Ryan Lochte

World Swimming Championships men’s preview

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What will the men’s results at the World Swimming Championships portend for the Rio Olympics?

Ryan Lochte could win the 200m individual medley and 200m freestyle in Kazan, Russia, next week.

But he would do so against fields that do not include longtime rival Michael Phelps (out as part of punishment for last year’s DUI) and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino (injured), perhaps the world’s best all-around swimmer. France’s Olympic and World 200m free champion Yannick Agnel is also out for health reasons.

U.S. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian could bag his first World title in the 100m freestyle, but two-time reigning World champion James Magnussen won’t be in Kazan following shoulder surgery.

And China’s Sun Yang, who swept the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles at the 2013 World Championships, won’t have South Korean rival Park Tae-hwan to push him in the 400m. Park is missing Worlds due to a doping ban but could return for the Rio Olympics.

All that’s to say that many rightfully earned gold medals next week will not carry the added title of 2016 Olympic favorite.

Worlds broadcast schedule | Daily schedule of events | Entry lists | Women’s preview

What’s clear is several nations have gold-medal contenders in Kazan, from usual powers like the U.S., Australia, China and Japan to recently emerged South Africa and Brazil and even Great Britain and Germany.

The U.S. men have star power even without Phelps. It starts with Lochte, who will surely add to his career total of 23 Worlds medals, even though he is not the same force he was four years ago, when he bagged four individual gold medals to become the clear-cut world’s top all-around swimmer going into London 2012.

Lochte, who turns 31 on Monday and is coming back from an injury-beset 2014, ranks in the top 20 in the world in one individual event this year and is swimming two individual events next week — the 200m individual medley and 200m freestyle.

“This meet, whatever the outcome is, is just a stepping stone to what I want to accomplish next year at the Olympics,” Lochte, who keeps his goals a secret, told media in Kazan on Friday.

Ryan Lochte faces his smallest Worlds schedule ever after throwaway 2014

Matt Grevers (100m backstroke), Nathan Adrian (100m freestyle) and Tyler Clary (200m backstroke) are competing in events where they won 2012 Olympic gold medals, but it’s possible that none are favorites.

Sun could very well take male Swimmer of the Meet honors for a second straight Worlds. Like Katie Ledecky, he’s added the 200m free to his program of 400m, 800m and 1500m frees. Phelps and Lochte are the only swimmers who have won four individual golds at a single Worlds. Sun could join them.

South Africa’s Chad le Clos is the reigning FINA men’s Swimmer of the Year. He’ll benefit greatly from Phelps’ absence with a chance to sweep the butterflies.

From Japan, Ryosuke Irie could upset the Americans in both backstrokes. Daiya Seto could sweep the individual medleys.

The breaststrokes feature medal contenders from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Japan, South Africa and, perhaps, the U.S.

Key men’s finals:

Sunday, Aug. 2
400m freestyle — Sun is the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World champion, but Australian Mack Horton is fastest this year
4x100m freestyle relay — Five nations in the medal mix — U.S., Australia, France, Russia, Brazil

Monday, Aug. 3
100m breaststroke — Great Britain’s Adam Peaty broke South African Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh‘s world record by more than a half-second earlier this year

Tuesday, Aug. 4
200m freestyle — Lochte can reclaim his 2011 title in the absence of Phelps and Agnel, but Sun, world-record holder Paul Biedermann lurk
100m backstroke — Grevers is the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World champion, but Irie has been faster in 2014 and 2015

Wednesday, Aug. 5
200m butterfly — Le Clos is the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World champion, but Seto has been faster in 2014 and 2015
800m freestyle — Sun is the 2013 World champion, but Horton is fastest this year

Thursday, Aug. 6
200m individual medley — The 2013 World champion Lochte doesn’t have to face Olympic champion Phelps or World silver medalist Hagino
100m freestyle — Australian Cameron McEvoy beat Adrian by nearly a half-second at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships (in Australia)

Friday, Aug. 7
200m backstroke — Clary and Ryan Murphy look to win the U.S.’ 21st straight 200m back gold at a major international meet, but Irie is a big threat
200m breaststroke — Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta is the three-time reigning World champion, but Germany’s Marco Koch has been faster in 2014 and 2015
4x200m freestyle relay — U.S. has won five straight World titles; Australian Grant Hackett made the Australian team after coming out of a six-year retirement

Saturday, Aug. 8
50m freestyle — French Olympic champ Florent Manaudou has been fastest in 2014 and 2015
100m butterfly — Le Clos won’t face Phelps, but Tom Shields could be a threat

Sunday, Aug. 9
1500m freestyle — Nobody’s been within eight seconds of Sun’s world record since 2012, not even Sun
4x100m medley relay — U.S. is heavily favored if it doesn’t get DQed, as it did in 2013

Mark Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

Alex Zanardi
AP
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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

Shawn Johnson
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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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