U.S. men stunned in Worlds relay as streaks snapped

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The U.S. won three silver medals at the World Swimming Championships on Friday but saw its two longest gold-medal streaks in major international meets snapped in Kazan, Russia.

Great Britain’s James Guy overcame a 1.63-second deficit on Michael Weiss on the 4x200m freestyle relay anchor leg to win by .42. The U.S. had won the event at 11 straight major international meets dating to Ryan Lochte‘s first Olympic medal in the Athens 2004 relay.

Lochte led off the relay Friday and gave the U.S. a .54 lead. Conor Dwyer extended it to .85 and Reed Malone to 1.38 over Russia, but Weiss couldn’t hold off Guy, the individual 200m freestyle World champion. Had the U.S. had Michael Phelps, it might have been a different result.

“I know that we were missing some guys; I think everyone from each team is missing some guys,” Lochte told media in Kazan. “We came up short, but we’re going to definitely remember this and hopefully train our butts off all next year and hopefully not let that happen again.”

Australian Mitch Larkin ended a 20-year American run atop the men’s 200m backstroke, sweeping the 100m and 200m back golds in Kazan. Larkin clocked 1:53.58, followed by Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki (1:54.55) and Russia’s Yevgeny Rylov (1:54.60).

Americans Ryan Murphy and Olympic champion Tyler Clary were fifth and seventh, respectively. The U.S. had won the 200m back at 20 straight major international meets (Olympics/Worlds/Pan Pacific Championships), the last loss coming at the 1994 World Championships.

The U.S. owns 14 medals through six of eight days at the World Championships, leading the medal standings over Australia and China, which both have 11. The U.S.’ fewest medals won at a Worlds or Olympics in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 World Championships.

World Swimming Championships: Friday results | Broadcast schedule

In the 100m freestyle, Australian sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell took gold and bronze, respectively, to become the first siblings to share a Worlds individual podium.

Bronte, 21, clocked 52.52 for the victory. Swede Sarah Sjostrom took silver at 52.70. Cate, 23 and the 2013 World champion, touched in 52.82.

Americans Simone Manuel and Missy Franklin finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Franklin finished fifth in the 100m free at the 2012 Olympics and fourth at the 2013 Worlds, both in faster times than Friday. A U.S. woman has not won a Worlds 100m free medal since 2005 (Natalie Coughlin) and a gold medal since 1998 (Jenny Thompson).

Franklin came back 16 minutes later to win her 200m backstroke semifinal, qualifying third overall into Saturday’s final behind Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Australian 100m backstroke champion Emily Seebohm.

American Kevin Cordes earned silver in the 200m breaststroke, .29 behind German Marco Koch. Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta took bronze in a bid to become the third swimmer to earn four straight World titles in one event. Cordes, 21, won bronze in the non-Olympic 50m breast earlier at Worlds.

Cordes has rebounded well from a disastrous Worlds debut in 2013, when he disqualified the U.S. men’s medley relay team by taking off .01 too early in the final. Cordes also was disqualified from the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships 100m breast final after trying to take off his goggles during the race because they filled with water.

In the women’s 200m breast, Japan’s Kanako Watanabe overtook Danish world-record holder Rikke Moller Pedersen in the final 50 meters, winning in 2:21.15. American Micah Lawrence earned silver, 1.29 seconds behind. Lawrence was the bronze medalist in 2013.

Pedersen, China’s Shi Jinglin and Spain’s Jessica Vall tied for bronze Friday. It’s the first time five swimmers won medals in an individual swimming event at an Olympics or World Championships.

In semifinals Friday, Nathan Adrian broke Cullen Jones‘ American 50m freestyle record to lead all qualifiers into Saturday’s eight-man final. Adrian, the Olympic 100m free champion, finished a disappointing seventh in the 100m free Thursday.

Tom Shields was the No. 2 qualifier into Saturday’s 100m butterfly final, behind Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and in front of defending World champion Chad le Clos of South Africa.

Earlier Friday, Katie Ledecky clocked the fastest qualifying time into Saturday’s 800m freestyle final. If she wins gold, she will become the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a Worlds. She will also become the third swimmer to win four individual golds at a single Worlds, joining Lochte and Phelps.

10-year-old girl swims at World Championships

Women’s 100m Freestyle
Gold: Bronte Campbell (AUS) — 52.52
Silver: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 52.70
Bronze: Cate Campbell (AUS) — 52.82
4. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) — 53.17
5. Femke Heemskerk (NED) — 53.58
6. Simone Manuel (USA) — 53.93
7. Missy Franklin (USA) — 54.00
8. Shen Duo (CHN) — 54.76

Men’s 200m Backstroke
Gold: Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 1:53.58
Silver: Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) — 1:54.55
Bronze: Yevgeny Rylov (RUS) — 1:54.60
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 1:54.81
5. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 1:55.00
6. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 1:55.20
7. Tyler Clary (USA) — 1:56.26
8. Li Guangyuan (CHN) — 1:56.79

Women’s 200m Breaststroke
Gold: Kanako Watanabe (JPN) — 2:21.15
Silver: Micah Lawrence (USA) — 2:22.44
Bronze: Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN) — 2:22.76
Bronze: Shi Jinglin (CHN) — 2:22.76
Bronze: Jessica Vall (ESP) — 2:22.76
6. Rie Kaneto (JPN) — 2:23.19
7. Vitalina Simonova (RUS) — 2:23.59
8. Kierra Smith (CAN) — 2:23.61

Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Gold: Marco Koch (GER) — 2:07.76
Silver: Kevin Cordes (USA) — 2:08.05
Bronze: Daniel Gyurta (HUN) — 2:08.10
4. Andrew Stephen Willis (GBR) — 2:08.52
5. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) — 2:09.12
6. Dmitriy Balandin (KAZ) — 2:09.58
7. Anton Chupkov (RUS) — 2:09.96
8. Mao Feilian (CHN) — 2:10.02

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Gold: Great Britain — 7:04.33
Silver: U.S. — 7:04.75
Bronze: Australia — 7:05.34
4. Russia — 7:06.89
5. Germany — 7:09.01
6. Belgium — 7:09.64
7. Netherlands — 7:09.75
8. Poland — 7:10.34

Major League Baseball sponsors U.S. Olympic softball team

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NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball is using its financial muscle to support the U.S. women’s softball team, which already is assured a spot in the Tokyo Olympics while the American men’s baseball team struggles to qualify.

MLB announced an agreement Thursday to become presenting sponsor of the women’s “Stand Beside Her” tour, a slate of exhibition games leading up to the Olympic tournament from July 22-28.

“We’re both bat and ball sports. Even though we’re not the same sport, there are so many similarities that you just can’t ignore,” said Kim Ng, MLB’s senior vice president for baseball operations. “It was important for us to make sure that they have this acknowledgment and recognition of their ability and their talent.”

Softball began as an Olympic sport for the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004 with players that included Dot Richardson, Jennie Finch and Jessica Mendoza, then lost to Japan in the 2008 gold-medal game.

Baseball and softball were dropped for the next two Olympics, then restored for this year, when the U.S. and Japan will be joined by Australia, Canada, Italy and Mexico for games in Fukushima and Yokohama but not Tokyo. The sports are likely to be dropped for 2024 in Paris but could return four years later in Los Angeles.

The U.S. men’s baseball team stumbled in its first attempt to qualify, wasting a ninth-inning lead against Mexico in the final game of the Premier12 tournament in November and losing in the 10th. The U.S. has two more chances to join Israel, Japan, Mexico and South Korea in the Olympic field: an Americas tournament in Arizona from March 22-26 and a final tournament in Taiwan from April 1-5.

MLB is not allowing players on 40-man big league rosters to compete in qualifying, and few top pitching prospects were at the November tournament.

Softball has no such issues. The Olympics are the sport’s highest-profile event.

“The platform for us is 10 times bigger,” American outfielder Haylie McCleney said. “For us, it’s a great opportunity for people that have never watched softball before, people that have only followed it at the collegiate level, to really see how fun our game is to watch, how pure it is. If people are baseball fans, I guarantee they’re going to love softball because it’s pretty much just a faster game – it’s shorter, it’s quicker, it’s more entertaining to watch, in my opinion.”

The 2008 gold-medal softball game took 1 hours, 45 minutes — less than half the 3:45 average for this year’s World Series.

As part of the deal with MLB, the softball team’s official training facility will be at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Florida, the old Dodgertown spring training camp.

MLB Network will include programming from the tour, which currently starts Feb. 4 in Tampa and has about three dozen stops.

The U.S. women’s soccer team has attracted huge television audiences. MLB sees softball as an opportunity for the sport’s growth.

“These are world-class athletes,” Ng said. “Because we have not been in the Olympics for the last 12 years, they just haven’t had that stage. So it’s really important at this point that we show as much support as we can for them.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

Rafael Nadal advances at Australian Open; American back on Slam stage

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal joined Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open third round, sweeping Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Thursday.

Nadal, whose lone Australian Open title came in 2009, gets countryman Pablo Carreno Busta in Saturday’s third round. He could face No. 23 Nick Kyrgios of Australia in round four, but neither Federer nor Djokovic until the final.

No. 4 Daniil Medvedeva and No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Simona Halep were also winners Thursday. Friday’s third-round action is headlined by defending champion Naomi Osaka facing 15-year-old U.S. phenom Coco Gauff.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

The only top-20 seed to lose so far Thursday was No. 20 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. American CiCi Bellis bounced her 6-4, 6-4.

This was a big deal for Bellis: Two full years and four right arm operations have come and gone since she was last healthy enough to participate in a Grand Slam tournament.

Bellis was something of a teen prodigy. In her very first tour-level match, at age 15 at the 2014 U.S. Open, she stunned 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova, an Australian Open runner-up, to become the youngest American to win a match at Flushing Meadows in 28 years.

She reached No. 35 in the rankings at 17, when she won WTA Newcomer of the Year honors.

Then came the series of health problems, including for torn tendons in her wrist, to shorten a bone in her arm and for bone spurs in her elbow. All the time away from the tour has her at No. 600 in the rankings currently, but she was able to get into the draw in Australia via the protected ranking rule.

In other action, U.S. Open runner-up Medvedev  found himself seated in the nosebleed section at Margaret Court Arena, even though he was playing his second-round match there.

That’s because the No. 4-seeded Russian found himself dealing with something he said happens to him a couple of times each year: a nosebleed.

Medvedev blotted his nose with a towel and then was treated by a trainer while his 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 over Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez was delayed for more than five minutes late in the second set.

“Can happen to me sometimes. Doesn’t usually happen during the match, so I had to stop (playing). Usually takes like four minutes — three, four minutes. … But it’s nothing,” Medvedev said.

MORE: Another top U.S. tennis player cools on Olympics

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