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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Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail, fails to finish world championships time trial

Chloe Dygert
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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail and failed to finish the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title in Imola, Italy.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, her legs appearing bloodied, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken toward an ambulance.

“All we know is that she is conscious and talking,” according to USA Cycling, about 25 minutes after the crash. “More updates to come.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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