Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel
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Katie Ledecky, Chase Kalisz top U.S. swim rankings as nationals near

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The U.S. Championships in three weeks will herald a changing of the guard in many events.

Katie Ledecky is the only active member of the Big Four. Michael Phelps is retired, Ryan Lochte is suspended and Missy Franklin is out of competition indefinitely after shoulder surgeries.

Ledecky continued her dominance as the headliner of this spring’s Pro Series meets, impressive coming off a long freshman season at Stanford.

Now that the six-event series is finished, the 2017 U.S. rankings have come into view going into nationals, where the top two per individual event qualify for the world championships in Budapest in July. The top six in the 100m and 200m frees will likely qualify for relays.

The rankings for Olympic events (plus the men’s 800m free and women’s 1500m free) are below, but first some notes:

  • Ledecky is again No. 1 by a comfortable margin in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles. She’s likely to repeat her 2015 World Championships slate, where she became the first swimmer to sweep those four races at a single worlds. She could also go for the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays, which would mean a possible six gold medals to tie Franklin’s record from 2013. Though Ledecky ranks No. 1 in the U.S. in the 400m individual medley by nearly one second, she’s not expected to race it at nationals.
  • Ledecky’s world-record times from the last two years in the 800m and 1500m frees would rank No. 4 on the U.S. men’s 800m and 1500m free lists for 2017. The U.S. has zero men who have met the A standard in either event, which means it will only be able to send one entry per event if nobody hits the standard at trials.
  • In the absence of Phelps and Lochte, Chase Kalisz emerged as the U.S.’ best all-around swimmer. The Olympic 400m IM silver medalist leads the rankings in both IMs, plus the 200m butterfly.
  • Ryan Murphy, who swept the backstrokes in Rio, will likely go into nationals ranked second in both events.
  • Anthony Ervin, who won Rio Olympic 50m free gold at age 35, ranks No. 16 in the U.S. this year.

Men
50m freestyle
1. Nathan Adrian (22.09)
2. Caeleb Dressel (22.13)
3. Michael Chadwick (22.22)
4. Michael Andrew (22.38)

100m freestyle
1. Nathan Adrian (48.18)
2. Michael Chadwick (48.69)

3. Blake Pieroni (49.18)
4. Caeleb Dressel (49.26)
5. Ryan Held (49.32)
6. Michael Jensen (49.35)
7. Justin Ress (49.48)
8. Ryan Murphy (49.60)

200m freestyle (1:47.73 A standard)
1. Blake Pieroni (1:48.14)
2. Zane Grothe (1:48.73)
3. Jay Litherland (1:49.28)
4. Patrick Callan (1:49.41)
5. Jack Conger (1:49.44)
6. Drew Kiebler (1:49.45)
7. Conor Dwyer (1:49.47)
8. Gunnar Bentz (1:49.54)

400m freestyle (3:48.15 A standard)
1. Zane Grothe (3:47.99)
2. Clark Smith (3:49.40)
3. Jay Litherland (3:50.96)
4. Andrew Abruzzo (3:51.01)

800m freestyle (7:54.31 A standard)
1. True Sweetser (8:01.44)
2. Zane Grothe (8:01.94)
3. Clark Smith (8:02.34)
4. Liam Egan (8:05.10)

1500m freestyle (15:12.79 A standard)
1. Andrew Abruzzo (15:13.95)
2. Zane Grothe (15:22.05)
3. True Sweetser (15:23.95)
4. Michael Brinegar (15:25.70)

100m backstroke
1. Matt Grevers (53.31)
2. Ryan Murphy (53.48)

3. Justin Ress (53.49)
4. Jacob Pebley (53.77)

200m backstroke
1. Jacob Pebley (1:55.56)
2. Ryan Murphy (1:55.82)
3. Sean Lehane (1:59.57)
4. Drew Kibler (2:00.22)

100m breaststroke
1. Cody Miller (1:00.30)
2. Kevin Cordes (1:00.43)
3. Andrew Wilson (1:00.45)
4. Nic Fink (1:00.70)

200m breaststroke
1. Josh Prenot (2:09.93)
2. Nic Fink (2:10.62)
3. Chase Kalisz (2:10.74)
2. Kevin Cordes (2:11.50)

100m butterfly
1. Tom Shields (52.09)
2. Jack Conger (52.24)
3. Caeleb Dressel (52.29)
4. Tripp Cooper (52.84)

200m butterfly
1. Chase Kalisz (1:55.82)
2. Pace Clark (1:56.75)

3. Tom Shields (1:58.05)
4. Jack Conger (1:58.44)

200m individual medley
1. Chase Kalisz (1:57.21)
2. Josh Prenot (1:58.93)
3. Michael Andrew (1:59.12)
4. Jay Litherland (2:00.48)

400m individual medley
1. Chase Kalisz (4:09.43)
2. Jay Litherland (4:13.79)
3. Josh Prenot (4:14.74)
4. Abrahm DeVine (4:17.57)

Women
50m freestyle

1. Simone Manuel (24.66)
2. Madison Kennedy (24.99)
3. Kelsi Worrell (25.11)
4. Lia Neal (25.12)

100m freestyle
1. Simone Manuel (53.66)
2. Mallory Comerford (53.91)
3. Lia Neal (54.38)
4. Amanda Weir (54.59)
5. Katie Ledecky (54.69)
6. Kelsi Worrell (54.84)
7. Abbey Weitzeil (55.05)
8. Courtney Caldwell (55.11)

200m freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (1:55.34)
2. Melanie Margalis (1:57.69)
3. Leah Smith (1:57.72)
4. Simone Manuel (1:57.87)
5. Mallory Comerford (1:58.54)
6. Katie Drabot (1:58.85)
7. Katie McLaughlin (1:59.11)
8. Hali Flickinger (1:59.20)

400m freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (4:00.98)
2. Leah Smith (4:05.62)
3. Katie Drabot (4:08.07)
4. Hali Flickinger (4:08.52)

800m freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (8:15.44)
2. Leah Smith (8:23.27)
3. Cierra Runge (8:29.27)
4. Ashley Twichell (8:30.19)

1500m freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (15:35.65)
2. Hannah Moore (16:22.96)

3. G Ryan (16:25.64)
4. Leah Stevens (16:36.13)

100m backstroke
1. Hannah Stevens (59.40)
2. Ali Deloof (59.43)
3. Regan Smith (59.74)
4. Olivia Smoliga (1:00.70)

200m backstroke
1. Regan Smith (2:09.79)
2. Asia Seidt (2:09.82)
3. Eva Merrell (2:10.22)
4. Hali Flickinger (2:10.56)

100m breaststroke
1. Katie Meili (1:05.95)
2. Lilly King (1:06.20)
3. Molly Hannis (1:06.47)
4. Breeja Larson (1:07.17)

200m breaststroke
1. Katie Meili (2:23.18)
2. Madisyn Cox (2:25.62)
3. Melanie Margalis (2:25.71)
4. Lilly King (2:25.90)

100m butterfly
1. Kelsi Worrell (57.44)
2. Amanda Kendall (58.27)
3. Kendyl Stewart (58.32)
4. Hellen Moffitt (58.59)

200m butterfly
1. Hali Flickinger (2:08.77)
2. Kelsi Worrell (2:09.04)
3. Cassidy Bayer (2:10.16)
4. Katie McLaughlin (2:10.35)

200m individual medley
1. Melanie Margalis (2:10.43)
2. Madisyn Cox (2:11.14)
3. Ella Eastin (2:14.04)
4. Alex Walsh (2:14.37)

400m individual medley
1. Katie Ledecky (4:38.16)
2. Madisyn Cox (4:39.07)
3. Elizabeth Beisel (4:40.00)
4. Melanie Margalis (4:40.47)

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

Jordan Thompson
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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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