Katie Ledecky, Chase Kalisz
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U.S. swimming rankings going into national championships

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The U.S. Swimming Championships are in two weeks, and it’s arguably the second-most important domestic meet of the Olympic cycle.

Nationals will not only determine the team for the year’s major international meet — August’s Pan Pacific Championships — but also partially determine the team for the 2019 World Championships. The selection procedures all but assure the top two per individual event at nationals make Pan Pacs with third-place finishers also strongly in the running. Heck, some fourth-place finishers made the 2014 Pan Pacs team.

The 2019 Worlds team is made up by best times between nationals and Pan Pacs (top two per individual event). Those who struggle at nationals will miss Pan Pacs, and all but assure they miss worlds as well.

The Tyr Pro Swim Series — USA Swimming’s regular-season tour — wrapped up in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend. It’s as good a time as any to take stock of the best U.S. times for the year and size up the favorites for nationals now that all of the top tune-up meets are behind us.

As expected, Katie Ledecky is far and away No. 1 in the 200m freestyle (by 2.65 seconds), 400m freestyle (6.29 seconds), 800m freestyle (17.78 seconds) and 1500m freestyle (48.22 seconds).

Likewise, Simone Manuel is No. 1 and No. 2 in the 50m and 100m freestyles, Kathleen Baker leads both backstrokes and Lilly King is atop the 100m breaststroke.

The male rankings are a little more surprising. Chase Kalisz, reigning world champion in both individual medleys, also leads the 200m butterfly. That’s not unexpected.

But the man right behind Kalisz in both IMs is an eye-catcher. That’s Ryan Lochte, who came back from suspension to put himself right in the mix to make the Pan Pac and world teams at age 33. An injured Lochte was third in the 400m IM at the Olympic Trials and was a disappointing fifth in the Olympic 200m IM.

Lochte’s best times this year — 1:58.90 and 4:15.80 — are well off the all-important second-place times from 2017 Nationals, though (1:56.79 and 4:09.31).

Caeleb Dressel, who won seven golds at 2017 Worlds, ranks third in each of his primary events (50m and 100m frees and 100m fly), but he swam a full NCAA season and just one Pro Series meet this spring. Expect time drops at nationals in two weeks in Irvine, Calif.

Rankings updated through July 15

50m Freestyle
1. Simone Manuel — 24.59
2. Margo Geer — 24.72
3. Madison Kennedy — 24.88
4. Mallory Comerford — 24.94
5. Kelsi Dahlia — 24.99

100m Freestyle
1. Margo Geer — 53.74
2. Simone Manuel — 53.84
3. Lia Neal — 53.95
4. Mallory Comerford — 54.06
5. Allison Schmitt — 54.34

200m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 1:54.56
2. Allison Schmitt — 1:57.21
3. Leah Smith — 1:57.41
4. Melanie Margalis — 1:57.49
5. Simone Manuel — 1:58.06

400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 3:57.94
2. Leah Smith — 4:04.23
3. Hali Flickinger — 4:06.72
4. Katie Drabot — 4:08.29
5. Melanie Margalis — 4:08.84

800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 8:07.27
2. Leah Smith — 8:25.05
3. Ashley Twichell — 8:29.35
4. Haley Anderson — 8:29.64
5. Cierra Runge — 8:29.93

1500m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 15:20.48
2. Ashley Twichell — 16:08.70
3. Erica Sullivan — 16:09.88
4. Haley Anderson — 16:10.78
5. Hannah Moore — 16:15.37

100m Backstroke
1. Kathleen Baker — 58.77
2. Olivia Smoliga — 59.14
3. Regan Smith — 59.38
4. Ali Deloof — 59.79
5. Isabelle Stadden — 1:00.06

200m Backstroke
1. Kathleen Baker — 2:07.02
2. Isabelle Stadden — 2:08.37
3. Regan Smith — 2:08.64
4. Asia Seidt — 2:08.91
5. Lisa Bratton — 2:09.86

100m Breaststroke
1. Lilly King — 1:05.61
2. Molly Hannis — 1:06.09
3. Katie Meili — 1:06.49
4. Micah Sumrall — 1:07.51
5. Breeja Larson — 1:07.67

200m Breaststroke
1. Melanie Margalis — 2:24.62
2. Emily Escobedo — 2:24.71
3. Lilly King — 2:24.83
4. Madisyn Cox — 2:25.10
5. Micah Sumrall — 2:26.16

100m Butterfly
1. Kelsi Dahlia — 57.29
2. Kendyl Stewart — 57.80

3. Amanda Kendall — 58.29
4. Katie McLaughlin — 58.33
5. Hellen Moffitt — 58.39

200m Butterfly
1. Hali Flickinger — 2:07.88
2. Katie Drabot — 2:08.38
3. Kelsi Dahlia — 2:09.22
4. Ella Eastin — 2:09.82
5. Katie McLaughlin — 2:10.40

200m Individual Medley
1. Madisyn Cox — 2:09.82
2. Melanie Margalis — 2:10.26
3. Kathleen Baker — 2:11.58
4. Asia Seidt — 2:12.63
5. Evie Pfeifer — 2:12.87

400m Individual Medley
1. Melanie Margalis — 4:36.81
2. Leah Smith — 4:37.64
3. Madisyn Cox — 4:37.94
4. Ella Eastin — 4:38.43
5. Katie Ledecky — 4:38.88

50m Freestyle
1. Michael Andrew — 21.69
2. Nathan Adrian — 21.97
3. Caeleb Dressel — 22.15
4. Justin Ress — 22.36
5. Michael Chadwick — 22.37

100m Freestyle
1. Nathan Adrian — 48.58

2. Jack Conger — 48.76
3. Caeleb Dressel — 48.96
4. Michael Chadwick — 49.01
5. Blake Pieroni – 49.04

200m Freestyle
1. Jack Conger — 1:46.96
2. Conor Dwyer — 1:47.28

3. Blake Pieroni — 1:48.08
4. Zane Grothe — 1:48.18
5. Andrew Seliskar — 1:48.35

400m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 3:48.59
2. Jack Levant — 3:51.47
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 3:51.48
4. Grant Shoults — 3:51.82
5. Mitch D’Arrigo — 3:51.93

800m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 7:50.94
2. Andrew Abruzzo — 7:54.51
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 7:58.10
4. Logan Houck — 7:58.18
5. Grant Shoults — 7:58.80

1500m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 15:05.31
2. Jordan Wilimovsky — 15:11.70
3. Andrew Abruzzo — 15:13.79
4. Nick Norman — 15:16.81
5. Logan Houck — 15:17.42

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 53.24
2. Justin Ress — 53.30
3. Matt Grevers — 53.73
4. Jacob Pebley — 53.93
5. Ryan Lochte — 54.75

200m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 1:55.46

2. Jacob Pebley — 1:55.85
3. Clark Beach — 1:58.58
4. Joey Reilman — 1:58.87
5. Nick Alexander — 1:58.97

100m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 59.19

2. Michael Andrew — 59.79
3. Devon Nowicki — 1:00.00
4. Josh Prenot — 1:00.23
5. Will Licon — 1:00.60

200m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 2:08.52
2. Will Licon — 2:09.47
3. Daniel Roy — 2:09.73
4. Chase Kalisz — 2:09.90
5. Josh Prenot — 2:10.15

100m Butterfly
1. Jack Conger — 51.00
2. Michael Andrew — 51.86
3. Caeleb Dressel — 52.20
4. Tripp Cooper — 52.36
5. Giles Smith — 52.55

200m Butterfly
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:55.63
2. Jack Conger — 1:55.88
3. Justin Wright — 1:57.77
4. Pace Clark — 1:57.93
5. Sam Pomajevich — 1:58.07

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:57.50
2. Ryan Lochte — 1:58.90
3. Josh Prenot — 1:59.47
4. Will Licon — 2:00.11
5. Jay Litherland — 2:00.55

400m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 4:08.92
2. Ryan Lochte — 4:15.80
3. Jay Litherland — 4:17.09
4. Josh Prenot — 4:18.58
5. Charlie Swanson — 4:19.38

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2021 Burton U.S. Open snowboarding event canceled

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The Burton U.S. Open, snowboarding’s most storied event, canceled its 2021 competition due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“The truth is, we just can’t be sure it will be safe from a public health standpoint for us to host the event in 2021,” a statement read.

The U.S. Open, held since 1982, is usually around the first weekend in March, making it the season-ending event for many riders. Halfpipe champions include Shaun WhiteChloe KimKelly Clark and Ross Powers, who also earned Olympic gold medals.

Other 2020-21 winter sports events affected by the coronavirus pandemic include figure skating’s Junior Grand Prix. The first two stops of that eight-event series, scheduled for late August and early September in Canada and Slovakia, have been canceled.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation, which is due to put on the February 2021 World Alpine Skiing Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, made a formal request on Monday to postpone the event until March 2022, one month after the next Winter Olympics in Beijing. The International Ski Federation (FIS) council will decide July 1.

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Kara Eaker eschews fear, back on balance beam to resume Olympic quest

Kara Eaker
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Kara Eaker hasn’t qualified for an Olympics yet, but she is already part of a historic club of U.S. gymnasts. The list goes, most recently, Eaker, Simone BilesKyla RossAly RaismanNastia LiukinShawn JohnsonShannon Miller and Dominique Dawes.

Those are the women who qualified for back-to-back balance beam finals at the sport’s highest level: Olympics or world championships. For Eaker (pronounced like acre), they came in her first two years as a senior gymnast in 2018 and 2019 (Biles and Johnson are the only other U.S. women to do that in the last 25 years.)

This was supposed to be Eaker’s Olympic year, but the coronavirus pandemic postponed the Games to 2021, after her Missouri high school graduation. It also kept her out of the gym for nearly two months until the GAGE Center reopened last week in Blue Springs, near Kansas City.

It was the longest Eaker had been off a regulation beam (and out of the gym) since she could remember. She began competing at age 5.

Eaker’s mom, Katherine, said her daughter never feared the four-inch-wide beam, but Eaker said the thought of returning last week “was definitely kind of scary at first.” That is, until one of her coaches eased her back with basics and work on a floor beam, one that’s not raised as high as the four feet you see in competition.

“By the time we were ready, and she was comfortable putting us back up there, it wasn’t scary,” Eaker said. “It felt normal.”

Eaker, adopted from a Chinese orphanage around age 1 in 2003 (her parents’ travel then delayed by SARS), excels on the senior elite stage with a level of normalcy.

Which is not entirely normal in this sport. She lives with her family, 10 minutes from her world-class gym. She still attends regular high school. She’s committed to continue gymnastics at the University of Utah after the Tokyo Olympics.

“I started out in dance, actually,” said Eaker, whose hobbies include robotics and calligraphy. “A little, little girl with the stuffed animal, twirling around in the dance room. And then we had our little recital and I just wasn’t … I couldn’t do the standing in front of an audience kind of thing.”

Her mom believes it was around Christmas. Eaker was 3 or 4.

“She just froze like a deer in the headlights, and all the other girls froze, too, because they were used to following her,” Katherine said. “Then she tried gymnastics. We had to drag her out [of the gym]. From then on, it was always, she’s first one in, last one out. Still is.”

The family, including Eaker’s father, Mark, retired Navy and a flight engineer, and younger sister, Sara, moved three times within Missouri in part to get Kara closer to GAGE to pursue what would eventually become an Olympic dream.

Gymnastics meets were appointment TV before Eaker entered kindergarten. She watched the Beijing Olympics, or perhaps an even earlier meet, while dancing around the living room in a leotard. Sometimes she mimicked the gold medalists by doing back bends. She continued to watch Beijing highlights, with Liukin and Johnson, on replay on YouTube.

Back at the gym, Eaker developed with the help of her coaches, plus future University of Nebraska gymnast Catelyn Orel, her “gym mom” under the GAGE program to pair older and younger athletes. Orel was a state champion on beam. Eaker proved a natural, too.

“A lot of the girls would get up there and have trouble balancing, but she just always seemed to do it just like she was on the floor,” her mom said. “She’s never really had a fear. Some girls get up there and are nervous. She just never seemed to be that way.”

In 2018, Eaker was 15, old enough to start competing on the senior level with the likes of Biles. Exactly 10 years after she would have watched Johnson win the Beijing Olympic beam title, Eaker finished second on beam at nationals behind Biles. She was invited to the world championships team selection camp, where she had the top beam score and placed sixth in the all-around. Six gymnasts would be chosen by a committee to travel to the world championships.

Eaker didn’t expect to make the team. In a large meeting with coaches and staff, the roster was announced. Eaker made it as the youngest member.

“It was a goal, but there were so many other girls and it was my first year as a senior,” she said. “I was very happy and surprised to make that team.”

Eaker again won beam at the 2019 World Championships selection camp. If Eaker endured adversity those first two years, it came at worlds.

In 2018, she fell on her mount in the beam final. The rest of her routine was medal-worthy gymnastics. She waited an eternal three minutes for her score, which placed her sixth. Eaker’s routine from the team final earlier that week would have earned silver.

In 2019, Eaker again qualified for the eight-woman beam final. The U.S. federation submitted an inquiry on her qualifying score, contesting a lower start value given to her. That backfired. Judges lowered Eaker’s score even more upon review, which took her out of the final. However, another gymnast who had qualified later withdrew due to injury. Eaker was back in the final, where she placed fourth.

She was asked afterward what she would take away from the meet.

“Just the experience of it all,” she said, composed. “How it makes me feel. How to use that [in the future].”

In 2021, Eaker will have to prove to a selection committee that she can be reliable on all four apparatuses. The Olympic team event size is four — with three gymnasts going per apparatus in the Olympic final — down from five in 2016, putting a greater emphasis on the all-around. Eaker could also be a candidate for one separate spot in individual events only.

“I definitely want to be seen as a great beam worker, but I also need to be a great all-arounder because they’re going to be looking at not just your one event,” said Eaker, who was third in the all-around at the 2019 Worlds selection camp. “You have to be able to benefit the team with your other events, even if they aren’t as strong as your [best] one.”

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