Ryan Lochte faces his smallest Worlds schedule ever after throwaway 2014

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Ryan Lochte is swimming his fewest individual events at major international meet in 11 years at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in a little more than two weeks.

He’s coming off what he called probably the worst year of his career, which followed the worst injury of his career in November 2013 and retirement thoughts.

Yet Lochte is once again front and center.

Michael Phelps is suspended from Worlds. The biggest stars from Australia (James Magnussen), France (Yannick Agnel), Japan (Kosuke Hagino) and South Korea (Park Tae-hwan) will also be absent.

Qualifying for Worlds took place last year for U.S. swimmers.

Lochte made the Worlds team in two events — the 200m individual medley and the 200m freestyle — after winning a single individual medal at the year’s major international meet, the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia in August. It marked the first time he failed to win multiple individual medals at an Olympics, Worlds or Pan Pacs since his major international meet debut at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

For all that, Lochte blamed himself.

“I wasn’t in the shape that I wanted to be in,” Lochte said recently. “I had injuries and everything. … I wasn’t training as hard as I should have. My focus wasn’t there. We’re going to throw 2014 out. That year is gone.”

He undoubtedly came back too early by swimming in a February 2014 meet three months after tearing an MCL (via what Lochte has said was an overzealous fan running into him and him falling and hitting a curb). The knee hurt then, and it hurt even more two months later when he re-tore it.

Lochte added Thursday, “I should have stuck with rehab a little bit better. I should have took care of myself outside of the pool.”

With coach David Marsh, whom Lochte calls a “mad scientist,” the 11-time Olympic medalist has experimented. Lochte, who has said he’s eaten pizza and wings every Friday since he was 8, started a new technique off turns around early July, when he rolled onto his back while kicking under water en route to freestyle legs.

“I’m becoming my normal self again,” he said.

He still must prove it. Lochte ranks in the world top 20 in one individual event this year, the 200m IM. Four years ago, Lochte swooped four individual gold medals at the World Championships and became the man to beat — rather than Phelps — going into the London Olympics.

This year, he will benefit greatly from the absence of Phelps, Hagino, Agnel and Park at Worlds.

Lochte is the three-time defending World champion in the 200m IM. In Kazan, he won’t have to face the three-time reigning Olympic champion Phelps nor Hagino, the man who beat both Phelps and Lochte at Pan Pacs last year.

Lochte won gold in the 200m free at the 2011 Worlds and was fourth in the event at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds. In Kazan, he won’t have to face the 2008 Olympic champion Phelps nor Agnel and Park, who won gold and silver at the 2012 Olympics.

Lochte refused to acknowledge that winning those two events, his only two individual events, at Worlds would mean less without stars in the lanes next to him.

“There’s so many other swimmers out there that are up and coming,” Lochte said. “I’m not always really focused on, ‘Oh well Michael’s not there or Hagino, I can easily win.’ … Just because they’re not there doesn’t mean it should be a shoo-in for me.”

One thing’s for certain. Lochte will have more free time at Worlds than he’s used to at major meets. He swam four individual events each at his busiest at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics.

“I don’t know if it makes it a little easier [swimming fewer events], just because I’ve always been that swimmer that loves racing,” Lochte said. “The more races I do, the better I am.”

He may return to a loaded schedule next year. Lochte has made it a habit of not revealing his goals (a Phelps habit, too) but said recently that swimming the grueling 400m individual medley was “not out of the question” at the 2016 Olympic trials.

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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