Caeleb Dressel ties Michael Phelps’ record with 7th gold

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Michael Phelps, you’ve got company.

Caeleb Dressel won his seventh gold medal of the world championships Sunday, putting the U.S. team ahead to stay with another dominating swim in the 4×100-meter medley relay.

Twenty-four hours after becoming the first swimmer to win three golds in one night at a major international meet, Dressel joined Phelps in another elite club: seven golds at the second-biggest meet after the Olympics.

Phelps was the first to do it at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne, Australia — a prelude to his unprecedented eight golds the following year at the Beijing Olympics.

Dressel matched the feat along the banks of the Danube, emerging as America’s next swimming sensation.

“We’re seeing a star being born,” teammate Matt Grevers said.

The 20-year-old University of Florida student won three individual golds and was part of four winning relay teams.

“I’m pretty tired, but, you know, it’s been a good season, a good year, and to put together a seven-day meet, it’s a really nice feeling,” Dressel said. “There’s a lot more that goes into this than just the seven days that people see, so I’m very happy to be done.”

It was a big night all around for the Americans.

Lilly King set her second individual world record of the meet in the 50 breaststroke, again besting Russian rival Yulia Efimova, and returned as part of the women’s 4×100 medley relay that also broke the world record.

“I couldn’t imagine a better finish to this meet,” King said.

Chase Kalisz swept the men’s individual medleys to carry on America’s dominance in those races, even after Phelps’ retirement and Ryan Lochte missing out on Budapest because of his shenanigans at the Rio Olympics.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be on the level of those guys,” said Kalisz, who romped to victory in the 400 IM on the heels of his victory in the 200. “But for me to be able to continue our prior tradition of IM, that was one thing when I grew up that I knew that was our thing.”

The U.S. finished with 18 golds and 38 medals overall — a huge improvement over the previous worlds two years ago in Kazan, where the Americans managed just eight golds and 23 medals.

The home crowd had no complaints, either.

Katinka Hosszu, the “Iron Lady,” finished off her third straight 200-400 IM sweep at the championships, to go along with a pair of golds from Brazil last summer.

“Ria! Ria! Hungaria!” the packed house at Duna Arena chanted, as Hosszu celebrated on deck wrapped in her country’s red, white and green flag.

But this meet will be remembered as Dressel’s coming-out party.

He won the 50 and 100 freestyle, and nearly took down Phelps’ world record in the 100 butterfly. Dressel was a beast on the relays, swimming both the free and fly.

Phelps’ feat at worlds still stands supreme since five of his seven golds were in individual events, and he didn’t have the benefit of the mixed relays. Dressel won a pair of golds in that relatively new race, which he was quick to point out after his three wins Saturday.

But the comparisons to the winningest athlete in Olympic history are sure to pick up steam heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Dressel swam the fly in the final event of the meet, taking over for the third leg with the Americans facing a slight deficit after world record-holder Adam Peaty pushed Britain ahead on the breaststroke.

No worries.

Dressel surged to the front with a down-and-back time of 49.76 — the only butterfly swimmer to break 50 seconds. Nathan Adrian took over for the freestyle anchor with a comfortable lead, pulling away to win in 3 minutes, 27.91 seconds. Britain settled for the silver, more than a second behind.

When Adrian touched, Dressel hugged his other teammates, Grevers and Kevin Cordes. As everyone else walked off deck, Dressel lingered a bit, watching a replay of the race on the video board.

It must have seemed more than a little surreal.

“I’ve never had had it happen,” Dressel said, “so I don’t really know what to say.

To the surprise of no one, he was named the top male swimmer of the meet. The female award when to Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who capped off a stellar performance of her own with a bit of redemption in the 50 free.

After setting a world record in the semifinals, Sjostrom completed the furious dash from one end of the pool to the other in 23.69 — just two-hundredths off her mark the previous evening. Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands claimed the silver, while Simone Manuel of the U.S. settled for the bronze.

It was Manuel who knocked off Sjostrom in the 100 free after the Swede went out far too fast on the opening lap and had nothing left for the return. This time, she didn’t have to come back.

Sjostrom set two world records in the meet, also getting credit for one in the 100 free for her opening leg of the 4×100 free relay. She now holds four world records overall including the 50 and 100 fly.

Manuel was feeling a lot better when she anchored the U.S. women to a world record in the 4×100 medley relay. She joined King, Kelsi Worrell and Kathleen Baker in setting a time of 3:51.55, breaking the mark of 3:52.05 that had stood since an American victory at the 2012 London Olympics.

King’s time in the 50 breast was 29.40, beating the mark of 29.48 set by Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte at the 2013 worlds. Efimova settled for a silver, and the two even gave each other a hug when it was over — a sign that their fierce rivalry is thawing a bit.

King set two individual records in Budapest, and was part of two record-setting relay teams.

Also Sunday, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri pulled away from Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk over the final laps to win the men’s 1,500 freestyle, while France’s Camille Lacourt took gold in the 50 backstroke.

But the biggest winner was Dressel.

“I’m going to take a little break,” he said. “Just enjoy myself, you know.”

He certainly earned it.

Men’s 4x100m Medley Results
Gold: United States — 3:27.91
Silver: Great Britain — 3:28.95
Bronze: Russia — 3:29.76
4. Japan — 3:30.19
5. Brazil — 3:31.53
6. China — 3:31.65
7. Hungary — 3:32.13
8. Belarus — 3:33.63

Women’s 4x100m Medley Results
Gold: United States — 3:51.55
Silver: Russia — 3:53.38
Bronze: Australia — 3:54.29
4. Canada — 3:54.86
5. Sweden — 3:55.28
6. China — 3:57.69
7. Great Britain — 3:59.51
8. Italy — 3:59.98

Blake Leeper, Olympic hopeful double amputee, has prosthetics ruled ineligible

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Blake Leeper, a double amputee who finished fifth in the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships 400m, had his prosthetic legs ruled ineligible for major international able-bodied competition such as the Olympics.

World Athletics made the ruling as part of a months-long case that will go on. Leeper confirmed Thursday morning a Washington Post report that he is appealing.

A World Athletics review group “concluded that Mr. Leeper had not established that his prostheses do not provide him with an overall competitive advantage,” according to a World Athletics statement. “Under the current rule [introduced in 2015], the burden of proof lies with the athlete to show that prostheses do not provide them with an overall competitive advantage.”

Leeper, a 2012 Paralympic medalist, sprints fast enough to be a contender for the U.S. Olympic team, should he be deemed eligible. A fifth-place finisher in the 400m at nationals usually makes an Olympic or world team for the 4x400m relay.

But when Leeper recorded that finish in Des Moines last summer, he was running under conditional allowance while his World Athletics case was ongoing. He was not ultimately selected to race at worlds last fall.

World Athletics said then that his nationals results would not be ratified because he had not proven that his legs did not provide “an overall competitive advantage over an athlete not using such aid.”

Leeper’s case is reminiscent of South African Oscar Pistorius.

Pistorius won a legal battle to race on his prosthetics at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics in the 400m with a personal best of 45.07. He was eliminated in the semifinals at both meets.

Leeper lowered his personal best to 44.38 seconds at nationals, a time that would have easily made the 2016 Olympic team.

“They keep changing the rules,” Leeper, who has been coached by, among others, Super Bowl champion wide receiver Willie Gault, said last summer. “For somebody to try to dictate and tell me how tall I should be or whatever I should be running on I think is just really unfair.”

In 2018, the International Paralympic Committee said Leeper was running on invalid blades for its record purposes because he had yet to be classified under a new maximum allowable standing height (MASH) formula.

Michael Norman, the world’s fastest 400m sprinter last year, said he had no issue racing with Leeper. But others in the past, when Pistorius became the first double amputee to race at worlds and the Olympics, said they wouldn’t have been so sure had Pistorius been running the kind of times that Leeper posted in recent years.

“Walk a mile in my legs,” Leeper said of those who believe he has a competitive advantage. “Understand the things that I go through as a double-leg amputee. There’s some days my legs are swollen, they’re sore, they’re bleeding, they’re bruised. I can’t even have the strength to put ’em on to walk to the bathroom.

“Anybody that faces a disability, to actually look them in the face and say they have an advantage is just crazy to me. I guarantee if that’s the case, you’ll see a lot more people amputating their legs and coming and trying to qualify for the U.S. trials.”

Leeper was born without lower legs and has used prosthetics since he was a toddler. He earned 200m bronze and 400m silver (behind Pistorius) in his class at the 2012 London Paralympics, then served a cocaine ban.

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Chad le Clos seeks Sun Yang’s Olympic gold medal for doping case

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NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Chad le Clos believes he has a claim on Sun Yang’s gold medal from the Rio Olympics, with a verdict imminent on the Chinese swimmer’s latest doping case.

“He should be banned. It’s as simple as that,” Le Clos said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “Anyone who tests positive should be banned. I should get my gold medal back from Rio.

“Not for the moment. I lost that. I don’t really care about that,” Le Clos added on Wednesday. “It’s just for my record. If I break my leg and I can’t swim again I want my record to say, ‘Two individual golds, two individual silvers.’ Because that’s what it should be.”

Le Clos’ Olympic record currently contains one gold medal and three silvers — including a second-place finish to Sun in the Rio Olympic 200m free

Odds are, though, that Sun won’t lose any Olympic titles when the Court of Arbitration for Sport issues its ruling over his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard used a hammer to smash a container holding Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed after swimming federation FINA merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

A three-time Olympic champion, Sun could be banished from the sport for up to eight years but any ban likely won’t be backdated before September 2018 — meaning all of his Olympic medals seem safe.

But there’s also the fact that international swimming authorities worked to protect Sun from being banned, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

“I just hope the system and whatever we have is really accurate,” said Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, who won three golds in Rio. “I just hope the decisions they are making is fair and is for the sport and not for other reasons.”

The medals that Sun risks losing most are the two golds that he won at last year’s world championships in the 200m and 400m frees. At the event in Gwangju, South Korea, fellow medalists Mack Horton of Australia and Duncan Scott of Britain refused to stand with him on the podium.

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him from competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“I have nothing against anybody. It’s not personal,” Le Clos said. “It’s just how the world should be. If you cheat or if you do something wrong, like if you false start, you get disqualified. It’s simple as that.”

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