Chase Kalisz continues impressive weekend with world-leading time

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In the last two nights, Chase Kalisz set a personal best in the 200m breaststroke and posted the fastest time in the world this year in the 400m individual medley in Atlanta.

Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM silver medalist, is setting up well for the U.S. Championships next month and the world championships in Budapest in July.

On Friday, Kalisz won the 200m breast in 2:10.74, lowering his personal best in the event at a second straight meet. Kalisz came into the year with a 200m breast best of 2:12.43 from 2014.

Kalisz rarely races the 200m breast and might not contest it at nationals, where the top two per event qualify for worlds. Kalisz now ranks third in the U.S. in the 200m breast this year.

“My endurance is kind of getting back to where I want to be,” Kalisz, coming off his senior season at the University of Georgia, told media Friday night. “Last year, I was consistent almost every single day, and I’m finally back to that level.”

Kalisz came back Saturday and won the 400m IM in 4:09.43, the best time in the world this year by .58 of a second. The 400m IM is his signature event. Kalisz is looking to duel Japan’s Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto, the Olympic gold and bronze medalists, and Hungarian Dávid Verrasztó at worlds.

Kalisz’s time Saturday was his fastest-ever outside of a major international meet or a U.S. Championships by 1.58 seconds.

Also Saturday, Katie Ledecky won for the second straight night.

The four-time Rio Olympic champion took the 200m freestyle in 1:56.26 after dominating the 400m free on Friday.

Ledecky was 1.44 seconds slower in the 200m free than at this same meet last year but also said she was “racing a little bit tired” due to recent hard training. She ranks No. 4 in the world in the 200m free this year, while leading the 400m and 800m free rankings.

Simone Manuel, the co-Olympic 100m free champion, followed her 100m free win from Friday by taking the 50m free on Saturday. Manuel clocked 24.73 seconds, not her best time this year, but still broke the pool record set by Amy Van Dyken at the 1996 Olympics.

Ryan Murphy, who swept the backstrokes in Rio, won the 200m back Saturday in 1:55.82, dousing Rio Olympic finalists Jacob Pebley (1:56.43) and Ryosuke Irie (1:57.85). Murphy ranks third in the world in the 200m back this year.

The meet concludes Sunday, with finals streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app from 7-8:30 p.m. ET.

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WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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