U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials women’s event-by-event preview

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The top two finishers in all 26 events at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials will clinch Rio berths, which means Olympic and/or World champions will be left out of the exclusive team.

Michael PhelpsRyan LochteMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky headline the meet in Omaha, Neb., beginning Sunday.

While they are favorites to make the Olympic team, they will be joined by many more Olympic medal threats.

For relays, the top six finishers in the 100m and 200m freestyles are in line to to make the Olympic team, too.

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Here’s a glimpse at all 13 women’s events at the Olympic Trials:

50m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Jessica Hardy (seventh), Kara Lynn Joyce (16th)
2015 Worlds: Simone Manuel (eighth), Ivy Martin (26th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Madison Kennedy (24.45)
2. Simone Manuel (24.47)
3. Ivy Martin (24.62)
4. Natalie Coughlin (24.66)
5. Dana Vollmer (24.69)

Outlook: The fastest American woman right now is the 28-year-old Kennedy, who is vying for her Olympic debut. She’s never even competed at the World Championships, but won the 50 free national title last summer. The 19-year-old Manuel was the best American at the 2015 Worlds, where she was joined by Martin, 22.

100m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (fifth), Jessica Hardy (eighth)
2015 Worlds: Simone Manuel (sixth), Missy Franklin (seventh)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Simone Manuel (53.25)
2. Missy Franklin (53.43)
3. Dana Vollmer (53.59)
4. Katie Ledecky (53.75)
5. Abbey Weitzeil (53.77)
6. Natalie Coughlin (53.85)
7. Margo Geer (53.95)
8. Lia Neal (54.01)

Outlook: There’s a serious youth movement taking place in the women’s 100m free. The top two seeds are 19 and 21 years old, respectively, and the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds are also 19. Manuel has the looks of being the next great American sprinter, but the new mother, 28-year-old Vollmer, boasts the fastest American time in the past year. Remember, the top six should make the team for the relay pool.

200m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Allison Schmitt (gold), Missy Franklin (fourth)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Missy Franklin (bronze)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (1:54.43)
2. Missy Franklin (1:55.49)
3. Allison Schmitt (1:56.23)
4. Leah Smith (1:56.64)
5. Melanie Margalis (1:57.33)
6. Shannon Vreeland (1:57.38)
7. Katie McLaughlin (1:57.55)
8. Maya DiRado (1:57.70)

Outlook: It’s not often the reigning Olympic champ isn’t favored to even qualify for a chance to defend her title, but Schmitt will have to oust either the 2013 World champion (Franklin) or 2015 World champion (Ledecky) for an individual 200 free spot (top six likely for relay). Franklin would love a 200 free Olympic medal after finishing fourth in London, while Ledecky is a freestyle machine.

400m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Allison Schmitt (silver), Chloe Sutton (10th)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Cierra Runge (ninth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (3:58.37)
2. Leah Smith (4:03.33)
3. Cierra Runge (4:04.55)
4. Allison Schmitt (4:06.88)
5. Becca Mann (4:07.09)

Outlook: Here’s another event in which Schmitt may not even get a chance to return to the Olympics despite claiming a medal four years ago. The 400 is dominated by Ledecky, the reigning world champ with a top time nearly five seconds better than Smith. The battle will really be between Smith, Runge and Schmitt for that second berth.

800m Freestyle
2012 Olympians: Katie Ledecky (gold), Kate Ziegler (21st)
2015 Worlds: Katie Ledecky (gold), Becca Mann (10th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Ledecky (8:06.68)
2. Becca Mann (8:21.77)
3. Cierra Runge (8:24.69)
4. Leah Smith (8:24.74)
5. Stephanie Peacock (8:25.89)

Outlook: This is Ledecky’s event and the others are just swimming in it. Again, the battle at Trials will be for second place because no one’s catching Ledecky. The 18-year-old Mann holds the second seed and will try to hold off Runge, Smith and Peacock.

100m Backstroke
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (gold), Rachel Bootsma (11th)
2015 Worlds: Missy Franklin (fifth), Kathleen Baker (eighth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Natalie Coughlin (59.05)
2. Missy Franklin (59.38)
3. Olivia Smoliga (59.41)
4. Claire Adams (59.58)
5. Kathleen Baker (59.63)

Outlook: This is the 33-year-old Coughlin’s best shot at making a fourth Olympic team individually. Two of her 12 Olympic medals are golds from the 100 back (2004 and ’08), but she couldn’t advance past Trials in the event four years ago. Her toughest competition should come from Franklin, the reigning Olympic champion.

200m Backstroke
2012 Olympians: Missy Franklin (gold), Elizabeth Beisel (bronze)
2015 Worlds: Missy Franklin (silver), Elizabeth Beisel (13th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Missy Franklin (2:06.34)
2. Maya DiRado (2:08.19)
3. Elizabeth Beisel (2:08.33)
4. Lisa Bratton (2:09.31)
5. Elizabeth Pelton (2:09.36)

Outlook: Franklin’s best event – she holds the world record from her final race in London (2:04.06) – sees her with a top time nearly two seconds faster than DiRado, who’s looking for her first Olympic berth. She’ll have to beat Beisel, the Olympic bronze medalist from 2012.

100m Breaststroke
2012 Olympians: Rebecca Soni (silver), Breeja Larson (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Jessica Hardy (10th), Micah Lawrence (19th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Katie Meili (1:05.64)
2. Lilly King (1:05.73)
3. Molly Hannis (1:06.16)
4. Sarah Haase (1:06.31)
5. Jessica Hardy (1:06.51)

Outlook: Meili is the reigning national champ, and her top time is third-best in the world since the end of 2014. King’s top mark in this event is the fourth-best over the same span. Less than a second back is Hardy, who seeks a second Olympic berth but first in a breaststroke event.

200m Breaststroke
2012 Olympians: Rebecca Soni (gold), Micah Lawrence (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Micah Lawrence (silver), Breeja Larson (19th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Micah Lawrence (2:22.04)
2. Laura Sogar (2:23.54)
3. Katie Meili (2:23.69)
4. Breeja Larson (2:24.16)
5. Lilly King (2:24.47)

Outlook: Lawrence has stepped in nicely to fill the void left by Soni, the retired 200 breast Olympic champion in 2008 and ’12. She’s moved from sixth at the London Games, to bronze at the 2013 Worlds and silver at last year’s worlds. Yet, Sogar is the defending national champ.

100m Butterfly
2012 Olympians: Dana Vollmer (gold), Claire Donahue (seventh)
2015 Worlds: Kendyl Stewart (10th), Claire Donahue (20th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Dana Vollmer (56.94)
2. Kelsi Worrell (57.24)
3. Kendyl Stewart (57.82)
4. Katie McLaughlin (57.87)
5. Claire Donahue (58.03)

Outlook: Vollmer followed up her Olympic title with a bronze in this event at the 2013 Worlds, but she didn’t compete in the 2015 Worlds after having a baby earlier that March. She’s back in form now, posting her U.S.-best time of 56.94 earlier this year. Worrell was a butterfly star in college, so much so that she was recently nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

200m Butterfly
2012 Olympians: Kathleen Hersey (fourth), Cammile Adams (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Cammile Adams (silver), Katie McLaughlin (sixth)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Cammile Adams (2:06.33)
2. Katie McLaughlin (2:06.95)
3. Maya DiRado (2:07.42)
4. Hali Flickinger (2:07.59)
5. Cassidy Bayer (2:08.03)

Outlook: DiRado has become America’s best in the medley races, but she could steal another berth in butterfly. Adams, a 2012 Olympian, is the favorite after taking silver at the 2015 Worlds, but she’s pushed by the 18-year-old McLaughlin, who’s been hampered by a neck injury suffered earlier this year on a training trip with her college team, Cal.

200m Individual Medley
2012 Olympians: Caitlin Leverenz (bronze), Ariana Kukors (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Maya DiRado (fourth), Melanie Margalis (seventh)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Maya DiRado (2:08.99)
2. Melanie Margalis (2:10.20)
3. Caitlin Leverenz (2:10.35)
4. Ella Eastin (2:10.54)
5. Madisyn Cox (2:10.75)

Outlook: While DiRado is a strong contender for multiple Olympic berths, she’s separated herself from her compatriots the most in the 200 IM. She missed a medal at the 2015 Worlds by .22 of a second. Joining her in that final was Margalis in her Worlds debut. She hopes to fend off Leverenz, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist whose best shot at a return Olympic trip is through this event.

400m Individual Medley
2012 Olympians: Elizabeth Beisel (silver), Caitlin Leverenz (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Maya DiRado (silver), Elizabeth Beisel (12th)
Top seeds from entry lists
1. Maya DiRado (4:31.71)
2. Elizabeth Beisel (4:31.99)
3. Caitlin Leverenz (4:35.46)
4. Becca Mann (4:37.04)
5. Katie Ledecky (4:37.93)

Outlook: This is the 23-year-old Beisel’s best shot at getting to a third Olympics. DiRado is the same age but looking to make her Olympic debut. She’s come on strong in the medleys since placing fourth in both the 200 and 400 at the 2012 Trials. Beisel and DiRado’s best times are nearly four seconds faster than the rest of their compatriots.

MORE: Olympic Swimming Trials broadcast schedule

IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

Thomas Bach
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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

Alyssa Thomas
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If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with more established players — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team. (Thomas was not in the 36-player national team pool at the time of her injury.)

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

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