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

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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