Nathan Adrian stars on final night in Orlando; Michael Phelps sums up his meet

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Nathan Adrian may have looked better in the 50m freestyle last year, but his heart still savors the 100m free.

Adrian, the Olympic 100m free champion by .01 of a second in London, matched his fastest 100m freestyle since 2013 at a Pro Swim Series meet in Orlando on Saturday night.

He clocked 48.05 seconds, beating a field that included Michael Phelps (third place, 49.57). Full meet results are here.

“My training’s been showing a lot of speed in the 50 recently, but the 100’s my baby, that’s the one that I always focus on,” Adrian said on NBCSN. “That’s the one we’re constantly working at. To see it kind of pay off a little bit right there is really exciting.”

Put Adrian’s time in perspective.

It’s his fastest 100m free in a meet other than the Olympics, World Championships, Pan Pacific Championships and U.S. Championships, summer meets that swimmers train to peak for.

This is March. Adrian is training to peak at the Olympic trials in June and July.

It’s the second-fastest 100m free in the world this year, behind Australian Cameron McEvoy‘s 47.56. However, Australian swimmers must train to peak earlier than the rest of the world, since their Olympic trials are in April.

All told, it’s a great sign for Adrian, who dropped in the 100m free from gold at the 2012 Olympics to bronze at the 2013 World Championships to a tie for seventh at the 2015 World Championships.

Meanwhile, Adrian broke the American record in the 50m free at the 2015 World Championships in the semifinals and then earned silver in the final.

He’s looking like the favorite in both the 50m free and the 100m free at the U.S. Olympic trials. Adrian was third in the 50m free and first in the 100m free at the 2012 Olympic trials.

Meanwhile, Phelps would like to at the very least show he deserves a place on the 4x100m free relay in Rio. He’s been a part of the relay final quartet at the last three Olympics but ranked 20th in the U.S. in the event last year.

However, Phelps did not contest the 100m free at the August U.S. Championships, the meet that he peaked for in 2015. His time on Saturday ranked No. 6 in the U.S. this year.

“I’d like to get a good 100 between now and trials and potentially be on that relay,” Phelps said Saturday.

Phelps’ meet included a victory in the 100m butterfly Thursday and a third and a fourth in two of his non-primary events, the 100m free and 100m back, the last two nights.

“I’m always so hard on myself,” Phelps said on NBCSN, lamenting not having longtime coach Bob Bowman with him at a meet for the first time since he believed 2007 (Bowman is coaching the Arizona State men at the Pac-12 Championships this weekend). “Some of the small things really just weren’t there. My finish in the 100m fly was kind of blah. My finish in the 100m back wasn’t that great. My freestyle is still a little choppy.”

Phelps, while sitting shirtless in the TV booth, said he’s probably “the most cut” he’s been in his life.

“I don’t know if I should say this, but I’m going to,” Phelps said. “Not having a drink for over a year and a half, it’s incredible. … I can really tell the difference in my body.”

Phelps said in August that he gave up drinking alcohol after his Sept. 30, 2014, DUI arrest and that he won’t drink again through Rio, if ever.

In other events Saturday, Missy Franklin won the 200m backstroke with the fifth-fastest time in the world this year. Franklin captured the 100m back on Friday in her fastest time since the World Championships in August.

In the women’s 100m free on Saturday, both Franklin and Katie Ledecky were beaten by Simone Manuel.

Manuel, who finished sixth in the 100m free at Worlds in August, clocked 54.27. She was followed by Olympic 200m free champion Allison Schmitt in 54.56 and Ledecky in 54.67. Franklin was eighth in 55.83.

The Pro Swim Series continues with a meet in Mesa, Ariz., from April 14-16.

MORE SWIMMING: Franklin to co-author book

Takeaways from the abbreviated 2019-20 season in ski and snowboard sports

Chris Corning
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Most ski sports don’t hold world championships in even-numbered years, but the coronavirus pandemic brought World Cup campaigns to an early conclusion two years ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

With the seasons over, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team is collecting goggles to provide to health-care workers.

Here’s what we learned in various sports:

ALPINE: Mikaela Shiffrin has company 

The U.S. ski star was on pace to win her fourth straight World Cup season trophy before her father’s sudden passing in early February. She planned to return in March with an outside chance at keeping her title, but the remaining races of the season were canceled. Italy’s Federica Brignone took the trophy, with Shiffrin second.

While Shiffrin held a substantial lead in the World Cup before her hiatus, she wasn’t as unbeatable as she was in the 2018-19 season, when she won a staggering 17 times. That’s an impossible bar to clear, but Shiffrin’s rivals made up enough ground to make future World Cup season titles and the career win record seem less certain than they seemed a year ago.

In Shiffrin’s final slalom race, a discipline in which she has rarely lost in recent years, she placed third behind Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson. Ten days before that, she was second to Vlhova, whose progress impressed Shiffrin. That marked that first time since 2014 that she lost two straight slaloms in the same season. (She was second in the 2016-17 season finale and second again in the 2017-18 season opener, then won 12 of the next 13 slaloms.)

Shiffrin’s ability to get on the podium in any race, no matter the discipline, will make her the World Cup favorite for years to come. But the big prize won’t be as easy as she has made it seem in recent years, and at 66 career victories, she’ll need time to catch Lindsey Vonn‘s women’s record of 82 wins and Ingemar Stenmark‘s overall record of 86.

CROSS-COUNTRY: Diggins, Bjornsen stay in world’s elite 

Jessie Diggins will forever be remembered for winning the 2018 Olympic team sprint with Kikkan Randall as NBC’s Chad Salmela screamed “HERE COMES DIGGINS,” but she also has a strong World Cup resume that she continues to build.

Diggins finished sixth in the season standings for the second straight year, a drop from her second-place finish in 2018 but still comfortably in the top 10. She was joined there by Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, who eighth-place season put her in the top 10 for the second time.

Bjornsen led the three-stage season opener in Ruka, Finland, after taking third in the sprint and finished fourth overall, one place ahead of Diggins, who took third in the pursuit. Diggins added four more podium finishes before the end of the season.

NORDIC COMBINED: Norway takes control 

Jarl Magnus Riiber won his second straight World Cup title at age 22, with fellow Norwegian Joergen Graabak taking a career-high second. Two more Norwegians were in the top six Jens Luraas Oftebro (fourth) and Espen Bjoernstad (sixth). 

In women’s Nordic combined, which is on track to become an Olympic event, U.S. athlete Tara Geraghty-Moats was a close second to Russia’s Stefaniya Nadymova.

READ: Geraghty-Moats has eyes on 2026

SKI JUMPING: U.S. women shut out 

A decade after leading the charge to get women’s ski jumping in the Olympics and eight years after teenager Sarah Hendrickson won the World Cup, the U.S. women went a whole season without an athlete picking up World Cup points. Hendrickson postponed her retirement but competed only on the Continental Cup this season.

U.S. women also won two of the first three ski jumping world championships Lindsey Van in 2009 and Hendrickson in 2013.

In men’s jumping, Austria’s Stefan Kraft edged out Germany’s Karl Geiger to reclaim the World Cup title he last held in 2017. Geiger’s previous career best was 10th in 2019. Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi, last year’s champion, took third.

FREESTYLE SKIING: Blunck keeps flying

U.S. halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck followed up his second straight world championship in 2019 with his first World Cup season title. Blunck won both events in the U.S. — December’s competition at Copper Mountain and February’s event at Mammoth Mountain. 

Colby Stevenson (slopestyle) and Alexander Hall (big air) were second in their events. Hall won twice, landing a switch left double 1800 to win in the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park. Stevenson also won at the X Games in Aspen.

In women’s competition, 18-year-old Marin Hamill was second in slopestyle, and Jaelin Kauf finished in the top three for the third straight year.

French skier Perrine Laffont had a dominant season in women’s moguls, winning all six regular moguls events and two of four dual moguls, to take her second straight World Cup title.

SNOWBOARDING: Corning wins in Atlanta and in World Cup

Atlanta’s SunTrust Park hosted a World Cup big air competition, with Chris Corning and Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi winning. Corning also won in Cardrona, New Zealand, and took his second big air season title to go along with slopestyle titles in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Dusty Henricksen was third in World Cup slopestyle on the strength of a win at Mammoth Mountain, followed by fellow U.S. teen Justus Henkes.

U.S. women’s snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino won the only World Cup slopestyle events each one entered. Anderson also won the X Games slopestyle.

Olympic and world halfpipe champion Chloe Kim sat out the season after breaking an ankle in March 2019 and enrolling at Princeton.

BIATHLON: Never count out Dunklee 

Susan Dunklee hasn’t had great success on the World Cup circuit since taking a world championship silver medal in 2017, when she finished a career-best 10th in the World Cup, but she once again took world championship silver in the sprint at Antholz.

Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe won the men’s World Cup title despite missing two weeks after the birth of his first child, edging Frenchman Martin Fourcade by two points to spoil the seven-time World Cup champion’s final season.

Boe won his second straight World Cup title, as did Italy’s Dorothea Weirer in the women’s competition.

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Simon Ammann ramps up for one more run at Olympic ski jumping

Simon Ammann
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Simon Ammann, the Swiss ski jumper who gained fame for his resemblance to Harry Potter in 2002 and went to win all four Olympic ski jumps on North American soil this century, has walked back talk of retirement and now says he wants to continue through the 2022 Olympics.

Ammann won the normal hill and large hill in Salt Lake City in 2002. European ski jumpers don’t necessarily get attention from U.S. talk shows, but the 20-year-old Ammann had two things that set him apart. First, his wins were tremendous upsets. Second, he looked like Harry Potter.

He wound up appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which makes him a wild-card connection in the Kevin Bacon game the peripatetic actor was the other guest on the show that night, and Ammann happily posed with Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick after the show.

Eight years later, Ammann duplicated the feat in Vancouver. This time, he left behind the Harry Potter glasses behind, though he made an enthusiastic walk through the mixed zone wearing comically oversized sunglasses that made him look like the Buggles’ Trevor Horn in the “Video Killed the Radio Star” video, the first music video on MTV.

In 2010, his victories weren’t quite as unexpected. He won the World Cup season title that year, sandwiched between two second-place finishes.

In 2002, on the other hand, he took off from the Olympic hill at Park City having never won a World Cup event. His two wins in the Olympics were his first two in any international competition in the FIS database.

Ammann has also had success in major competition in Asia. He took gold and silver in the 2007 world championships in Sapporo, Japan, the first two of his four career world championship medals. He also won a World Cup event in Sapporo in 2010.

In recent years, though, Ammann hasn’t been competitive on the World Cup circuit. He has been on the podium only once since 2015. Since taking his last major-event medal in 2011, his best result in the world championships was seventh place in 2013.

But he’s already shown he can, like Harry Potter, conjure a surprising performance.

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