Michael Phelps set for last race in U.S. water; Saturday finals preview

Michael Phelps
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Michael PhelpsKatie Ledecky and Missy Franklin finish their Olympic Trials on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports app).

Phelps goes for his third win of the Olympic Trials in the 100m butterfly. The 22-time Olympic medalist is already on the Rio team in the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley.

Ledecky also eyes her third victory in Omaha. She swims the event she won in London, the 800m freestyle. Ledecky previous prevailed in the 200m and 400m freestyles this week.

And Franklin races her signature event, the 200m backstroke. Franklin endured a difficult week to get here and can notch her first victory of Trials. She’s already on the team after finishing second to Ledecky in the 200m freestyle but failed to make the team in the 100m free and 100m backstroke, both of which she swam in London.

SWIM TRIALS: Video | Results | Broadcast Schedule

An event-by-event preview of Saturday’s semifinals and finals:

Women’s 200m Backstroke Final
Franklin, the Olympic champion and world-record holder, qualified second-fastest into this final. The top qualifier is Maya DiRado, who already swept the individual medleys this week and can become not only the first swimmer to make the Rio Olympic team in three individual events, but also the first one to win three individual events at Trials. DiRado was .49 faster than Franklin in the semifinals. Nobody else was within one second of Franklin, giving her some breathing room to finish top two and make the Rio team.

Men’s 100m Butterfly Final
Phelps was sixth-fastest in the preliminary heats and the semifinals, but remember his time from the 2015 U.S. Championships was the fastest in the world since 2009. Phelps is a three-time Olympic champion in this event. It would be a shock if he isn’t in the top two here. The top six swimmers in the semifinals were separated by .57 of a second, and with Phelps known for coming from behind, it should be an exciting final 50 meters.

Women’s 800m Freestyle Final
This race will not be nearly as close. Ledecky had the fastest time in prelims by 10.73 seconds and now owns the 10 fastest 800m free swims of all time. Leah Smith, runner-up to Ledecky in the 400m free earlier at Trials, is the solid favorite to join Ledecky on the Olympic team here. She was 7.32 seconds faster than the No. 3 qualifier into the final.

Men’s 50m Freestyle Final
The top four qualifiers into the final were all born in the 1980s, including the oldest male swimmer at Trials — 35-year-old Anthony Ervin. Ervin tied for the gold medal in this event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He qualified fastest into this final, ahead of world silver medalist Nathan Adrian and Olympic silver medalist Cullen Jones. While Adrian and Ervin already made the Rio team by finishing first and fourth in the 100m free, this is Jones’ last shot to qualify for his third Games.

Women’s 50m Freestyle Semifinals
Madison Kennedy
, who like Jones is down to her final chance at making the Rio team, was the fastest qualifier in 24.52 seconds Saturday morning. She was followed by two women already on the Olympic team in the 100m free, Simone Manuel (24.57) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.58). Nobody else broke 24.90, but the top eight between the two semis make Sunday’s final.

MORE: Olympic Swimming Trials broadcast schedule

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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