Kosuke Kitajima

Kosuke Kitajima, Alicia Coutts fail to make World Championships teams

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Japan’s most decorated swimmer of all time and Australia’s most decorated athlete across all sports at the 2012 Olympics both failed to make their World Swimming Championships teams.

Kosuke Kitajima, who swept the breaststrokes at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finished third in the 100m breast at the Japanese Championships on Wednesday. A nation can send no more than two swimmers per individual event to the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.

Kitajima did not enter the 200m breast at the Japanese Championships. That means the four-time Olympian Kitajima, 32, will likely miss his second World Championships since 1998. The other absence was 2009, when Kitajima took a break from swimming.

“I fell just like cherry blossom petals,” Kitajima said, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun. “I was sure that I could finish within the qualifying time, and I still believe I can compete [at the top level].”

Alicia Coutts, who won an Australian-leading five medals at the 2012 Olympics, may retire after failing to make the World Championships team, according to Australian media.

Coutts, 27, finished third in the 100m butterfly at the Australian Championships. She is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and Worlds silver medalist in the event. She did not enter the 200m individual medley, an event in which she won silver at the 2011 and 2013 Worlds and 2012 Olympics.

She also finished sixth in the 100m freestyle but did not earn a spot on the 4x100m free relay team for Worlds (full Australian team here).

Coutts competed after suffering a serious shoulder injury.

“I was going to retire 12 weeks ago, so I am lucky to be here,” Coutts said Sunday, according to The Australian Associated Press. “I went kind of AWOL, so I really only started training at the first of January.”

Australia Olympic Committee backs 2028 Olympic bid

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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