Lilly King, Chase Kalisz win gold on final day of worlds

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Lilly King took the breaststroke rubber match with Yulia Efimova — and set another world record for good measure.

Chase Kalisz kept the U.S. firmly on top of the world in the men’s individual medley.

The brash King knocked off her second record of the world championships in Budapest, touching first in the 50-meter breaststroke Sunday.

King eclipsed the mark of 29.48 set by Lithuania’s Ruta Mielutyte at the 2013 worlds in Barcelona.

King added the 50 mark to her record-setting performance in the 100 breast. This was essentially the deciding match of her duel with Efimova, who won the 200 breast while King finished fourth.

Efiomova settled for silver in the 50 at 29.57, while another American, Katie Meili, took the bronze in 29.99.

“I always think Lilly has a world record in her,” Meili said. “Yeah, I knew she was going to go really fast. She’s been incredible this meet. Totally lights on her every time she gets in the pool, so I’m very very proud of her.”

Despite hard feelings between King and Efimova, sparked last summer when King griped that the Russian should not be allowed to compete because of doping violations, the two hugged each other and even appeared to joke around a bit after the race.

Kalisz breezed to victory in the 400 IM, adding to his triumph in the 200. He became the first swimmer at worlds to sweep the event, which encompasses all four strokes, since Ryan Lochte accomplished the feat in 2011.

Kalisz carried on American domination of the IMs that goes back more than two decades, largely because of Michael Phelps — a former training partner — and Lochte.

Neither is in Budapest, of course. Phelps retired again after the Rio Games, while Lochte was not allowed to compete at worlds because of his shenanigans at last summer’s Olympics.

No worries for Team USA.

Kalisz pulled away on the breaststroke leg and cruised to the finish in 4 minutes, 5.90 seconds — nearly 2½ seconds ahead of the silver medalist, Hungary’s David Verraszto. Japan’s Daiya Seto grabbed the bronze.

In the women’s 50 freestyle, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom got a bit of redemption for her loss to American Simone Manuel in the 100 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 in 23.85, while Manuel settled for the bronze at 23.97.

Manuel 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.

France’s Camille Lacourt took gold in the 50 backstroke with a time of 24.35. The silver went to Japan’s Junya Koga, while American veteran Matt Grevers grabbed the bronze.

Women’s 50m Breaststroke Results
Gold: Lilly King (USA) — 29.40
Silver: Yulia Efimova (RUS) — 29.57
Bronze: Katei Meili (USA) — 29.99
4. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) — 30.20
5. Jennie Johansson (SWE) — 30.31
6. Sarah Vasey (GBR) — 30.62
7. Arianna Castiglioni (ITA) — 30.74
8. Rachel Nicol (CAN) — 30.80

Men’s 400m IM Results
Gold: Chase Kalisz (USA) — 4:05.90
Silver: David Verraszto (HUN) — 4:08.38
Bronze: Daiya Seto (JPN) — 4:09.14
4. Max Litchfield (GBR) — 4:09.62
5. Jay Litherland (USA) — 4:12.05
6. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) — 4:12.65
7. Brandonn Almeida (BRA) — 4:13.00
9. Richard Nagy (SVK) — 4:16.33

Women’s 50m Freestyle Results
Gold: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 23.69
Silver: Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) — 23.85
Bronze: Simone Manuel (USA) — 23.97
4. Pernille Blume (DEN) — 24.00
5. Aliaksandra Herasimenia (BLR) — 24.46
6. Liu Xiang (CHN) — 24.58
7. Anna Santamans (FRA) — 24.58
8. Bronte Campbell (AUS) — 24.58

Women’s 400m IM Results
Gold: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 4:29.33
Silver: Mireia Belmonte (ESP) — 4:32.17
Bronze: Sydney Pickrem (CAN) — 4:32.88
4. Yui Ohashi (JPN) — 4:34.50
5. Sakiko Shimizu (JPN) — 4:35.62
6. Leah Smith (USA) — 4:36.09
7. Elizabeth Beisel (USA) — 4:37.63
8. Hannah Miley (GBR) — 4:38.34

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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