Sun Yang completes freestyle gold set as American takes silver (video)

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Controversial as he is, Sun Yang is very arguably the greatest freestyle swimmer of all time.

The Chinese superstar won his ninth career world title — all individual freestyle golds — by taking the 200m free in Budapest on Tuesday. So exhausted, he emerged from the Danube Arena pool to lay on the deck for several seconds before coming to his feet.

Sun clocked 1:44.39, while American Townley Haas took silver in 1:45.04 for his first individual medal at a major international meet. Russian Aleksandr Krasnykh picked up the bronze.

Sun was next to last after 50 meters but burst to the lead by the 150-meter mark. He had the fastest final 100 meters by .66 of a second.

Sun, 25, won the 200m free at worlds for the first time, one year after his first Olympic 200m free title. Sun has now won Olympic and world gold medals at every freestyle distance from 200m to 1500m. Only one other swimmer can boast that — Katie Ledecky.

Sun trails only Michael Phelps (15) and Ryan Lochte (10) in individual world titles. Sun can tie Lochte if he wins the 800m free in Budapest on Wednesday.

But Sun is not universally admired in swimming. He served a silent three-month doping ban in 2014. The next year, Sun shockingly did not show up for the 1500m free final at worlds. Sun said in a post-meet press conference that it was due to a heart problem and declined to comment when asked about a reported warm-up altercation with a Brazilian swimmer.

Haas, 20, was a revelation in 2016. He won the Olympic Trials 200m free and had the fastest split by .71 in the Olympic 4x200m free relay but was fifth in the individual 200m final in Rio.

Men’s 200m Freestyle Results
Gold: Sun Yang (CHN) — 1:44.39
Silver: Townley Haas (USA) — 1:45.04
Bronze: Aleksandr Krasnykh (RUS) — 1:45.23
4. Duncan Scott (GBR) — 1:45.27
5. James Guy (GBR) — 1:45.36
6. Dominik Kozma (HUN) — 1:45.54
7. Mikhail Dovgalyuk (RUS) — 1:46.02
8. Park Tae-Hwan (KOR) — 1:47.11

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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

MORE: Katie Ledecky on her new suit, challenges for Tokyo 2020

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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