Five men’s races to watch at U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte
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With 26 events over eight days, there will be plenty to watch at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, starting Sunday on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Here are five men’s events to focus on:

Men’s 200m individual medley – July 1
Michael Phelps touched first in the 200 IM at the past three Olympics. Ryan Lochte owns two Olympic silvers and a bronze from this event. Lochte holds the world record (1:54.00), but Phelps was the world’s top-ranked swimmer in the event in 2015. Phelps has beaten Lochte at the past three U.S. Olympic Trials, yet Lochte has won the event at the past four World Championships (Phelps was present only in 2011, though). The top two Americans at Trials will earn berths in Rio; it’d be shocking to see anyone other than Phelps and Lochte take the spots.

TRIALS: Broadcast ScheduleEntry Lists
PREVIEWS: Men | Women
FIVE KEY RACES: Men | Women

Men’s 50m freestyle – July 2
The fastest event on the docket always brings excitement. Cullen Jones won the silver medal in London, but he’s 32 now and the fifth-best American in the 50 free. The top seed is Nathan Adrian, defending Olympic gold medalist in the 100; he placed third in the 50 at Trials four years ago. The second seed is 19-year-old Caeleb Dressel, who won the 2015 Nationals in 21.53 (which would have given him silver in London). NBC Olympics analyst Rowdy Gaines says Dressel is “just magical to watch in the water.” Hoping to crack the top two will be Anthony Ervin, the 35-year-old who won 50m Olympic gold all the way back in 2000, when Dressel was 4.

Men’s 100m backstroke – June 28
Matt Grevers is the reigning Olympic champion in the 100 backstroke, but he’s no lock to make it to Rio in the event. He’ll be the second seed with a top time of 52.54, behind David Plummer (52.51) and just in front of Ryan Murphy (52.57). Plummer finished runner-up to Grevers at the 2013 Worlds, and along with Murphy is looking to make his Olympic debut.

Men’s 100m butterfly – July 2
Phelps is the reigning national champion, world record holder, and has the fastest time since the beginning of 2015 (50.45), but he’ll be challenged by Tom Shields, the fourth-place finisher at the 2015 Worlds seeking his first Olympics. He’s the owner of the world’s fifth-fastest time since January 2015 (51.03). Jack Conger, a 21-year-old looking to make his Olympic debut, was Phelps’ runner-up at 2015 Nationals (51.33). Then there’s Lochte seeded fifth (51.55), always a guy to keep an eye on.

Men’s 200m breaststroke – June 30
Kevin Cordes, 22, is the fastest American right now, posting a 2:08.54 at the 2015 Worlds to take home silver. That’s the third-fastest time in the world since January 2015, but he went lower (2:07.86) at the 2014 Summer Nationals. Josh Prenot, also 22, clocked in at 2:08.58 earlier this year, good for eighth in the world. And another 22-year-old, Nic Fink, owns the 10th-fastest time at 2:08.89. All of these men are looking for their first trip to the Olympics.

Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record with slopestyle gold

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“I think I was just not ready to deliver at that day,” Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen, said on NBC. “I was really so confident, I think I sort of overthought everything and tried to get ahead of myself. But I think it’s all right.”

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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