Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte miss medals; Katie Ledecky breaks record at Worlds

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Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte finished out of the medals in their first individual events at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, on Tuesday, one day after the U.S. went medal-less on one day at a Worlds for the first time ever.

The U.S. has won four medals in three days in Kazan with five days left. Its lowest medal total at an Olympics or Worlds in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 World Championships.

“I guess we got to go back to the drawing board,” U.S. Olympic champion Matt Grevers said after an unsatisfying bronze in the 100m backstroke on Eurosport. Grevers’ response was to a question about his event, but it could be relevant for every U.S. star other than Katie Ledecky.

Ledecky broke her 1500m freestyle world record for the second time in as many days, winning gold in 15:25.48 to improve 2.33 seconds on her record set in the semifinals Monday.

Ledecky won by 14.66 seconds over New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle, refusing to take it easy despite having to swim a 200m freestyle semifinal 30 minutes after finishing the 1500m free.

“It’s really inspiring to see someone like that because it really shows what is possible for the human body, especially in women’s swimming,” Boyle said on Eurosport. “It really shows what we can all be capable of.”

In the 200m free semis, Ledecky was in last place at 100 meters but recovered to finish third in her race and make the eight-woman final by .25, saying she thought over the last 50 meters, “Don’t mess this up.” She and Franklin will go head to head in the final Wednesday.

“That was a lot harder than I was hoping it would be,” Ledecky told Michele Tafoya on Universal Sports, after slipping down stairs following her 1500m free medal ceremony. “I only have 2,000 meters left of racing this week.”

Franklin finished fifth in the 100m backstroke Tuesday, 1.14 seconds behind Australian winner Emily Seebohm, her first individual World title in her fifth Worlds appearance. Franklin had a poor start, was in last place at the 50m turn and couldn’t catch silver medalist Madison Wilson of Australia or bronze medalist Mie Oe Nielsen of Denmark.

Seebohm said she was not surprised of Franklin’s fifth-place finish.

“I think she has worked very hard, and it took her a long time to get over her injury [back spasms at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships last August],” Seebohm, the silver medalist behind Franklin at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, said on Eurosport. “I think she’ll be back on fire next year. We can’t expect to be on our best all the time. It’s definitely a fight to the finish, and she fought the whole way. … She’ll be back to give me another go next year.”

Franklin won the 100m back at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships. She has three individual events left this week — 200m back, 100m freestyle and 200m free.

“Definitely disappointed with the 100,” Franklin said, according to The Associated Press. “Obviously, that’s not what I wanted to go. But that’s where I am right now.”

Worlds broadcast schedule | Tuesday results | Women’s preview | Men’s preview

Lochte finished fourth in the 200m free, .69 behind British winner James Guy. Lochte, 31, came in with the fastest qualifying time but went slower in the final than the semifinals.

“I never thought I’d make the final,” Guy, who also took 400m free silver behind Sun on Sunday, said on Eurosport. “I never thought I’d beat Sun Yang.”

China’s Sun led after 150 meters but lost to Guy by .06, ending Sun’s bid to become the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a Worlds. Ledecky could become the first. German world-record holder Paul Biedermann took bronze behind Guy and Sun.

Lochte has one individual event left this week, the 200m individual medley.

Neither Franklin nor Lochte was at peak form in 2014 or so far in 2015, at least in part due to injuries.

Franklin, 20, suffered back spasms two days before the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, the major international meet of that year, and left with one individual medal, a bronze.

Lochte, 31, re-aggravated a 2013 knee injury in 2014 and, like Franklin, won one individual medal at Pan Pacs. Lochte won four individual gold medals at the 2011 Worlds.

Also Tuesday, Grevers earned the first U.S. men’s medal at Worlds, bronze in the 100m backstroke after he won the 2013 World title and the 2012 Olympic title. Grevers finished .26 behind Australian gold medalist Mitch Larkin and .18 behind French silver medalist Camille Lacourt.

“Right off the start, my head slipped of my cap, I kind of hurt a lot of momentum,” Grevers told Tafoya on Universal Sports. “There’s a lot of little things that went wrong. Turn wasn’t great. My breakouts weren’t my best. A little disappointing. I thought I had a lot more in the tank than that. … I thought I should have won that.”

Russian Yulia Efimova capped the night by winning the 100m breaststroke, igniting the Kazan crowd. Olympic and 2013 World champion Ruta Meilutyte took silver, followed by Jamaican Alia Atkinson. Efimova was competing after serving a doping ban. Atkinson won Jamaica’s first Worlds medal ever.

Great Britain’s Adam Peaty broke the world record in the 50m breaststroke semifinals at 26.42. The 50m breast is not contested at the Olympics.

Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and South African Olympic champion Chad le Clos led the qualifiers into Wednesday’s 200m butterfly final.

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Men’s 200m Freestyle
Gold: James Guy (GBR) — 1:45.14

Silver: Sun Yang (CHN) — 1:45.20
Bronze: Paul Biedermann (GER) — 1:45.38
4. Ryan Lochte (USA) — 1:45.83
5. Sebastiaan Verschuren (NED) — 1:45.91
6. Chad le Clos (RSA) — 1:46.53
7. Aleksandr Krasnykh (KAZ) — 1:46.88
8. Cameron McEvoy (AUS) — 1:47.28

Women’s 100m Backstroke
Gold: Emily Seebohm (AUS) — 58.26
Silver: Madison Wilson (AUS) — 58.75
Bronze: Mie Oe Nielsen (DEN) — 58.86
4. Fu Yuanhui (CHN) — 59.02
5. Missy Franklin (USA) — 59.40
6. Anastaslia Fesikova (RUS) — 59.66
7. Lauren Alice Quigley (GBR) — 59.78
8. Kathleen Baker (USA) — 59.99

Women’s 1500m Freestyle
Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA) — 15:25.48
Silver: Lauren Boyle (NZL) — 15:40.14
Bronze: Boglarka Kapas (HUN) — 15:47.09
4. Lotte Friis (DEN) — 15:49.00
5. Jessica Ashwood (AUS) — 15:52.17
6. Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) — 16:03.74
7. Kristel Kobrich (CHI) — 16:06.55
8. Aurora Ponsele (ITA) — 16:09.57

Men’s 100m Backstroke
Gold: Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 52.40
Silver: Camille Lacourt (FRA) — 52.48
Bronze: Matt Grevers (USA) — 52.66
4. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 52.89
5. Chris Walker-Hebborn (GBR) — 53.02
6. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 53.10
7. Evgeny Rylov (RUS) — 53.23
8. Liam Tancock (GBR) — 53.37

Weightlifting investigation finds doping cover-ups

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DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — An investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation has found doping cover-ups and millions of dollars in missing money, lead investigator Richard McLaren said Thursday.

McLaren said 40 positive doping tests were “hidden” in IWF records and that athletes whose cases were delayed or covered up went on to win medals at the world championships and other events. The cases will be referred to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“We found systematic governance failures and corruption at the highest level of the IWF,” McLaren said.

The International Olympic Committee said it was studying the report “very carefully,” adding that “the content is deeply concerning.”

McLaren said former IWF president Tamas Ajan was “an autocratic leader” who kept the board in the dark about finances and left officials fearing reprisals if they spoke out. Ajan received cash payments on behalf of the IWF as doping fines from national federations or sponsors, the report said, but what happened to some of the money is unclear.

McLaren said $10.4 million was unaccounted for, based on his team’s analysis of cash going in and out of the IWF over several years. Ajan denies any wrongdoing.

The largest fine recorded in the report was $500,000 paid by Azerbaijan. It’s unclear how that payment was made. On one trip to Thailand for a competition and conference, Ajan collected more than $440,000 across 18 cash payments, according to the report.

“Everyone was kept in financial ignorance through the use of hidden bank accounts (and transfers),” McLaren said. “Some cash was accounted for, some was not.”

McLaren said that the investigation found information which law enforcement “might be interested in,” and that he would cooperate with any later investigations. That was echoed by Ajan’s successor at the IWF.

“The activities that have been revealed and the behavior that has occurred in the years past is absolutely unacceptable and possibly criminal,” IWF interim president Ursula Garza Papandrea said.

She added that the IWF will pass on information to law enforcement if it indicates there were “potential crimes.”

McLaren said Ajan “permitted the (federation) elections to be bought by vote brokers” as he kept the presidency and promoted favored officials. Large cash withdrawals were made ahead of federation congresses, McLaren said, adding that voters were bribed and had to take pictures of their ballots to show to brokers.

The 81-year-old Ajan stepped down in April, ending a 20-year reign as president and a total 44 years in federation posts. A month before that he also gave up his honorary membership of the International Olympic Committee.

In a statement to Hungarian state news agency MTI, Ajan said the IWF’s finances were managed in a “lawful” manner with oversight from the board.

“All my life, I’ve abided by the laws, the written and unwritten rules and customs of the sport,” he said.

Ajan accused McLaren’s team of not giving him enough information to respond to the allegations about his conduct.

Ajan was a full IOC member between 2000 and 2010, voting to select Olympic host cities. A previous complaint about IWF finances in 2010 was closed by the IOC.

McLaren’s investigation was sparked in January when German broadcaster ARD reported financial irregularities at the federation and apparent doping cover-ups.

The focus of the investigation was on the period from 2009 through 2019. McLaren said he heard allegations of misconduct dating back as far as the 1980s, but chose to prioritize more recent matters with stronger evidence.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said it welcomed McLaren’s findings.

“Once WADA has had the opportunity to review that evidence as well as the report in full, the Agency will consider the next appropriate steps to take,” it said in a statement.

Some allegations regarding doping misconduct around the 2019 world championships in Thailand and involving athletes from Moldova were passed to the International Testing Agency, which is still investigating.

McLaren, a Canadian law professor, was WADA’s lead investigator for Russian doping and has judged cases at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Weightlifting’s reputation under Ajan had already been hit by dozens of steroid doping cases revealed in retests of samples from the Olympics since 2008.

Since he left office in April, the IWF has begun moving its headquarters from Ajan’s home country of Hungary to the Swiss city of Lausanne, where the International Olympic Committee is based.

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Gwendolyn Berry gets apology from USOPC CEO after reprimand for podium gesture

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Olympic hammer thrower Gwendolyn Berry said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland apologized to her Wednesday “for not understanding the severity of the impact her decisions had on me,” after Berry was put on probation last August for one year after raising her fist at the end of the national anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games.

“I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,” Hirshland said in a statement. “I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.”

Berry and fencer Race Imboden were sent August letters of reprimand by Hirshland, along with each receiving probation, after each made a podium gesture at Pan Ams in Peru.

This week, Berry tweeted that she wanted a public apology from Hirshland. That tweet came after Hirshland sent a letter to U.S. athletes on Monday night, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

Then on Wednesday night, Berry said she had a “really productive” 40-minute phone call with Hirshland, USATF CEO Max Siegel and other USATF officials.

“I didn’t necessarily ask for [an apology] from [Hirshland],” Berry said Thursday. Berry said she lost two-thirds of her income after Pan Ams, that sponsors dropped her in connection to the raised fist fallout.

“We came to some good conclusions,” Berry said of the group call. “The most important thing were figuring out ways to move forward. [Hirshland] was aware of things that she did and how she made me feel about the situation, and I was happy that I was able to express to her my grievances and she was able to express to me how she felt as well about the situation.”

Berry said her probation, which is believed to still be in effect, wasn’t discussed. She made a point to say that USATF has always been on her side.

“The conversation was more for awareness purposes, and we’ll probably have more conversations this week,” said Berry.

Berry also plans to participate in a U.S. athlete town hall Friday.

“First and foremost, we should and we will discuss how people are just feeling and how people are holding up because athletes in general, because of the pandemic and because of everything that’s been going on, I know a lot of people are in distress, they’re sad, they’re confused,” she said. “I think that’ll be the main point of the discussion. Just to make sure everybody’s OK. Just to see how everybody’s holding on.”

On Aug. 10, Berry raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after winning the Pan American Games title.

The next morning, Berry said the gesture, which drew memories of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games, wasn’t meant to be a big message, but it quickly became a national story.

“Just a testament to everything I’ve been through in the past year, and everything the country has been through this past year,” she said then. “A lot of things need to be done and said and changed. I’m not trying to start a political war or act like I’m miss-know-it-all or anything like that. I just know America can do better.”

Berry said then that the motivation behind her gesture included the challenges overcome of changing coaches and moving from Oxford, Miss., where her family resides, to Houston.

“Every individual person has their own views of things that are going on,” she said. “It’s in the Constitution, freedom of speech. I have a right to feel what I want to feel. It’s no disrespect at all to the country. I want to make that very clear. If anything, I’m doing it out of love and respect for people in the country.”

Berry also said that weekend, according to USA Today, that she was standing for “extreme injustice.”

“Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” Berry said, according to that report. “It’s too important to not say something. Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report.

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