Swim race mishaps emerge at U.S. Championships

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IRVINE , Calif. — The fastest swimmer doesn’t always win.

Any number of issues can derail a race, and they can even take down the world’s best.

Shocking lapses from Michael Phelps and two-time Olympic medalist Elizabeth Beisel made waves on the first two nights of the U.S. Swimming Championships.

Phelps mistimed a flip turn in the 100m freestyle final Wednesday, barely touching the wall with his feet. He lost significant momentum and finished seventh.

Beisel was more glaring in slipping to begin the 200m backstroke Thursday. Rather than launching backward off the start, she dropped into the water and essentially had to start the distance from a dead hang.

Beisel, the Olympic 200m back bronze medalist, finished sixth, 3.99 seconds behind Missy Franklin.

They are what swimmers call age-grouper mistakes, stuff that happens when they’re starting to compete as kids.

“Olympians make mistakes, too,” Beisel said.

What specific problems befall them?

“Everything,” seven-time Olympic medalist Aaron Peirsol said. “My goggles have filled up. My suit’s fallen down. My suit has ripped. I’ve missed walls. I’ve slipped off blocks. I’ve slipped off pads. I’ve slipped off pads at the Olympic Games.”

The most famous recent race mishaps include Phelps, when his goggles filled with water in the 200m butterfly final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Phelps still won of course, en route to his eight-for-eight gold effort, but he tossed his cap and goggles on the Water Cube deck in obvious frustration. The goal-oriented Phelps eyed a faster time before he was blinded.

Nathan Adrian‘s suit ripped on the starting blocks of the 100m free at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in March 2012, four months before he won the event at the London Olympics.

Adrian still won the race in Indianapolis, and quickly covered his exposed butt crack with a white towel after getting out of the pool.

Disqualifications happen in many ways, too. In breaststroke especially, swimmers are monitored closely for taking one too many dolphin kicks at the start or off walls before resuming the stroke.

Australia’s greatest swimmer ever, Ian Thorpe, lost his balance on the block and fell into the pool for a false start at the 2004 Olympic Trials.

Relay swimmers mistime exchanges and jump into the pool too quickly, like Ian Crocker did at the 2007 World Championships in the medley relay, denying Phelps an eighth gold medal at that meet.

Twelve-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin has been disqualified for staying under water too long off the start of a freestyle race.

“There’s only so much you can really prepare for,” Peirsol said. “You kind of just have to accept stuff’s going to happen. If you stick around long enough, you’ll see everything.”

The backstroke slip would be all but eliminated by a special wedge to aid swimmers at the start. It was planned to be implemented at Nationals for the first time this week, but FINA cooled on the prototype, and it won’t debut until the fall at the earliest (Swimming World has more here).

Beisel can’t worry about that now. She moved on Friday to her next event, the 400m individual medley, hoping she can qualify for the Pan Pacific Championships team.

“Hopefully I got all my bad luck out of the way,” Beisel said.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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