Elizabeth Beisel is back; swimming takeaways

Elizabeth Beisel
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Five thoughts off Friday’s finals at swim meets in Charlotte and Atlanta:

1. Ryan Lochte’s 400m individual medley win wasn’t impressive

First off, it’s hard to judge times when it’s unknown where swimmers are at in training and when they don’t have an elite-level field to push them. 

That said, Lochte’s coach, David Marsh, raved before the meet about how Lochte has been looking in training and put him in just one event on Friday, the 400m IM, to focus.

Lochte prevailed by two seconds in 4:16.92, but he would have finished third at the opposite meet in Atlanta with that time. And neither field included Chase Kalisz, the fastest American in the event last year.

“I would like to be faster,” Lochte told media in Charlotte. “I always feel I can go faster, but for right now, where I’m at, I think that’s all right. … But this is not the big meet. I’ve still got six weeks to tune everything up and get ready for trials.”

Lochte remains the fastest in the U.S. this year, with his 4:12.66 on Jan. 16, which bodes well for his chances to defend his Olympic title should he swim the event on the opening day of the U.S. Olympic Trials on June 26.

Atlanta Results | Charlotte Results

2. Katie Ledecky’s more impressive swim was the race she lost

Ledecky crushed the 200m free in Atlanta by 3.08 seconds, which was to be expected with nobody else in the field close to her level in the event.

But Ledecky showed her growing versatility 77 minutes later by finishing third in the 400m IM, an off-event for her, with a personal-best time by 1.25 seconds.

Ledecky’s 4:37.93 isn’t going to scare the favorites to make the Olympic team in the event, because …

3. Elizabeth Beisel is back

Beisel won the 400m IM in Atlanta in 4:33.55, her fastest time since the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

Beisel, the 2012 Olympic 400m IM silver medalist, came into this weekend questionable at best to make her third Olympic team. Now she’s the fastest American in the event this year. That time was bettered in 2015 by only one other American, Maya DiRado, who took Worlds silver in 4:31.71 on Aug. 9.

4. Lilly King could be the new U.S. breaststroke queen

The 19-year-old from Indiana took seven tenths off her 100m breaststroke personal best, clocking the second-fastest time in the world this year in 1:05.73.

Among Americans, only Katie Meili has been faster since the start of 2014, and King beat Meili by .81 on Friday. Plus, other Olympic team contenders Melanie Margalis (1:07.48), Molly Hannis (1:07.86) and Breeja Larson (1:08.46) were slower over in Atlanta.

5. The women’s 200m freestyle gets more crowded

Ledecky, Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt might not be the only women in the mix for two 200m freestyle spots in Rio.

Enter Leah Smith, who set personal bests in the morning and evening in Charlotte and moved past Franklin as the third-fastest American in the event this year. Smith won in 1:57.26, but keep in mind Franklin has gone 1:56.04 or faster each of the previous five years (just not yet this year).

At the very least, Smith, who is known more for her 400m free, is in a great place to make the 4x200m freestyle relay pool of the top six finishers at trials.

And don’t forget Simone Manuel. The top U.S. finisher in the Worlds 100m free (sixth place) clocked a 200m free personal best by .64 on Friday. She moved into fifth place in the U.S. this year in the event, meaning she’s an Olympic relay threat, too, should she want to branch out beyond the 50m and 100m frees.

NBC Sports Live Extra will have live coverage of the Saturday and Sunday finals in Charlotte at 6 ET both nights.

VIDEO: Inside Lochte’s home, including ‘The Jeah Spot’

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
U.S. Figure Skating
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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in some ways marking a new era in the sport, air live from San Jose, California, on NBC Sports, USA Network and Peacock.

After last February’s Olympics, U.S. figure skating saw its greatest turnover from one season to the next in more than 20 years.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the top two men last season, are not competing this season and may be done altogether. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, the top two women, retired. As did the top ice dance couple of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, last year’s national pairs’ champions, also left the sport.

So, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships feature a reigning national champion in just one of the four disciplines.

Amid all that, U.S. skaters performed well in the fall Grand Prix Series and made the podium in all four disciplines at December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time. Note the absence of Russian skaters, banned from international events due to the war in Ukraine.

At nationals, skaters are vying for spots on the team — three per discipline — for March’s world championships in Japan.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old from Virginia, is the headliner after becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, doing so at all four of his events this season. He ranks second in the world by best total score, a whopping 38.28 points ahead of the next American (Camden Pulkinen).

Jason Brown is the lone Olympian in the men’s field, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Games.

Isabeau Levito, 15 and a reigning world junior champion like Malinin, took silver at the Grand Prix Final against the world’s other top skaters. She enters nationals with a best score this season 18.13 points better than the next American, Amber Glenn. Bradie Tennell, a 2018 Olympian coming back from foot and ankle injuries, is also a threat to gain one of the three women’s spots at worlds.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the lone defending national champions and will likely make the podium for an 11th consecutive year, which would be one shy of the record.

Bates, who last year at 32 became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 12 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that a 13th finish in the top three would break the U.S. record for a single discipline he currently shares with Michelle Kwan, Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

In pairs, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier return after missing nationals last year due to Frazier contracting COVID-19 the week of the event. Since, they posted the best U.S. pairs’ finish at an Olympics in 20 years, the first world title for a U.S. pair in 43 years and the first Grand Prix Final medal ever for a U.S. pair.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 3:30-5:45 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 6:30-9 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 7-9 p.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Women’s Short Program 9:10 p.m.-12 a.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Women’s Short Program 10 p.m.-12 a.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Friday Men’s Short Program 4:10-7 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Men’s Short Program 5-7 p.m. USA Network
Women’s Free Skate 7:45-11 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 8-11 p.m. NBC
Saturday Free Dance 1:45-4:30 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Free Dance 2:30-4:30 p.m. NBC
Pairs’ Free Skate 7:30-10 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Pairs’ Free Skate 8-10 p.m. USA Network
Sunday Men’s Free Skate 2:30-6 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Free Skate 3-6 p.m. NBC

*All NBC and USA Network broadcasts also stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

Peter Sagan to retire from road cycling, eyes mountain bike at 2024 Paris Olympics

Peter Sagan
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Peter Sagan said 2023 will be his final year as a professional road cyclist and that he will target the 2024 Olympics in mountain bike.

The Slovakian made the announcement on his 33rd birthday in a social media video. He said he made the decision “quite some time ago.”

“I always said I would like to finish my career on the mountain bike, because I started my career on the mountain bike,” Sagan said in a press conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It gives me some pleasure at the end of my career because I’m doing something I really enjoy.

“It’s important for me to spend time with my son Marlon and to see life from different angles, and not just as a cyclist. It was never my dream to race or to be a professional rider until 40 or 50. I think it’s time now. And if I am going to be able to finish my career in Paris at the Olympics Games, that’s going to be something nice for me.”

Sagan is a record seven-time Tour de France green jersey champion as best sprinter. He has 12 individual stage wins (the last in 2019), second-most among active riders behind Mark Cavendish‘s record-tying 34.

At the Olympics, Sagan was 34th in the road race in 2012 and 35th in the mountain bike in 2016. He missed the Tokyo Games after surgery to treat an infection in his right knee stemming from a 2021 Tour de France crash.

Sagan won the world junior title in mountain biking at age 18 in 2008 before his road racing career, which included three consecutive world road race titles from 2015-17.

Of qualifying for Paris in the mountain bike, he said, “We’ll see whether it is even possible, but I think it can be another nice adventure.”

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