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

Jordan Thompson, U.S. volleyball’s new weapon, took unique route to NCAA history

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It was about this time last year that Jordan Thompson first appeared on the radar of U.S. women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly. Since, Thompson emerged as the youngest starter, and arguably a star, for the national team.

She goes into what could be her final weekend of college volleyball as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport. And one of the most unique stories in NCAA history.

Thompson plays not for a Big Ten or Pac-12 powerhouse, but for Cincinnati, a school that, before she arrived, never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The unranked Bearcats upset second-ranked Pittsburgh in the second round last Saturday. They play Penn State, winner of six of the last 12 NCAA titles, in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

In 33 games this season, Thompson has registered a Division I-leading 768 kills, which is 143 more than the next most prolific attacker. That margin of 143 is the same number that separates No. 2 from No. 31.

Last season, she had 827 kills, which was 240 more than anybody else and a single-season record (by 112 kills) since NCAA match formats shifted from 30-point to 25-point sets in 2008.

She is a contender, if not a favorite, to be AVCA National Player of the Year. All of the previous winners dating to 1985 came from schools that reached at least one Final Four.

On Oct. 4, a UCF player’s face caught the wrong end of a Thompson attack. Cincinnati teammates watching from the bench dropped to the floor in astonishment.

Thompson tallied 50 kills in one match alone on Nov. 3, becoming the first D-I player to do so in 20 years.

That happened on Senior Day. Before that match, Thompson received a plaqued No. 23 jersey and flowers.

She posed for a photo standing with her husband, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Blake Yager, her mother, Mary, whose bribes helped Thompson develop into an attacker, and her father, 1990s Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Doleman (and brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman).

Mary has been most instrumental, raising Thompson as a single mom in Minnesota. Thompson, who is 6 feet, 4 inches now, was always tall for her age.

She played youth basketball against older girls and grew frustrated by the physical contact. Kneepads weren’t comfort enough. She decided to give volleyball a try in middle school.

“She was very timid,” Mary said of her daughter, who has since gotten 10 tattoos, including one of a hummingbird. “She would tell me she didn’t want to hurt anyone on the other side of the net. I told her I would give her a dollar for every time she would whack it. And I would give her $10 if she would actually hit someone on the other end of the court.”

It took a while, but Thompson was motivated by her love of horses. The payouts from her mom went toward a saddle and a bridal. A box with horse equipment remains in the family garage back home.

“She was trying to build up her supplies to be able to one day say to me, look, I’ve got a saddle, I’ve got all of my tack, I’ve got stuff to clean the hooves, can we get a horse now?” Mary said. 

After just two years of club volleyball, Thompson received her first Division-I scholarship offer. It came from Syracuse. Thompson was a high school sophomore.

“In the back of my head, I’m thinking, I’m never going to get another offer, so I better take this one,” she said.

Thompson was intent on Syracuse for a year before a coaching change led her to decommit. She wasn’t sure if many schools knew she had reopened her recruiting. A Minnesota club teammate had committed to Cincinnati and suggested Thompson take a visit.

The Bearcats went 3-29 the season before she committed.

“I said, Jordan, you can play D-I at Texas. You can go to Nebraska,” Mary said. “She was like, no, no, I want to play all four years. I actually want to get playing time, mom. She really struggled believing how good she could be.”

The biggest obstacle came junior year. In a preseason training session, Thompson collided with that Minnesota club teammate, Jade Tingelhoff, and tore the UCL in her dominant, right arm. She was in an armpit-to-wrist brace for two months post-Tommy John surgery, including three weeks with her arm locked in place.

She couldn’t brush her hair, had a hard time brushing her teeth and found it difficult showering and getting dressed.

She still went to every Bearcats game and traveled with the team. Cincinnati went from 22-10 her sophomore season to 13-19 that year without her on the court.

“It ended up being OK,” Tingelhoff said. “She came back that next season — I’m not kidding — 10 times as better than she was even the previous year.”

As a redshirt junior, Thompson and her 827 kills helped Cincinnati to a 26-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament win in seven years. She also caught the eye of Kiraly by the end of that 2018 season.

“She was one of the elite players in all of college volleyball,” he said. “Probably the only one who came from a conference other than the ones known for producing the most NCAA champions, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”

By last spring break, Thompson had become a favorite of U.S coaches at a camp to help select teams for summer international tournaments.

She had a one-on-one conversation with Kiraly, the only person to own Olympic indoor and beach gold medals. The legend told her she had potential to play at the Pan American Games. Later, he upped the praise to say she was ready for the top-level Nations League, a precursor to Olympic qualifying.

Thompson made her national team debut in May. By August, she came off the bench to help spur a comeback in a crucial Olympic qualifying match. The next day, she was in the starting lineup for the U.S.’ final Olympic qualifier, where the Americans clinched a Tokyo 2020 berth.

“I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college,” two-time U.S. Olympic outside hitter Jordan Larson said then. “She still has one more year left.”

Agents reached out, but Thompson had no intention of giving up her final year of NCAA eligibility. She wanted to make history at Cincinnati. That was secured with the Sweet 16 berth.

With the new year, she will trade the Cincinnati red and black for Team USA colors. She will keep in mind what the U.S. coaching staff told the team during Olympic qualifying and what she called a dream summer.

“My big goal in life was I just wanted to be in the USA gym,” said Thompson, who is working on her master’s in criminal justice. “To hear that we’re all working towards this goal of trying to make this roster, and we are being looked as potential players to make that roster, my jaw dropped. To know that it’s even a remote possibility is mind-blowing.”

VIDEO: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC. It beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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