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Five women to watch at U.S. Olympic Diving Trials

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Diving sets the stage this weekend for three eventful weeks of U.S. Olympic Trials. Berths on the diving team headed to Rio will be awarded next week, and the squad will be known in full June 26.

Preliminary rounds take place each day in Indianapolis from Saturday through Tuesday, followed by finals June 22-26. Much of the action will be aired live on NBC, NBCSN and streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra.

U.S. divers qualified for Olympic berths in seven of eight events. They failed to secure a spot in the women’s synchronized springboard event, but will compete in men’s synchronized springboard and platform, men’s individual springboard and platform, women’s synchronized platform, and women’s individual springboard and platform.

Here are five women’s divers to watch at trials. Click here for the men.

Abby Johnston
Along with Kelci Bryant, Johnston captured the only diving medal among U.S. women in London, which snapped a drought that hadn’t seen any American females win a diving medal since Laura Wilkinson in 2000. Johnston and Bryant won silver in synchronized springboard – the event in which the U.S. did not earn a 2016 berth. While synchro is Johnston’s specialty, the Duke medical student was the top American in women’s individual springboard at the 2015 World Championships (21st in the preliminary round), and placed second in the event at last year’s Winter Nationals.

Kassidy Cook
The U.S. women are guaranteed one berth in individual springboard in Rio, and might be awarded a second depending on how FINA distributes some spots. Regardless, Cook could be the top American on springboard, which is saying something considering doctors once thought she might not dive competitively again. The 21-year-old Stanford student won both the Summer and Winter Nationals last year. Four years ago, she missed making the Olympic team by .42 of a point in synchronized springboard with Christina Loukas. Cook placed fourth in the individual event at the 2012 trials.

Amy Cozad
The favorite to claim one of two berths on women’s platform is Amy Cozad, who took the title at 2015 Winter Nationals. She placed sixth at Worlds last year, highest among U.S. women, and third at the 2012 trials, one spot away from an Olympic berth. Cozad, with Jessica Parratto, was also on the top U.S. women’s synchro platform team at Worlds. That duo took titles at both the Summer and Winter Nationals last year, too.

Jessica Parratto
Cozad’s partner in synchro, Parratto is Cozad’s top competitor in individual platform. Parratto was runner-up at the most recent Winter Nationals, the 2015 NCAA champion on platform while at Indiana, and finished 21st individually at 2015 Worlds. She’s the daughter of a former All-American diver at Wellesley College (her mom was her first diving coach) and turns 22 on the last day of trials. What a gift an Olympic berth would be.

Laura Ryan
Pushing Johnston and Cook on the springboard will be Ryan, the only other U.S. woman at 2015 Worlds with Johnston on springboard. Ryan placed 25th. She finished second at both the Summer and Winter Nationals in 2014, then placed third at the most recent winter event. She also competed in the synchro springboard event at Worlds – she and Johnston placed ninth – but was unable to help secure an Olympic berth in that event for the U.S.

MORE: Full NBC Olympic Trials broadcast schedule

Penny Oleksiak edges Simone Manuel, Regan Smith sizzles again in Knoxville

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Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel nearly duplicated their Olympic gold-medal tie. The Canadian Oleksiak edged Manuel by .03 in the 100m freestyle at a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday night.

Oleksiak clocked 53.41 seconds, coming back from .37 behind Manuel at the 50-meter mark. The two tied for the Rio Olympic title in an Olympic record 52.70 seconds four years ago. Oleksiak was the surprise, a 16-year-old who came into the Games ranked eighth in the world for the year.

Since, Manuel swept the 2017 and 2019 World titles. Oleksiak was sixth at 2017 Worlds and withdrew before the 100m free at 2019 Worlds. She ranked 21st in the world last year. Oleksiak’s time Sunday was her fastest since 2017.

Full Knoxville meet results are here. The Pro Series’ next stop is Des Moines from March 4-7.

In other events Sunday, world-record holder Regan Smith won the 200m backstroke in 2:05.94, the fastest time ever outside of a national championships or major international meet. Smith, 17, achieved the same feat on Saturday in the 100m back, where she also broke the world record at last summer’s worlds.

Madisyn Cox won a matchup of the three fastest U.S. women in the 200m individual medley in 2019. She clocked 2:09.88, beating Alex Walsh by a half-second and Melanie Margalis by .54.

It was Cox’s fastest time since she took bronze at the 2017 World Championships. She missed the 2019 Worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin.

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Mikaela Shiffrin among favorites eliminated early in parallel giant slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin was upset in the round of 16 of the first World Cup parallel giant slalom by unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Direz, who went on to earn her first win on Sunday.

Shiffrin had the fastest qualifying time but was bounced in the second round of head-to-head racing in Sestriere by Direz. Direz, 24, came into the day with a best career finish of seventh.

Direz was 16th-fastest in qualifying, 1.02 seconds behind Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Direz edged Shiffrin by .13 in their head-to-head run. Shiffrin appeared to be at a disadvantage being put on the red course, which produced just three winners among 20 one-run matchups.

“It is fun; I think I like the parallel GS actually more than the parallel slalom, but it’s a little bit difficult,” Shiffrin said. “I think there’s still a lot of work we have to do, and FIS [the International Ski Federation] has to do to really make the race as even as it can be because for sure you can see, there’s always a faster course. But today it’s like they’re not even the same course at all. Especially in the last four, five gates on the blue course, you can even see just looking up the hill that it’s straighter than the red course.

“Today I would say it’s a day where the luck [of which course you draw randomly] really plays a role.”

Direz eventually beat Austrian Elisa Moerzinger in the final. Direz was on the blue course for three of her four one-run rounds. Full results are here.

Higher-ranked racers used to be have their choice of courses in the parallel format.

“Maybe that wasn’t fair, either, but I think there must be a way to make it something that is more even, but at the same time, yeah, I don’t really have the answers on how to do that, either,” Shiffrin said. “It’s still in its infancy, this event.”

Shiffrin has a track record of success in parallel slaloms and similar city events, winning five of her last six starts. But the parallel GS proved problematic for the world’s best in slalom.

Swiss Wendy Holdener and Slovakian Petra Vlhova were also eliminated before the quarterfinals after being second- and third-fastest in qualifying. Holdener was also on the red course. Vlhova lost in the round of 32, when skiers were taking runs on both the blue and red courses.

Sestriere marked the last weekend of technical races (slaloms/giant slaloms) until mid-February. The next three weekends feature downhills and super-Gs. Shiffrin is expected to travel to Bansko, Bulgaria, for the first set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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