Dana Vollmer shakes up 100m freestyle; Ryan Lochte’s big question

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Three thoughts off Sunday’s finals at swim meets in Charlotte and Atlanta:

1. Dana Vollmer shakes up 100m freestyle

Vollmer continues to amaze in her comeback from childbirth. The Olympic 100m butterfly champ now owns the fastest times among Americans in the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle since the start of 2015, after clocking 53.59 in the 100m free prelims in Charlotte on Sunday morning.

Vollmer, who gave birth to Arlen on March 6, 2015, knocked Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky down the U.S. standings, which now look like this since Jan. 1, 2015:

  1. Dana Vollmer — 53.59 (2016)
  2. Missy Franklin — 53.68 (2015)
  3. Katie Ledecky — 53.75 (2016)
  4. Abbey Weitzeil — 53.77 (2016)
  5. Simone Manuel — 53.80 (2016)
  6. Natalie Coughlin — 53.85 (2015)

The top two at the U.S. Olympic Trials on July 1 in Omaha make the individual Olympic 100m freestyle. The top six will likely be chosen for the 4x100m free relay pool.

Vollmer’s time Sunday marked her fastest 100m free outside of the fast-suit-era 2009 World Championships by .39 of a second.

Manuel clocked 54.11, Ledecky posted 54.55 and Coughlin 55.41 in Atlanta on Sunday.

Atlanta Results | Charlotte Results

2. U.S. men’s 100m freestyle bunches up behind Nathan Adrian

The Olympic champion Adrian clocked 48.29 to win in Atlanta. No other American was within one second of that time in either Atlanta or Charlotte.

Adrian appears a lock to make the Olympic 100m free, but several men are bidding not only for the second individual U.S. spot but also for a place in the 4x100m free relay pool.

The contenders’ best times on Sunday:

Anthony Ervin — 49.30
Jimmy Feigen — 49.56
Michael Chadwick — 49.96
Ryan Lochte — 50.01
Conor Dwyer — 50.22
Caeleb Dressel — 50.26
Cullen Jones — 50.31

That list doesn’t include Michael Phelps, who has been a part of the 4x100m relay final quartet at the last three Olympics and has the second-fastest time among Americans since the start of 2014. Phelps skipped competing this weekend as his fiancée recently gave birth.

Olympic 100m backstroke champion Matt Grevers, a 4x100m free relay prelim swimmer at the last two Olympics, also didn’t compete this weekend.

3. Will Ryan Lochte double up at Olympic Trials?

Lochte will turn 32 years old two days before the Opening Ceremony. Since London, he endured major injury, retirement thoughts and a coaching change to remain one of the world’s greatest swimmers.

But one wonders when the daunting 200m backstroke-200m individual medley double will be too much for the 11-time Olympic medalist.

Lochte earned medals in both events on the same day at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Those finals are again in the same session at the Olympic Trials in Omaha and the Rio Olympics.

In Charlotte, Lochte swam the 200m IM on Sunday, winning in 1:58.97. He is the four-time reigning World 200m IM champion and was second-fastest overall in the world last year behind Michael Phelps.

Lochte did not swim the 200m backstroke in Charlotte on Sunday. He ranked tied for ninth in the U.S. in that event last year and eighth in 2014, failing to make the 2015 World Championships.

It’s clear Lochte’s standing is better in the 200m IM than the 200m back, but the latter holds significance as it was his first individual Olympic title in 2008.

The question is, is it worth doing both events at the Olympic Trials (and perhaps the Olympics) within minutes of each other? Especially when no swimmer as old as Lochte has ever won an individual Olympic event.

We’ll find out in the next six weeks.

The next top domestic U.S. meets are in Austin, Indianapolis and Santa Clara, Calif., the first weekend of June. Phelps is scheduled to compete in Austin. Ledecky might skip them all.

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

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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