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.

Arnie the Terminator: Aussie rival to Katie Ledecky an unlikely swim story

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In August 2016, a 15-year-old Australian swimmer named Ariarne Titmus followed the Rio Olympics as she prepared to fly to Maui for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

Titmus paid special attention to her best events, the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles. Katie Ledecky swept them, breaking two of her own world records.

“I remember watching her races thinking, like, this chick is nuts,” Titmus told NBC Sports in Australia early this year. “She’s just doing stuff that no one’s gonna get near.”

Three years later, Titmus stunned Ledecky at the world championships, chasing down the American in the last 50 meters of the 400m freestyle. She became the first woman to beat Ledecky in a distance race in seven years and a bona fide rival one year from the Tokyo Games.

Ledecky at first attributed her late fade to tight and tired legs. Then she spent seven hours the next day in a South Korean emergency room with what she believed was a stomach virus.

“She was sick,” said Dean Boxall, Titmus’ South African-born coach, “and we happened to pounce.”

Titmus’ time — 3:58.76, a personal best by .59 — was slower than Ledecky’s wins at her previous three major international meets — Rio Olympics, 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.

“It wasn’t a good swim by Arnie,” said Boxall, a vocal coach known to shout Ledecky’s name in practices. “And I know it wasn’t a good swim by Katie. Definitely not. But there was things that Arnie did in that race I was pleased with, and there was a lot of things that she did that I was not happy with at all.”

The Olympic postponement to 2021 gives Titmus and Boxall another year to work on those inefficiencies down in Brisbane. Another year to mature, to turn 20 years old before the Games.

“I try not to dwell on that [beating Ledecky] too much,” Titmus, sometimes called “the Terminator” by Australian press, said of the world championships, where she also out-split Ledecky in the 4x200m free relay and took bronze behind the American in the 800m free. “Next year’s the big one at the Olympics.”

Nowhere is swimming closer to a national sport than in Australia, but none of its Olympic champion Dolphins hail from Tasmania, an island 150 miles south of the mainland.

Notable Tasmanian sports persons include cricketer Ricky Ponting, retired NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose and woodchopping world champion David Foster, but no listed swimmers.

Stephanie Rice, the last Australian female swimmer to win an individual Olympic title in 2008, visited “Tassie,” the state a little bigger than West Virginia, nearly a decade ago. She met a young Titmus, who still remembers what Rice scribbled: “Be the best you can be.”

“I say it’s my favorite quote,” Titmus said. “She wrote it on my shirt, so it has to be my favorite quote.”

Titmus was born a week before the Sydney Olympics — “She loved watching Thorpie,” her mom said — and grew up on 16 acres of country land. The family — parents Steve and Robyn and younger sister Mia — had horses, a trampoline and a swimming club just down the road in Launceston.

They also had an indoor pool (areas of Tasmania approach freezing in the winter). One evening more than 15 years ago, Robyn was chopping vegetables and peered to see her elder daughter, then a toddler without formal swim lessons, doing the breaststroke.

“We didn’t know anybody at the swimming club,” said Steve, a longtime TV journalist. “And we turned up and said, hi, we’re the Titmuses. We’ve got a daughter called Ariarne, and she wants to race. Tuesday nights they had club night, and she jumped in the water, and away she went.”

Titmus wasn’t the fastest at first, but by the time she won a third Australian junior title, she became too big for the Apple Isle.

“[My coach] said, look, you can’t really do anything else down here,” Titmus remembered. “There’s no one for you to train with. There’s no one for you to race. It’s all up in Queensland. And he said, if you really want a shot at this, you should really move.”

The family relocated to Brisbane when she was 14 or 15, following Titmus’ coach.

We packed up the car, got on the boat, sailed to Melbourne,” said Robyn, a former national-level track sprinter. “We even stopped at Albury on the way for a training session because the coach she had at the time was a hard task master.”

Right around that time, she first met Boxall while with the Australian junior national team.

“I originally thought this guy is nuts,” Titmus said. “He gave us this speech about the New Zealanders or something were trying to be better than us. His veins were popping. It was crazy. I was like, I’m never ever going to have a coach like him.”

Boxall became her coach about a year later.

“I’ve got great athletes here that hurt themselves, and they enjoy going through the pain,” he said, “but you want to try and get that little bit extra from someone. You have to actually go there with them a little bit.”

In a sitdown, on-camera interview, Boxall first told how he met Titmus, his first impression of her and a bit about their relationship. He first mentioned Ledecky, umprompted, when asked the fourth question, about Titmus’ progression.

Boxall noted that Titmus swam the 400m freestyle in 4:09.81 at the August 2016 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.

“Ledecky went 3:56:46,” Boxall said, correctly noting Ledecky’s Rio Olympic world record to the hundredth, “so we’re 13 seconds off [at] that stage.”

Titmus raced Ledecky for the first time at the 2017 Worlds and finished fourth in the 400m, closing the gap to six seconds. In 2018, she took second to Ledecky at Pan Pacs, 1.16 seconds behind, becoming the first Australian to break four minutes in the event.

At 2019 Worlds, Boxall needed to be alone during the 400m free final. He left the Australian team box and snuck into a VIP area. As Titmus reeled Ledecky in, Boxall stood up and ran.

“Like a shot of adrenaline,” he said. “I couldn’t contain myself, but I was calmer as I’d ever been as well.

“That’s the first race that Arnie has raced Katie and actually was in the race. … Prior to that, it was just Katie.”

Titmus swam 10 seconds faster than when Boxall first compared her to Ledecky in August 2016.

“She’s 2.4 seconds off [Ledecky’s] world record,” Boxall said. “We know what the benchmark is, and we’re still a long way off.”

Titmus recorded the eighth-fastest 400m freestyle in history. Ledecky owns the top seven times.

“The greatest thing apart from obviously winning, I think, [is] being able to actually race someone who has been on her own for so long,” Titmus said. “I find it so crazy that now I’m in this situation where she’s my main rival.”

Scroll down the list, and you’ll see that the top 27 times in history (aside from the now-banned suit era) are shared by Ledecky (23) and Titmus (four).

“She’s certainly special,” Boxall said of his pupil. “Special enough? We’ll see.”

MORE: Simone Manuel’s experiences shape her voice for change today

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Collin Morikawa jumps into projected Olympic golf field

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Collin Morikawa would not have qualified outright for the Tokyo Olympics had they been held this summer. Now, after winning the PGA Championship, he is third overall in global qualifying for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Morikawa, a 23-year-old who took the same number of PGA Tour starts to win his maiden major as Tiger Woods (29), went from an alternate for the expected four-man U.S. Olympic team to No. 2 among Americans in the early qualifying standings, according to golf rankings guru @VC606 on Twitter.

Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are the other Americans in qualifying position, according to @VC606.

Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, turned professional in June 2019 and made his first 22 cuts, a feat bettered only by Woods.

The 23-year-old could become the youngest U.S. Olympic male golfer since 1904 (important note: golf was not part of the Olympic program from 1908 through 2012). Come next summer, he will still be younger than all but seven men from the Rio Olympic golf field of 60, according to Olympedia.org.

Olympic golf qualifying standings will fluctuate significantly. There are five major championships left in the qualifying window, starting with the U.S. Open in September and finishing with next summer’s U.S. Open, both airing on NBC Sports.

How tough will it be to make the U.S. Olympic team? Consider that the three Americans to win majors in 2019 — Woods, Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland — are currently not in Olympic qualifying position.

The U.S. has seven of the top nine in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is calculated differently than Olympic qualifying.

MORE: Nosferatu is golf’s Olympic rankings guru. Who is he?

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