Ryan Lochte earns berth in Rio, but only in relay event so far

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Ryan Lochte missed out on his second chance to make the U.S. Olympic team in an individual event, finishing fourth in the 200-meter freestyle Tuesday night.

There was some consolation for the ailing swimmer: Lochte at least assured himself a trip to Rio as a part of the 4×200 free relay.

Townley Haas, who just missed out on the team with a third-place finish in the 400 free, earned his first trip to the Olympics by rallying to win in 1 minute, 45.66 seconds. Conor Dywer was next in 1:45.67, giving him a second individual event at the Olympics. He also finished second in the 400 free.

Jack Conger was third in 1:45.77, while Lochte faded to 1:46.62. He has been battling a groin injury, already squandering a chance to defend his title in the 400 individual medley.

Lochte was second at the final turn Tuesday but couldn’t hold on.

“I’m just happy that I’m going to Rio,” Lochte said, sounding downright relieved. “You can never go in knowing that you’re going to make the team, just because the U.S. is one of the hardest countries to make the Olympic team.”

Another stalwart of the 2012 U.S. team failed to qualify for Rio. Matt Grevers, the defending Olympic gold medalist in the men’s 100 backstroke, finished third behind Ryan Murphy and David Plummer.

Murphy won in 52.26, edging Plummer’s time of 52.28. Grevers touched in 52.76.

“It wasn’t that tight. They beat me by a half-second,” Grevers said. “I think I’m a little stunned. I think after I let it sink in, I’ll be more distraught than I currently am.”

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Yet another Olympic gold medalist, Jessica Hardy, finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke to also miss out on the U.S. team. Lilly King and Katie Meili were 1-2 in the final, extending what has become a definite changing of the guard in Omaha.

Ten of the swimmers who claimed likely spots for Rio on Tuesday night will be first-time Olympians.

Over the first three days of the trials, that number could be as high as 17 – a drastic makeover for the world’s greatest swimming nation.

MORE: Missy Franklin misses chance to earn Rio berth in 100m backstroke

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”