Update: Missy Franklin scratches 50 back; swim worlds Wednesday preview

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Update: Missy Franklin scratched out of the 50-meter backstroke semifinals after the morning heats. Therefore she is down to seven events at the world championships.

The four-time Olympic champion Franklin returns to the pool for the final of the 200 freestyle, an event she failed to medal in at London. She should medal this time, but she’s up against stiff competition for gold in two-time defending world champion and top seed Federica Pellegrini and France’s Camille Muffat, who has the fastest time this year.

Franklin is two for two in golds at worlds thus far.

Ryan Lochte has it a little less stressful Wednesday, swimming just the 200 individual medley semifinals. The two-time defending world champion qualified fifth and should have no problem reaching Thursday’s final. Lochte has one silver and one fourth after two of a planned seven events so far.

The semifinals of the men’s 100 freestyle open the session. That includes Olympic champion Nathan Adrian and world champion James Magnussen, who were separated by .01 in London.

The U.S. won six medals in finals Tuesday, but the outlook is not as optimistic in Wednesday’s four finals. Tyler Clary and Tom Luchsinger both qualified into the 200 butterfly final, but it’s possible neither could medal. Olympic champ Chad le Clos is the favorite there.

There are no Americans in the final of the 50 breaststroke, an event not contested at the Olympics. The night’s finale, the 800 free, includes an American as the top seed — Connor Jaeger — but China’s Sun Yang is the defending world champion.

Here’s the order of events, followed by full fields, previews and medal picks:

Men’s 100 Freestyle Semifinals (Adrian)
Women’s 50 Backstroke Semifinals
Men’s 200 Butterfly Final
Women’s 200 Freestyle Final (Franklin)
Men’s 50 Breaststroke Final
Women’s 200 Butterfly Semifinals
Men’s 200 Individual Medley Semifinals (Lochte)
Men’s 800 Freestyle Final

NBC, Universal Sports broadcast schedule | Live results 

Men’s 100 Freestyle Semifinals

Field
1. James Magnussen (AUS) 47.71
2. Konrad Czerniak (POL) 48.50
3. Nikita Lobintsev (RUS) 48.51
4. Shinri Shioura (JPN) 48.52
5. Hanser Garcia Hernandez (CUB) 48.54
6. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) 48.59
7. Vladimir Morozov (RUS) 48.67
8. Pieter Timmers (BEL) 48.76
9. Jimmy Feigen (USA) 48.86
10. Sebastiaan Verschuren (NED) 48.88
10. Luca Dotto (ITA) 48.88
12. Nathan Adrian (USA) 48.93
13. Filippo Magnini (ITA) 49.02
14. Fabien Gilot (FRA) 49.07
15. Marcelo Chierighini (BRA) 49.08
16. Adam Brown (GBR) 49.39

Preview
Magnussen is Australia’s biggest swimming star. He is the defending world champion who lost to Adrian at the Olympics by .01. Only one man has been within four tenths of a second of Magnussen this year — Morozov. The Aussie is the clear favorite. Adrian might have to go better than his Olympic time of 47.52 to beat Magnussen again. Feigen rebounded well from his poor 4×100 free relay swim to advance. Watch out for Gilot, who had the fastest 4×100 free relay split by far Sunday.

Women’s 50 Backstroke Semifinals

Field
1. Fu Yuanhui (CHN) 27.55
2. Zhao Jing (CHN) 27.81
3. Aya Terakawa (JPN) 28.05
4. Mercedes Peris (ESP) 28.07
5. Etiene Medeiros (BRA) 28.16
6. Rachel Bootsma (USA) 28.28
7. Georgia Davies (GBR) 28.35
7. Lauren Quigley (GBR) 28.35
9. Aleksandra Urbanczyk (POL) 28.37
9. Duane Da Rocha Marce (ESP) 28.37
11. Simone Baumrtova (CZE) 28.38
12. Stephanie Au (HKG) 28.39
13. Missy Franklin (USA) 28.44 SCRATCHED
13. Sanja Jovanovic (CRO) 28.44
15. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 28.48
16. Sinead Russell (CAN) 28.60

Preview
Franklin was fifth in her morning heat then scratched to focus on the 200 free. The 2011 world champion in this event, Russian Anastasia Zueva, was not entered. Fu has two of the three fastest times in the world this year. Zhao is the 2009 world champion. Terakawa won world silver in 2011 and Franklin world bronze. Bootsma was in much better shape than Franklin with the third fastest time in the world this year.

Men’s 200 Butterfly Final

Field
1. Chad le Clos (RSA) 1:55.33
2. Wu Peng (CHN) 1:55.42
3. Pawel Korzeniowski (POL) 1:55.67
4. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:55.97
4. Chen Yin (CHN) 1:55.97
6. Nikolay Skvortsov (RUS) 1:56.02
7. Leonardo De Deus (BRA) 1:56.06
8. Tom Luchsinger (USA) 1:56.10

Preview
All of the finalists were within eight tenths of a second of each other in the semifinals, so this could be close. Le Clos, the Olympic champion, is the favorite. Korzeniowski, the 2005 world champion, has the fastest time in the world this year. Those are the only guys who won major international titles in this event since 2002 other than Michael Phelps. Clary is a proven medalist, but not in the butterfly. Luchsinger is in his first major international final.

Medal Picks
Gold: Le Clos
Silver: Korzeniowski
Bronze: Wu

Women’s 200 Freestyle Final

Field
1. Federica Pellegrini (ITA) 1:55.78
2. Missy Franklin (USA) 1:56.05
3. Melanie Costa (ESP) 1:56.19
4. Camille Muffat (FRA) 1:56.28
5. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 1:56.38
6. Kylie Palmer (AUS) 1:56.53
7. Charlotte Bonnet (FRA) 1:56.63
8. Shannon Vreeland (USA) 1:56.76

Preview
Cautiously, I’m going to say this is a three-woman race for the medals. Pellegrini is the two-time defending world champion and world-record holder. Franklin was held off the Olympic podium by .01 in this event. Muffat is the Olympic silver medalist, world bronze medalist and owns the fastest time of 2013. The crowd favorite Costa is the wild card. Franklin went 1:55.56 at nationals, so there’s more left in the tank.

Medal Picks
Gold: Franklin
Silver: Muffat
Bronze: Pellegrini

Men’s 50 Breaststroke Final

Field
1. Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) 26.81
2. Damir Dugonjic (SLO) 26.83
3. Joao Gomes (BRA) 27.05
4. Christian Sprenger (AUS) 27.10
5. Johannes Skagius (SWE) 27.16
6. Glenn Snyders (NZL) 27.22
7. Mattia Pesce (ITA) 27.42
8. Giulio Zorzi (RSA) 27.44

Preview
Van der Burgh looks to better his silver from the 100 breast, which was won by Sprenger. The South African, who won world bronze in this non-Olympic event in 2011, had the fastest time in the prelims and the semifinals. The 2011 world gold and silver medalists aren’t in this final.

Medal Picks
Gold: Van der Burgh
Silver: Gomes
Bronze: Dugonjic

Women’s 200 Butterfly Semifinals

Field
1. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 2:07.21
2. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 2:07.51
3. Natsumu Hoshi (JPN) 2:07.59
4. Liu Zige (CHN) 2:07.63
5. Jiao Liuyang (CHN) 2:07.79
6. Cammile Adams (USA) 2:07.83
7. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 2:07.87
8. Stefania Pirozzi (ITA) 2:08.50
9. Franziska Hentke (GER) 2:08.51
10. Audrey Lacroix (CAN) 2:09.13
11. Judit Ignacio Sorribes (ESP) 2:09.48
12. Jemma Lowe (GBR) 2:10.21
13. Maya DiRado (USA) 2:10.25
14. Katerine Savard (CAN) 2:10.72
15. Andreina Pinto (VEN) 2:10.74
16. Joanna Maranhao Melo (BRA) 2:11.14

Preview
The top five semifinal seeds figure to be the medalists come Thursday. The crowd will be behind Belmonte Garcia, the Olympic silver medalist in this event who won bronze in the 200 individual medley. No Spanish-born swimmer has ever won a world or Olympic title. Hosszu beat Belmonte Garcia for that 200 IM title. Hoshi is the Olympic bronze medalist. Liu and Jiao won the last two Olympic golds. Adams, fifth at the Olympics, should be able to make the final.

Men’s 200 Indvidual Medley Semifinals

Field
1. Laszlo Cseh (HUN) 1:57.70
2. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:57.73
3. Shun Wang (CHN) 1:57.83
4. Simon Sjodin (SWE) 1:58.02
5. Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:58.46
6. Thiago Pereira (BRA) 1:58.54
7. Henrique Rodrigues (BRA) 1:58.73
8. Daniel Tranter (AUS) 1:58.76
8. Markus Deibler (GER) 1:58.76
10. Conor Dwyer (USA) 1:58.78
11. Kenneth To (AUS) 1:59.21
12. Dalya Seto (JPN) 1:59.25
13. Diogo Carvalho (POR) 1:59.39
14. Roberto Pavoni (GBR) 1:59.41
15. Fellian Mao (CHN) 1:59.68
16. Joseph Schooling (SIN) 1:59.99

Preview
Since the 2004 Olympics, all but two of the Olympic and world medals in this event have been won by three men — Phelps, Cseh and Lochte. Lochte, the two-time defending world champion, owns the fastest time in the world this year (1:55.44). Hagino is second in 2013 at 1:55.74. Nobody else has gone under 1:57. Dwyer, the silver medalist in the 200 free, should make the final.

Men’s 800 Free Final

Field
1. Connor Jaeger (USA) 7:49.28
2. Sun Yang (CHN) 7:49.37
3. Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 7:49.58
4. Michael McBroom (USA) 7:50.62
5. Ous Mellouli (TUN) 7:50.77
6. Pal Joensen (FAR) 7:50.81
7. Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) 7:52.33
8. Jordy Harrison (AUS) 7:52.55

Preview
It’s a surprise that Sun didn’t lead all qualifiers into the final, because he is the clear favorite. Jaeger may have top seed time, Cochrane may have the fastest time in the world this year (7:43.61), but Sun went 7:38 to win the world title two years ago. He’s already won the 400 free title in Barcelona and still has the 1,500 to go. Cochrane and Jaeger are expected to medal as well. McBroom is the fourth fastest in the world this year. Mellouli is the only man to win world and Olympic titles in the pool and the open water.

Medal Picks
Gold: Sun
Silver: Jaeger
Bronze: Cochrane

Usain Bolt learns Russian (video)

John McFall, Paralympic medalist, becomes first parastronaut in Europe

John McFall
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The European Space Agency made history Wednesday by selecting an amputee who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident to be among its newest batch of astronauts — a leap toward its pioneering ambition to send someone with a physical disability into space.

John McFall, a 41-year-old Briton who lost his right leg when he was 19 and later won a Paralympic 100m bronze medal in 2008, called his selection at Europe’s answer to NASA “a real turning point and mark in history.”

“ESA has a commitment to send an astronaut with a physical disability into space … This is the first time that a space agency has endeavored to embark on a project like this. And it sends a really, really strong message to humanity,” he said.

The newly-minted parastronaut joins five career astronauts in the final selection unveiled during a Paris news conference — the conclusion of the agency’s first recruitment drive in over a decade aimed at bringing diversity to space travel.

McFall will follow a different path than his fellow astronauts because he will participate in a groundbreaking feasibility study exploring whether physical disability will impair space travel. It’s uncharted land, since no major Western space agency has ever put a parastronaut into space, according to the ESA.

Speaking with pride amid flashes of emotion, McFall said that he was uniquely suited to the mission because of the vigor of his mind and body.

“I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I lost my leg about twenty plus years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to be a Paralympic athlete and really explored myself emotionally … All those factors and hardships in life have given me confidence and strength — the ability to believe in myself that I can do anything I put my mind to,” he added.

“I never dreamt of being an astronaut. It was only when ESA announced that they were looking for a candidate with a physical disability to embark on this project that it really sparked my interest.”

The feasibility study, that will last two to three years, will examine the basic hurdles for a parastronaut including how a physical disability might impact mission training, and if modifications to spacesuits and aircraft are required, for example.

ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker said it was still a “long road” for McFall but described the fresh recruitment as a long-held ambition.

Parker said it started with a question. “Maybe there are people out there that are almost superhuman in that they’ve already overcome challenges. And could they become astronauts?”

Parker also says that he “thinks” it may be the first time the word “parastronaut” has been used, but “I do not claim ownership.”

“We’re saying that John (McFall) could be the first parastronaut, that means someone who has been selected by the regular astronaut selection process but happens to have a disability that would normally have ruled him out,” he said.

It will be at least five years before McFall goes into space as an astronaut — if he is successful.

Across the Atlantic, Houston is taking note. Dan Huot, a spokesman for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, home to the American agency’s astronaut corps, told the AP that “we at NASA are watching ESA’s para-astronaut selection process with great interest.”

Huot acknowledged that “NASA’s selection criteria currently remains the same” but said the agency is looking forward to working with the “new astronauts in the future” from partners such as the ESA.

NASA stressed that it has a safety-conscious process for vetting future astronauts who might be put in life-threatening situations.

“For maximum crew safety, NASA’s current requirements call for each crew member to be free of medical conditions that could either impair the person’s ability to participate in, or be aggravated by, spaceflight, as determined by NASA physicians,” Huot added.

NASA said future “assistive technology” might change the game for “some candidates” to meet their stringent safety requirements.

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Ilia Malinin in familiar position after Grand Prix Finland short program

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Ilia Malinin landed a quadruple Axel in his free skate to win his first two competitions this season. Less known was that the 17-year-old American had to come from behind to win each time.

An at least slightly injured Malinin looks up in the standings again after the short program of his third event, Grand Prix Finland. Malinin had erred landings on two of his three jumping passes in Friday’s short, where quad Axels are not allowed, then said he had a left foot problem, according to the International Skating Union.

“I’m a little bit injured, I’m playing it safe, protect it to make sure the injury doesn’t get worse,” he said, according to the ISU.

He tallied 85.57 points for second place, which is 3.39 fewer than leader Kevin Aymoz of France going into Saturday’s free skate.

Malinin, the world junior champion ranked No. 1 in the world in his first full senior season, merely needs to finish fourth or better (perhaps even fifth) to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final, which pits the top six per discipline in the world in a preview of March’s world championships.

Grand Prix Finland concludes with all of the free skates on Saturday.

GRAND PRIX FINLAND: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier Friday, world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium led the women’s short with 74.88 points, edging Mai Mihara of Japan by 1.3. Hendrickx and Mihara are in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. World champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan, South Korea’s Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito already have spots in the Final.

The world’s top ice dance couple this season, Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, improved on their world-leading rhythm dance score by tallying 87.80 points. They lead Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker by 6.87, with both couples in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini topped the pairs’ short program by 4.3 points over Americans Anastasiia Smirnova and Danil Siianytsia. The Italians rank fourth in the world this season behind three teams that aren’t in the Finland field but will be at the Grand Prix Final, including world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the U.S.

Smirnova and Silanytsia are competing in their lone Grand Prix this season after withdrawing before Skate America, making them ineligible for Grand Prix Final qualification. Their short program score ranks fourth among American pairs this season, putting them in contention for one of three spots on the team for worlds, to be decided after January’s national championships.

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