Ryan Lochte fails in 400m IM as swimmers begin to clinch Olympic berths

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The first event of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials produced a stunner: Ryan Lochte failed to qualify for the team Sunday night in an event he won at the 2012 London Games.

Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, raced out to a big lead on the first two legs of the 400-meter individual medley but had nothing left for the breaststroke and freestyle. He finished third behind Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland, who were college teammates at Georgia.

After the race, Lochte revealed that he pulled a groin muscle during the morning preliminaries, saying it left him with no choice other than to try to build a commanding lead in the butterfly and backstroke and hope it would hold up.

It didn’t. Not even close.

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Kalisz won in 4 minutes, 9.541 seconds, while Litherland rallied to take the second spot for Rio in 4:11.021.

Lochte, his legs totally gone, labored home in third at 4:12.021.

“I had to go out faster than usual because I couldn’t use my legs in the breaststroke,” said the 31-year-old Lochte, who still has several other events to claim his spot on his fourth Olympic team — assuming he can overcome his injury. “I did everything I could in that race, it just wasn’t enough. Just got to forget about that and move forward.”

While college teammates Kalisz and Litherland celebrated, Lochte hung on a lane rope, totally exhausted. He finally made it over to the side of the pool, struggling just to climb out of the water. He said he might need a cortisone shot to help deal with the pain.

“I’m going to keep working on it day in and day out, and hopefully it gets better,” Lochte said. “I thought about it this morning, about scratching, but I mean, it’s the Olympic trials. If I had a broken leg, I’d still go out there and swim.”

ZACCARDI: Lochte’s outlook for rest of Trials

Michael Phelps, who won the 400 IM at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finished fourth behind Lochte in London and dropped the grueling event from his program. With no races on the first day of the meet, Phelps watched from the stands.

“I wasn’t surprised with Jay,” Phelps said. “He’s like a shark in the water. He knows how to rise to the occasion.”

Phelps was especially happy for long-time training partner Kalisz, who like Litherland is heading to his first Olympics.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Phelps said.

Unaware of Lochte’s injury, Phelps said he could tell that Lochte had nothing left when he got to the breast. And the two freestyle laps were downright painful to watch, as Lochte closed with a sluggish pace of 1:00.56 — more than 3 seconds slower than the 20-year-old Litherland.

“I know what Ryan felt like in that race,” Phelps said, remembering his loss at the 2012 Olympics. “I felt the same thing. It’s tough to swim two 400 IMs in one day at that level. … When you overdo it in that first 200, you’re not going to have anything left.”

Two other finals were held at the sold-out CenturyLink Center, which is hosting the Olympic trials for the third straight time in a temporary pool.

Maya DiRado qualified for her first OIympic team in the women’s 400 IM, knocking off 2012 silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel.

DiRado, who plans to retire after the London Games at age 23, is a late bloomer who peaked at just the right time. She touched in 4:33.73, finishing a couple of body lengths ahead of Beisel, who still earned a spot on her third Olympic team by holding off Bethany Galat.

Beisel finished in 4:36.81, while Galat missed out on Rio by less than a second in 4:37.69.

“Really the biggest thing is just staying calm and not getting flustered,” DiRado said. “I don’t know what life I’m living, but it’s amazing.”

In the men’s 400 freestyle, Connor Jaeger and Conor Dwyer are heading back to the Olympics for the second time after finishing 1-2. Jaeger won in 3:43.79, while Dwyer took the runner-up spot in 3:44.66 — just 0.38 ahead of third-place finisher Townley Haas.

Kalisz knew he would need a comeback to beat Lochte.

“I don’t have a fly and backstroke like him, so I’ve got to play to my strengths,” Kalisz said. “The whole thing went by so fast and I feel like I’m in a different reality right now.”

Phelps broke down crying when congratulating Kalisz after the race.

“He told me he was proud of me,” Kalisz said. “It was just a very emotional moment.”

Lochte has entered five more events at the trials, giving him plenty of chances to still get on the Olympic team. But the groin injury makes him a huge question mark.

“He’s somebody who’s really, really tough,” Phelps said. “Hopefully, he can get some recovery and get whatever he needs worked on. He’s somebody we need.”

Full Olympic Trials results are here.

MORE: For Michael Phelps at Olympic Trials, nothing is a lock

Katie Ledecky swims fastest at U.S. Open from B final

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For what must have been the first time in seven years, Katie Ledecky failed to qualify for an A final in one of her primary events on Friday morning. No matter, she swam the fastest 200m freestyle at the U.S. Open from the B final at night.

Ledecky, owner of 20 combined Olympic and world titles, clocked 1:56.24 to win the B final by nearly three seconds in Atlanta. In the very next race, American record holder Allison Schmitt touched first in the A final in 1:56.47.

Full results are here. The final day of the meet airs live on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Ledecky has rarely lost domestically in freestyles from 200m through 1500m since she made her first Olympic team at age 15 in 2012.

She kept the streak intact, giving her a sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees in the first three days of the U.S. Open, what could be the deepest domestic meet before the Olympic trials in June.

Internationally, Ledecky faced challengers in the 200m free in this Olympic cycle, unlike the last one. Italian veteran and world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won the last two world titles, with Ledecky missing the event this summer due to her mid-meet illness.

Ledecky ranks seventh in the world in the 200m free this year but likely would have been faster if she was able to race at her best at world champs.

Domestically, Simone Manuel has crept up, clocking 1:56.09 to lead off the 4x200m free relay at worlds to rank second among Americans in 2019. Manuel was the third-fastest American on Friday, recording 1:57.21, her fastest time ever outside of a major summer meet.

In other events Friday, Phoebe Bacon upset world-record holder Regan Smith in the 100m backstroke. Bacon, who like Smith is 17 years old, overtook Smith in the last 25 meters and prevailed by .05 in 58.63. Bacon, while shy of Smith’s world record 57.57, took .39 off her personal best to become the fifth-fastest in the world this year.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King dominated the 100m breaststroke, beating a strong field by .62 of a second in 1:05.65.

Chase Kalisz won a potential Olympic trials preview in the 400m individual medley in 4:13.07. Kalisz, the Rio silver medalist, held off 18-year-old Carson Foster by 1.69 seconds. Ryan Lochte, the 2012 Olympic champion in the event, was fifth, 6.65 seconds behind.

Rio Olympian Townley Haas won the men’s 200m free in 1:45.92, his fastest time since August 2018. Haas, the 2017 World silver medalist, improved to the second-fastest American in the event this year behind Andrew Seliskar.

Torri Huske won the 100m butterfly on the eve of her 17th birthday. Huske clocked 57.48, taking .23 off her personal best to move from sixth fastest to third fastest in the U.S. this year.

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Ester Ledecka stuns again, wins World Cup downhill from bib No. 26

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Consider 26 a lucky number for Ester Ledecka.

Ledecka, the snowboard champion who stunningly captured the PyeongChang Olympic super-G from bib No. 26, won her first World Cup ski race on Friday — also from bib No. 26.

Ledecka was fastest in a downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta.

She kept Swiss Corinne Suter from her first World Cup win by .35 of a second. Austrian Stephanie Venier was third. Mikaela Shiffrin was 10th in her weakest discipline. Full results are here.

“I am for sure more shocked than everybody here,” Ledecka said. “I was a little bit, not disappointed about the run, but I was not super satisfied. Then I was really surprised about the time.”

Ledecka, an Olympic and world champion in Alpine snowboarding from the Czech Republic, had a previous best Alpine skiing World Cup finish of seventh. The top-ranked racers all go in the top 20 of the start list.

Last season, Ledecka raced more World Cup skiing events than snowboarding events for the first time. She was forced to choose between world championships in skiing and in snowboarding due to schedules and picked the former with a top finish of 15th.

She’s undecided about her upcoming schedule. She could continue on the Alpine skiing tour with a super-G in Switzerland next weekend, or she could fly to Italy for a snowboarding event.

The women race another downhill and a super-G in Lake Louise the next two days. A full TV and live stream schedule for the weekend races is here.

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