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

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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