U.S. finishes World Swimming Championships atop medal standings

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The U.S. won five medals Sunday to finish the World Swimming Championships atop the gold and overall medal standings, albeit with its fewest medals in Olympic events at an Olympics or Worlds in 50 years.

The medals Sunday came from the men’s medley relay (gold); silvers from Connor Jaeger (1500m freestyle), Maya DiRado (400m individual medley) and Matt Grevers (50m backstroke); and bronze from Chase Kalisz (400m individual medley). The U.S. women’s medley relay with Missy Franklin finished fourth.

The U.S. won 23 medals and eight golds over eight days in Kazan, Russia.

It surpassed its fewest overall medals won at an Olympics or World Championships in the last 50 years, the 21 it won at the 1994 World Championships (not counting the boycotted Moscow 1980 Olympics).

However, the U.S. earned 18 medals counting only Olympic events, which marked its lowest output in that category at an Olympics or Worlds in 50 years. The previous low was 20 at the 2009 World Championships.

The U.S. won 29 overall medals at the 2011 and 2013 Worlds, with 24 and 25 in Olympic events those years, respectively. The last time it didn’t have the most gold medals was the 2001 Worlds (Australia). The last time it didn’t have the most overall medals was the 1986 Worlds (East Germany).

The U.S. also matched its fewest swimmers to win individual Olympic or World Championships titles in the last 50 years — two, Katie Ledecky and Ryan Lochte. In 1994, Janet Evans and Tom Dolan were the two World champions.

Ledecky, with five golds in five events, earned FINA’s Female Swimmer of the Meet for a second straight Worlds. As did China’s Sun Yang on the men’s side, after he won the 400m and 800m frees*.

The U.S. missed Michael Phelps, who sat out the meet as punishment for his Sept. 30 DUI arrest, and Franklin was not quite in her 2013 form that saw her win six gold medals in Barcelona.

But also, Australia had a resurgence, sweeping the men’s and women’s 100m and 200m backstrokes. Australia took 16 medals with seven golds overall. Its seven golds were more than its total from the 2011 Worlds, 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds combined.

China continued its rise over the last decade, finishing with 13 medals and five golds.

World Swimming Championships: Full meet results

In Sunday’s events, the U.S. men’s medley relay team prevailed with Ryan MurphyKevin CordesTom Shields and Nathan Adrian holding off Australia by .15.

The U.S. women with Franklin, Jessica HardyKendyl Stewart and Simone Manuel finished 2.35 seconds behind winner China. Sweden took silver and Australia bronze.

Earlier in the men’s 1500m freestyle, Chinese Olympic and World champion Sun shockingly did not show up for the final. Sun said in a post-meet press conference that it was due to a heart problem and declined to comment when asked about a reported warm-up altercation with a Brazilian swimmer, according to reporters on site.

Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri won in his absence, followed by Jaeger in an American record for silver and Canada’s Ryan Cochrane getting bronze.

Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu swept the individual medleys for a second straight Worlds. DiRado won her first individual Worlds medal, a silver, 1.32 seconds behind. Canada’s Emily Overholt took bronze.

Japan’s Daiya Seto repeated as World champion in the grueling 400m individual medley. Kalisz, who earned silver behind Seto in his World Championships debut in 2013, took bronze behind Hungary’s David Verraszto this year.

Australian Bronte Campbell followed her 100m free title with gold in the 50m freestyle in 24.12 seconds, beating the reigning Dutch Olympic and World champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo by one tenth. Swede Sarah Sjostrom took bronze for her fourth individual medal of the meet.

In the non-Olympic men’s 50m backstroke, France’s Camille Lacourt won in 24.23, followed by Grevers in 24.61 and Australian Ben Treffers snagging bronze. Australian Mitch Larkin, attempting to sweep the backstrokes, finished fourth.

Grevers, the 2012 Olympic 100m back champion, finished third behind Larkin and Lacourt in the 100m back in Kazan.

In the non-Olympic women’s 50m breaststroke, Sweden’s Jennie Johansson edged Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson by .06, with Russian Yulia Efimova snagging bronze. Atkinson, who took bronze in the 100m breast earlier, is the first Jamaican to win a World Swimming Championships medal.

Michael Phelps answers Chad le Clos with world’s top 100m butterfly

Men’s 400m Individual Medley
Gold: Daiya Seto (JPN) — 4:08.50
Silver: David Verraszto (HUN) — 4:09.90
Bronze: Chase Kalisz (USA) — 4:10.05
4. Tyler Clary (USA) — 4:11.71
5. Jacob Heidtmann (GER) — 4:12.08
6. Dan Wallace (GBR) — 4:13.77
7. Roberto Pavoni (ITA) — 4:13.81
8. Yang Zhixian (CHN) — 4:16.74

Women’s 50m Freestyle
Gold: Bronte Campbell (AUS) — 24.12
Silver: Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) — 24.22
Bronze: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 24.31
4. Cate Campbell (AUS) — 24.36
5. Chantal Van Landeghem (CAN) — 24.39
6. Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace (BAH) — 24.44
7. Francesca Halsall (GBR) — 24.51
8. Simone Manuel (USA) — 24.57

Men’s 1500m Freestyle
Gold: Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) — 14:39.67
Silver: Connor Jaeger (USA) — 14:41.20
Bronze: Ryan Cochrane (CAN) — 14:51.08
4. Akram Ahmed (EGY) — 14:53.66
5. Stephen Milne (GBR) — 14:58.62
6. Michael McBroom (USA) — 15:06.81
7. Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) — 15:09.77
DNS. Sun Yang (CHN)

Women’s 400m Individual Medley
Gold: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 4:30.39
Silver: Maya DiRado (USA) — 4:31.77
Bronze: Emily Overholt (CAN) — 4:32.52
4. Hannah Miley (GBR) — 4:34.79
5. Barbora Zavadova (CZE) — 4:36.73
6. Sakiko Shimizu (JPN) — 4:37.19
7. Aimee Willmott (GBR) — 4:38.75
8. Lara Grangeon (FRA) — 4:40.98

Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay
Gold: USA — 3:29.93
Silver: Australia — 3:30.08
Bronze: France — 3:30.50
4. Great Britain — 3:30.67
5. Russia — 3:30.90
6. Japan — 3:31.10
7. Germany — 3:32.16
8. Poland — 3:34.34

Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay
Gold: China — 3:54.41
Silver: Sweden — 3:55.24
Bronze: Australia — 3:55.56
4. U.S. — 3:56.76
5. Denmark — 3:57.61
6. Canada — 3:57.96
DQ. Great Britain
DQ. Japan

*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sun Yang won the 400m and 1500m freestyles. He won the 400m and 800m freestyles.

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 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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