Franklin, Lochte set to wrap up world swimming championships; Sunday preview

Ryan Lochte
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Missy Franklin swims for a history-making gold No. 6 and Ryan Lochte eyes gold No. 4 on the final night of the world swimming championships Sunday (NBC, 4-6 p.m. ET).

Franklin is expected to lead off the U.S. women’s 4×100 medley relay in the backstroke (though she could swim the anchor freestyle, as well). The U.S. is favored to hold off Australia in the event, the last swim on the program at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona.

Should the Americans prevail, Franklin will finish the meet with six gold medals in eight events (she scratched the 50 backstroke after the preliminary heats and took fourth in the 100 freestyle). No woman has won six golds at a single world championships.

The only women to win six medals of any color are East German Kristin Otto and Americans Shirley Babashoff and Tracy Caulkins, all of whom accomplished the feat before Franklin, 18, was born. Otto is the only woman to win six gold medals at a single Olympics.

Lochte joins the men’s medley relay for the third leg, the butterfly. The U.S. men are favorites, albeit slightly less than the women, over the Aussies there. If the U.S. wins, Lochte will finish the meet with four golds and one silver in seven events. He won the 200 backstroke, 200 individual medley and the 4×200 free relay and was second in the 4×100 free relay. Lochte also took fourth in the 200 free and sixth in the 100 butterfly.

Lochte, the second most decorated swimmer in world championships history behind Michael Phelps, racked up five golds and one bronze in 2011 and four golds and one bronze in 2009.

The U.S. has already secured the top spot in the medal standings for both golds and overall medals. It has 12 golds (next highest is four) and 24 overall (next highest is 10). It is extremely unlikely to surpass the gold-medal total from 2011 (16), but has a shot of matching or exceeding the overall count from 2011 (29).

The U.S.’ best performance at a post-Olympics world championships came in 2005, when it won 15 gold medals and 32 overall, but Phelps competed at those worlds. That the Americans will finish close to those totals this year, with Phelps retired, is a testament to the depth of USA Swimming.

Live results

Men’s 50 Backstroke Final

Field
1. Camille Lacourt (FRA) 24.39
2. Jeremy Stravius (FRA) 24.45
3. Guy Barnea (ISR) 24.73
4. Matt Grevers (USA) 24.79
4. Daniel Orzechowski (BRA) 24.79
6. Aschwin Wildeboer (ESP) 24.90
7. Jonatan Kopolev (ISR) 24.95
7. Sun Xiaolei (CHN) 24.95

Preview
The fastest man in the prelims and the then-world leader for 2013, American David Plummer, was last in the semifinals after slipping at the start Saturday. That leaves Lacourt and Stravius, the co-2011 world champions in the 100 back, as the clear favorites. Grevers is looking to become the first man to sweep the 50 and 100 back at one world championships. Barnea hopes to be the first swimmer from Israel to win an Olympic or world swimming medal of any color.

Medal Picks
Gold: Stravius
Silver: Lacourt
Bronze: Grevers

Women’s 50 Breaststroke Final

Field
1. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) 29.48 WR
2. Yuliya Efimova (RUS) 29.88
3. Jessica Hardy (USA) 29.90
4. Breeja Larson (USA) 30.20
5. Petra Chocova (CZE) 30.31
6. Rikke Pedersen (DEN) 30.57
7. Moniek Nijhuis (NED) 30.61
8. Jennie Johansson (SWE) 30.66

Preview
Efimova broke Hardy’s world record in Saturday morning’s heats. The Russian held it for all of eight hours until Meilutyte snatched it by three tenths in the semifinals. That made the order pretty clear going into the final of this non-Olympic event: Meilutyte-Efimova-Hardy. Larson was sixth at the Olympics in the 100 breast and fifth earlier at the Palau Sant Jordi. If either Hardy or Larson medal here, it means an American woman podiumed in every breaststroke event at these worlds, impressive given Rebecca Soni is taking the year off.

Medal Picks
Gold: Meilutyte
Silver: Efimova
Bronze: Hardy

Men’s 400 Individual Medley Final

Field
1. Chase Kalisz (USA) 4:11.87
2. Daiya Seto (JPN) 4:12.96
3. Tyler Clary (USA) 4:13.55
4. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 4:13.80
5. David Verraszto (HUN) 4:13.95
6. Daniel Wallace (GBR) 4:14.15
7. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 4:14.52
8. Thiago Pereira (BRA) 4:15.81

Preview
A U.S. man has won 11 of the last 13 world or Olympic titles in this grueling event — Tom DolanMichael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Lochte shaved this event from his program at trials, though he’s still the fastest American in the 400 IM in 2013. That leaves Clary, the two-time reigning world silver medalist, and Kalisz, 19, from Phelps’ North Baltimore Aquatic Club, to carry the torch. Kalisz waited a week to jump into the Palau Sant Jordi pool, this being his only event at worlds. Though he’s first into the final, the top three in the world this year are Seto, Hagino and Fraser-Holmes, all of whom have gone sub-4:11. Hagino’s world-leading time is 4:07.61, four seconds faster than Kalisz’s personal best. Hagino, 18, already has two silvers in Barcelona, and this is his sixth individual event.

Medal Picks
Gold: Hagino
Silver: Kalisz
Bronze: Seto

Women’s 50 Freestyle Final

Field
1. Cate Campbell (AUS) 24.19
2. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 24.33
3. Jeanette Ottesen Gray (DEN) 24.54
4. Francesca Halsall (GBR) 24.61
5. Bronte Campbell (AUS) 24.62
6. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 24.65
7. Dorothea Brandt (GER) 24.85
8. Simone Manuel (USA) 24.91

Preview
Cate Campbell, the 100 free champ this week, is the clear favorite, a tenth faster than anyone this year. Kromowidjojo, the double Olympic champion in the 50 free and 100 free, is going for her fourth medal of worlds, but she has yet to win a gold. Ottesen Gray was the co-2011 world champion in the 100 and the 2013 world champ in the 50 butterfly. Halsall seeks Great Britain’s first medal of these worlds. Manuel, who turned 17 on Friday, set a personal best to make the final.

Medal Picks
Gold: Cate Campbell
Silver: Kromowidjojo
Bronze: Ottesen Gray

Men’s 1,500 Freestyle Final

Field
1. Sun Yang (CHN) 14:54.65
2. Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 14:55.15
3. Connor Jaeger (USA) 14:56.62
4. Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) 14:57.15
5. Pal Joensen (FAR) 14:57.76
6. Jordan Harrison (AUS) 14:58.62
7. Michael McBroom (USA) 14:59.73
8. Daniel Fogg (GBR) 15:00.48

Preview
Sun is attempting to become the second man to sweep the distance freestyles (400, 800, 1,500) at a world championships, joining Australian Grant Hackett (2005). Though the qualifying times Saturday were close, he’s a heavy favorite here. Sun broke Hackett’s world record in winning the 2011 world title at age 19, then lowered it by another three seconds in winning the Olympics by a mind-blowing eight-second margin. His top time for 2013, set at Chinese nationals, is three seconds better than anyone else. The silver could go to Cochrane, the two-time reigning world silver medalist and 2012 Olympic silver medalist. Or, it could go to Jaeger, bronze medalist in the 400 free earlier in the meet. Paltrinieri and Harrison are outside medal threats, as is McBroom, the silver medalist in the 800.

Medal Picks
Gold: Sun
Silver: Cochrane
Bronze: Jaeger

Women’s 400 Individual Medley Final

Field
1. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 4:32.72
2. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) 4:34.64
3. Ye Shiwen (CHN) 4:34.93
3. Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) 4:34.93
5. Hannah Miley (GBR) 4:34.94
6. Elizabeth Beisel (USA) 4:35.17
7. Maya DiRado (USA) 4:37.39
8. Miyu Otsuka (JPN) 4:37.77

Preview
Hosszu is favored to become the first woman since American Katie Hoff (2005, 2007) to sweep the individual medleys at a worlds. Ye swept the individual medleys at the Olympics, winning the 400 IM in world record time, but gained 11 pounds between London and Barcelona and fell to fourth in the 200 IM this week. She’s in the silver picture along with the crowd favorite Belmonte Garcia, who has a silver and a bronze at this meet already. Miley is the second fastest woman this year behind Hosszu. Beisel took silver to Ye in London.

Medal Picks
Gold: Hosszu
Silver: Belmonte Garcia
Bronze: Ye

Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay Final

Field
1. United States 3:32.72
2. Australia 3:33.64
3. Russia 3:33.64
4. France 3:34.04
5. Japan 3:34.25
6. Italy 3:34.29
7. Hungary 3:34.64
8. Germany 3:34.91

Preview
Again, it should be the U.S. and Australia going one-two here. And, again, the Aussies will be done in by one poor leg. They didn’t have either of their swimmers make it out of the prelims in the 100-meter butterfly. If Lochte gets into the pool withing a half-second of Australia, it should be over. If he gives the U.S. freestyle anchor, likely Nathan Adrian, a half-second lead, that should be enough to hold off the 100-meter freestyle champion James Magnussen. Lochte’s only other time on this relay at a major international meet was at the 2007 world championships, where the U.S. was disqualified when Ian Crocker left the blocks .01 too soon on the third leg.

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

Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay Final

Field
1. United States 3:58.66
2. Australia 3:58.73
3. China 3:59.39
4. Great Britain 4:00.04
5. Japan 4:00.18
6. Canada 4:00.34
7. Russia 4:00.69
8. Germany 4:01.30

Preview
The favored U.S. women could sweep the three relays for the first time at a worlds. They’ve got medalists in the 100 backstroke (Franklin, gold), 100 breaststroke (Hardy, bronze) and the 100 butterfly (Dana Vollmer, bronze) on the first three legs. However, Australia has medalists from the 100 back (Emily Seebohm, silver), 100 butterfly (Alicia Coutts, silver) and the 100 freestyle (Cate Campbell, gold). But the Aussies’ Achilles heel is the breaststroke, where they didn’t have anyone reach the 100-meter final. The Americans will need a solid two-second lead going into the final leg, but they should have it.

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

Russian official says anti-gay law will not apply to Sochi Olympics

Ilia Malinin’s quadruple Axel sheds light on first figure skater to land triple Axel

Vern Taylor
Vern Taylor, the first figure skater to land a triple Axel in competition. (Getty Images)
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Vern Taylor arrived at the Riverside Skating Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Sept. 15 to do what he has done at that rink for the last three decades: coach figure skaters. But this day was different.

Taylor, who in 1978 became the first man to land a ratified triple Axel in competition, was told that 17-year-old American Ilia Malinin performed the first quadruple Axel the previous night.

“When we heard that he landed it, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s terrific,'” Taylor said by phone.

He was then shown video of Malinin’s feat.

“Anything’s possible,” Taylor said. “43 years [later], that’s something. It’s knowing that you can perform the jump that makes it challenging.”

Malinin, the world junior champion, landed the most difficult jump in skating and checked off the only remaining quad yet to be performed.

At the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa, a 20-year-old Taylor broke through a similar barrier in hitting the last remaining unchecked triple jump. But while Malinin’s senior career seems to be just getting started, and many medals appear in his future, Taylor is largely a forgotten man outside of ardent figure skating followers.

He finished 12th at those 1978 World Championships. Taylor’s 1980 Olympic prospects were dimmed by the fact that Canada had just one men’s singles spot, and he had taken runner-up at nationals in 1978 and 1979 to Brian Pockar, who also outscored Taylor at those years’ world championships. So Taylor stopped competing a year before the Lake Placid Games.

“I didn’t have a reason,” he said. “I just decided to take a break.”

Taylor will always have that day at the world championships in Ottawa. He can still remember the nervousness, knowing that two other skaters also planned to attempt a triple Axel. They were unsuccessful, though Taylor didn’t know it.

“I didn’t see their jumps,” he said. “I didn’t want to know what was ahead of me.”

American David Jenkins landed a triple Axel in Movietone newsreel footage reported to be from 1957, but that was not in competition.

Taylor, skating to music from “Rocky,” put the triple Axel as the third jump of his program, according to reports at the time. The one YouTube video of it, published two years ago, has 32,000 views. It shows Taylor landing the three-and-a-half revolution jump on one foot and spinning out of it while managing to stay on that single skate blade amid a crowd roar.

“During that program, it was like a rock concert,” Taylor said. “I got the energy from the audience.”

The Montreal Gazette reported at the time that the jump was ratified three hours later. Italian Sonia Bianchetti, the men’s referee at the 1978 Worlds, said she met with the assistant referee, the ISU president and a technical delegate.

“During this short meeting it was recognized that Vern had completed the first triple Axel Paulsen jump [Norwegian Axel Paulsen was the skater who landed the first Axel jump in 1882, getting it named after him] in an officially recognized figure skating competition,” she wrote in an email last month. “The triple Axel was fully rotated and landed on one foot.”

One of the people inside the Ottawa Civic Centre that day was 16-year-old Canadian Brian Orser. Orser, inspired by Taylor, later became synonymous with the jump — labeled “Mr. Triple Axel” and landing it en route to silver medals at the Olympics in 1984 and 1988 and the 1987 World title.

Orser remembered Taylor visiting his skating club for an exhibition. Orser saw Taylor doing an Axel takeoff exercise off the ice, incorporated it into his own routine and began teaching it to his skaters after becoming a coach.

Yet another Canadian, Kurt Browning, was the first man to land a ratified quadruple jump of any kind in competition — a toe loop at the 1988 World Championships.

“For me, personally, it was huge,” he said, “because I was promised a car if I could land it.”

Through an agreement with an Edmonton car dealership, Browning was handed the keys to a Quattro — quad/Quattro — after hitting the toe loop. The skater was unaware that the dealer was merely leasing it to him. About six months later, Browning received a call asking to bring the car back.

Browning was inspired by American Brian Boitano, whom he previously saw land a quad outside of competition. Taylor motivated him, too.

“[Taylor] gave me permission, even at a young age, to start thinking bigger,” he said.

Browning also pointed to Jozef Sabovčík, a 1980s skater for then-Czechoslovakia who many believe was the first man to land a quad in competition, Browning included. Sabovčík was initially given credit for a quad toe loop at the 1986 European Championships, but weeks later it was invalidated because he touched down with his free foot, according to reports.

“I never want to come off as arrogant, but despite what ISU [International Skating Union] decided in the end, I do know that I landed the jump on that day,” Sabovčík, who said he performed a quad jump on his birthdays through age 44, wrote in an email. “The fact that most of the people in the skating world believe the same thing, it means everything to me that Kurt is one of them. It would have been nice to have my name in the Guinness Book of Records, but I am also not trying to change history.”

Sabovčík, now 58 and coaching in Salt Lake City, attended March’s world championships in Montpellier, France, where Malinin finished ninth. There, he spoke with Malinin’s parents, Russian-born Uzbek Olympic skaters Tatyana Malinina and Roman Skornyakov, whom he calls friends.

“They told me that he was already doing a quad Axel on a fishing pole harness [in practice], and that it was coming,” Sabovčík said.

Less than two months after that talk, the first video surfaced of Malinin landing a clean quad Axel — at a U.S. Figure Skating jump camp.

“I did not think [a quad Axel] was possible,” Sabovčík said. “It really has to be an athlete that can combine the technical ability with jumping ability with the speed of rotation. When Kurt and I jumped, we had a relatively speaking slow rotation, but we jumped really big compared to these kids. But Ilia, he has the vertical lift, but he [also] has an unbelievably fast rotation.”

The recent proliferation of quads in men’s and women’s skating can be attributed to several factors, including better boots, better ice conditions and improvements in technology that can aid coaching. Still, there are concerns about if and how the pounding of training quads can wear down a skater physically.

“It’s a lot of pain you don’t feel at first, but you know it comes later,” said Frenchwoman Surya Bonaly, who started training a quad in 1989 and attempting it through the mid-1990s. Bonaly had two hip surgeries after her competitive career.

Even Taylor faced those questions.

“People said, ‘Aren’t you worried about injuring yourself?'” he said. “I would say, ‘No, I want you to know it can be done.'”

Sabovčík never tried a quad Axel in his skating days, but Browning did for less than a week in the early 1990s after winning four consecutive world titles.

“Just playing with it,” said Browning, who never tried it in competition. “Ilia has that special ability to not only get up in the air, but then he has that beautiful rotation that doesn’t look hurried. It’s fast, it’s quick as lightning, but it doesn’t look hurried. It’s so easy. Like a good golfer swings easy, and the ball goes 400 yards.”

Browning recalled a conversation he had with two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who in recent years made the quad Axel his quest. Hanyu attempted it in competition last season but did not land it cleanly before retiring in July. He said upon retirement that he still hoped to master the jump for his non-competitive show career.

“I asked Yuzu one day, ‘When you do quad Axel, does it just feel like you’re up there forever?'” Browning said. “And he kind of looked at me funny, and he goes, ‘Yeah, like it never ends.'”

The skating world awaits the reserved Hanyu’s thoughts on Malinin’s quad.

“Knowing Yuzu, I would think he’d be very supportive,” said Orser, who coached Hanyu for nearly a decade. “He appreciates that kind of athleticism.”

Orser also noted what comes with being the first — and so far only — skater to land a rarefied jump. Malinin, who headlines Skate America in two weeks, will be asked about the quad Axel in just about every interview for the foreseeable future. For some skaters, they may feel a responsibility to land it all the time.

“But I don’t think [Malinin] thinks too much about it,” Orser said. “His technique is perfect, so he’ll be fine.”

The inevitable topic after that is the next progression in skating: the first quintuple jump. Orser said that Hanyu did five-rotation Salchows in practice with the aid of a harness.

“It’s just a little bit more rotation than the quadruple Axel, so it’s not that far off,” said Sabovčík, whose unratified quad toe loop came eight years after Taylor’s triple Axel. “Now that I’ve seen the quad Axel, I don’t think it’s impossible.”

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Aleksandra Trusova splits from coach Eteri Tutberidze, months after Olympic tears

Alexandra Trusova, Eteri Tutberidze
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Olympic figure skating silver medalist Aleksandra Trusova reportedly split from coach Eteri Tutberidze‘s group, eight months after a tearful scene after the Olympic free skate.

Trusova, 18, will now be coached by Svetlana Sokolovskaya, according to Russian media reports dating to Saturday. All Russian skaters are ineligible to compete internationally indefinitely due to the national ban over the war in Ukraine, but Russia is still holding domestic events.

At the Beijing Winter Games, Trusova became the first woman to land five quadruple jumps in a free skate. She had the highest score that day, but it wasn’t enough to make up the gap to fellow Tutberidze pupil Anna Shcherbakova from the short program.

Moments after the competition ended, Trusova was seen crying and yelling at Sergey Dudakov, a member of Tutberidze’s coaching team.

“Everyone has a gold medal! Everyone has! Only I don’t! I hate figure skating! I hate! I will never step on the ice again! Never!” she said in Russian.

Shcherbakova had the individual gold, and the other Russian women’s singles skater at the Games, Kamila Valiyeva, skated both programs of the team event. The Russians placed first in the team event, but medals will not be awarded until Valiyeva’s doping case is adjudicated. It’s possible that Valiyeva gets retroactively disqualified, the Russian team gets disqualified and the other nations all move up with the U.S. going from silver to gold.

Trusova performed at the Russian test skates last month, withdrawing after her short program due to a back injury.

Trusova previously left Tutberidze in 2020 for two-time Olympic champion turned coach Yevgeny Plushenko‘s group, then moved back to Tutberidze’s group after the 2020-21 season.

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