100 breast advanced to the 50 breast semis. Two Americans and Olympic champion Chad le Clos led the qualifiers into the men’s 200 butterfly semis. In the men’s 1,500 free, U.S. champion Connor Jaeger qualified ahead of world and Olympic champ Sun Yang into Wednesday’s final.

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Live results 
Photos: Swimming on world newspaper front pages Tuesday

Here’s the order of events in Tuesday’s evening session:

Men’s 200 Freestyle Final

1. Danila Izotov (RUS) 1:45.84
2. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:46.06
3. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:46.87
4. Robbie Renwick (GBR) 1:46.95
5. Yannick Agnel (FRA) 1:47.01
6. Conor Dwyer (USA) 1:47.05
7. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 1:47.21
8. Cameron McEvoy (CHN) 1:47.31

By semifinal times, this should be a two-man race between Izotov and Lochte, but there are two more men to watch out for. Izotov’s world-leading time from the World University Games is a half-second better than anyone else this year and a second better than Lochte. But we don’t know much Lochte left in the tank from that semifinal swim. It’s closer to a coin flip as to who’s the favorite. The two men who also have a shot at gold are Japan’s Hagino, who won silver in the 400 free in a Japanese record time, and the Olympic champion Agnel, who seems to be slowly working into form in Barcelona.

Medal Picks
Gold: Lochte
Silver: Izotov
Bronze: Agnel

Women’s 100 Backstroke Final

1. Missy Franklin (USA) 59.31
2. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 59.38
3. Elizabeth Pelton (USA) 59.44
4. Aya Terakawa (JPN) 59.80
5. Fu Yuanhui (CHN) 59.82
6. Daryna Zevina (UKR) 59.90
7. Simona Baumrtova (CZE) 59.99
8. Belinda Hocking (AUS) 1:00.24

That Franklin slipped off the start in her semifinal and still led all qualifiers is a pretty impressive feat for the collegian to be. A second gold at these championships is in her sights. Silver and bronze should be shared among three women — Seebohm, Pelton and Terakawa. Seebohm is the Olympic silver medalist with the third fastest time in the world this year. Terakawa is the Olympic bronze medalist with the second fastest time in the world this year. Pelton is the wild card. She failed to final in this event at 2011 worlds and didn’t make the Olympic team.

Medal Picks
Gold: Franklin
Silver: Seebohm
Bronze: Terakawa

Men’s 50 Breaststroke Semifinals

1. Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) 26.78
2. Felipe Lima (BRA) 27.11
3. Glenn Snyders (NZL) 27.27
4. Christian Sprenger (AUS) 27.30
5. Kirill Strelnikov (RUS) 27.36
6. Giulio Zorzi (RSA) 27.37
7. Biaorong Gu (CHN) 27.38
8. Joao Gomes Junior (BRA) 27.39
9. Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) 27.43
10. Kevin Steel (USA) 27.45
11. Dawid Szulich (POL) 27.48
11. Damir Dugonjic (SLO) 27.48
13. Mattia Pesce (ITA) 27.52
13. Barry Murphy (IRL) 27.52
15. Johannes Skagius (SWE) 27.57
16. Eetu Karvonen (FIN) 27.58

This is an event not on the Olympic program. The three medalists in Monday’s 100 breast — Sprenger, van der Burgh and Lima — are among the top four qualifiers. They also happen to hold the three fastest times in the world this year. The 2011 world champion, Felipe Silva of Brazil, did not make it to worlds in this event. Steel is the U.S. champion with the fifth fastest time in the world this year. 2011 world silver medalist Fabio Scozzoli surprisingly failed to make the semifinals.

Women’s 1500 Freestyle Final

1. Lotte Friis (DEN) 15:49.18
2. Katie Ledecky (USA) 15:49.26
3. Kristel Kobrich Schimpl (CHI) 15:54.30
4. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 16:00.31
5. Boglarka Kapas (HUN) 16:02.58
6. Lauren Boyle (NZL) 16:02.90
7. Chloe Sutton (USA) 16:04.72
8. Danlu Xu (CHN) 16:05.59

This is a two-woman battle for gold between Friis, the defending world champion, and Ledecky, whose competing in this non-Olympic event at a major international meet for the first time. The potential No. 3, Britain’s Jazmin Carlin, failed to make the final. This will be the toughest of Ledecky’s three individual swims to win gold. But if she beats out Friis, she’s got a great shot at four golds total at worlds. The crowd will be rooting hard for Belmonte Garcia, silver medalist to Ledecky in the 800 free at the Olympics.

Medal Picks
Gold: Ledecky
Silver: Friis
Bronze: Belmonte Garcia

Men’s 100 Backstroke Final

1. Matt Grevers (USA) 52.97
2. David Plummer (USA) 53.10
3. Jeremy Stravius (FRA) 53.23
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 53.41
5. Camille Lacourt (FRA) 53.42
6. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 53.68
7. Ashley Delaney (AUS) 53.74
8. Gareth Kean (NZL) 53.81

Here we have Grevers, the Olympic champion, Plummer, who beat Grevers at U.S. trials, and Stravius, the co-2011 world champion. Any three of them could win it. Both Japanese — the Olympic and world bronze medalist Irie and the teen sensation Hagino — could also crash the podium. Lacourt shared that 2011 world title with Stravius and has a medal shot, too. Grevers must be considered the favorite, but it’s a pretty deep final.

Medal Picks
Gold: Grevers
Silver: Plummer
Bronze: Stravius

Women’s 200 Freestyle Semifinals

1. Camille Muffat (FRA) 1:56.53
2. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 1:56.73
3. Federica Pellegrini (ITA) 1:56.79
4. Charlotte Bonnet (FRA) 1:56.82
5. Missy Franklin (USA) 1:56.90
6. Melanie Costa Schmid (ESP) 1:57.01
7. Bronte Barratt (AUS) 1:57.14
8. Femke Heemskerk (NED) 1:57.44
9. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 1:57.64
10. Kylie Palmer (AUS) 1:57.67
11. Shannon Vreeland (USA) 1:58.08
12. Alice Mizzau (ITA) 1:58.10
13. Michelle Coleman (SWE) 1:58.17
14. Qiu Yuhan (CHN) 1:58.38
15. Samantha Lucie-Smith (NZL) 1:58.87
16. Barbara Rojas-Jardin (CAN) 1:58.93

All the major players made the semifinals — and there are a lot of them. Muffat is the Olympic silver medalist, world bronze medalist and world leader for 2013. Hosszu is coming off an impressive win in the 200 individual medley Monday. Pellegrini is the two-time defending world champion and the world-record holder. Franklin shouldn’t have a problem making Wednesday’s eight-woman final, but she will have her hands full tomorrow. She was fourth in the Olympics in this event. Olympic champion Allison Schmitt shockingly didn’t make the U.S. team for worlds.

Men’s 200 Butterfly Semifinals

1. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:56.03
2. Chad le Clos (RSA) 1:56.21
3. Tom Luchsinger (USA) 1:56.32
4. Nikolay Skvortsov (RUS) 1:56.47
5. Chen Yin (CHN) 1:56.48
6. Leonardo De Deus (BRA) 1:56.52
7. Pawel Korzeniowski (POL) 1:56.61
8. Yuki Kobori (JPN) 1:56.64
9. Bence Biczo (HUN) 1:56.70
10. Wu Peng (CHN) 1:56.96
11. Takeshi Matsuda (JPN) 1:57.14
12. Grant Irvine (AUS) 1:57.18
13. Jordan Coelho (FRA) 1:57.19
14. Joseph Schooling (SIN) 1:57.23
15. Velimir Stjepanovic (SRB) 1:57.34
16. Roberto Pavoni (GBR) 1:57.37

This will be just the second time since 1998 that Michael Phelps is not part of the 200 fly field at a worlds or Olympics. He won every world title from 2001 to 2011 save 2005, when he did not swim it. All of his former chasers are into the semifinals — the Olympic 200 backstroke champion Clary, the Olympic 200 fly champion le Clos, the 2005 world champ Korzeniowski and Olympic medalists Wu and Matsuda. Luchsinger, on his first worlds team, is in great shape to make the eight-man final Wednesday as well.

Women’s 100 Breaststroke Final

1. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) 1:04.45
2. Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 1:05.29
3. Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN) 1:05.99
4. Jessica Hardy (USA) 1:06.10
5. Breeja Larson (USA) 1:06.61
6. Viktoria Solnceva (UKR) 1:06.67
7. Jennie Johansson (SWE) 1:06.96
8. Marina Garcia (ESP) 1:07.12

The last event Tuesday night will be quite anti-climactic. Meilutyte nearly broke the world record in the prelims, and then she took it by a tenth in the semis. Nobody will stop her in the final. Silver is not quite a lock, but it would be a surprise if it doesn’t go to Efimova, who was fourth in 2011. But don’t count out the Americans. Hardy was the world-record holder until Monday. Larson was sixth at the Olympics, but Meilutyte is the only woman in this field from the top five in London.

Medal Picks
Gold: Meilutyte
Silver: Efimova
Bronze: Hardy

Video: Meilutyte breaks world record in semifinals

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled

Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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