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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Alina Zagitova wins Rostelecom Cup; Gracie Gold withdraws

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova dominated the Rostelecom Cup, while Gracie Gold withdrew before Saturday’s free skate at her first competition in 22 months, citing emotional stress.

Zagitova skated a flawed free, but still totaled 222.95 points and prevailed by 24.94 over countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Zagitova qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international competition, which takes the top six skaters from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Gold, coming back from treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder, was in last place of 10 skaters after struggling with jumps in Friday’s short program.

Gold, a Sochi Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, later tweeted that she withdrew because competing in the free skate would be damaging to her mental health and confidence.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture,” was tweeted from Gold’s account. “Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition. I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it. I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months.”

The Grand Prix season continues next week with Nathan Chen headlining Internationaux de France, the last event before the Grand Prix Final.

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Zagitova, 16, is undefeated in three events this season and owns the world’s top overall score (238.43) by a whopping 14.12 points. However, Japanese 16-year-old Rika Kihira has the highest total on the Grand Prix of 224.31.

Zagitova struggled Saturday with the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination and doubled a flip at the end of her free skate.

Her primary rival last season, countrywoman Yevgenia Medvedeva, has finished second or third in her four competitions in the last year and likely must reach the podium next week in France for a chance at the Grand Prix Final and her first matchup with Zagitova since PyeongChang.

It’s likely that no U.S. woman makes the Grand Prix Final for a third straight year, after never previously going back-to-back years without a qualifier. U.S. champion Bradie Tennell likely must win in France to reach the Final.

Earlier Saturday, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s event, hours after twisting his right ankle in a hard practice fall. Hanyu hopped on a crutch backstage and said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals later in December. More here on Hanyu’s day.

Russian favorites Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the pairs’ and ice dance titles, respectively, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

Tarasova and Morozov, two-time world medalists, posted 220.25 points, moving up to No. 2 in the world behind French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who were not in the Rostelecom field. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing this fall. Earlier Saturday, Tarasova received five stitches after cutting her chin in a practice crash into the boards.

In dance, Stepanova and Bukin tallied 199.43, keeping them close to U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue in the world rankings. Those two couples face off for the first time this season at the Grand Prix Final.

The top returning couple this season, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, competes next week at the top international level for the first time since winning a third world title in March. They are not eligible for the Grand Prix Final after withdrawing from last week’s NHK Trophy due to Cizeron’s back injury.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Yuzuru Hanyu wins Rostelecom Cup, hops on crutch to press conference

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Yuzuru Hanyu won Rostelecom Cup by nearly 30 points, then hopped on a crutch backstage.

The double Olympic champion twisted his right ankle in a hard practice fall Saturday morning, then several hours later had the highest-scoring free skate with three quadruple jumps.

Hanyu said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final in three weeks — and a showdown with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and, likely, world champion Nathan Chen according to The Associated Press.

“It really hurts,” Hanyu said, according to Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “This injury made me change my program, and sadly I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. I could have done better.”

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Hanyu apologized to a TV camera following his free skate, after falling and popping an Axel on his last two jumps.

Last November, Hanyu damaged right ankle ligaments in a practice fall, forcing him off the ice for more than a month. He said this injury is not as bad. Still, coach Brian Orser said “it was a big question” whether Hanyu would withdraw before the free skate, according to Olympic Channel.

Hanyu endured, taking out the quadruple loop that he fell on in practice but still adding 10 points to his lead from Friday’s short program. For the first time in nine seasons, Hanyu won his two Grand Prix Series qualifying events, cruising into December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

Georgian Morisi Kvitelashvili took second, followed by Japanese Kazuki Tomono.

Two other men who came to Moscow with Grand Prix Final hopes — Russian Mikhail Kolyada and Canadian Keegan Messing — struggled in Friday’s short program and could not get onto the podium, placing fourth and fifth. They won’t be at the Final, assuming Chen finishes in the top six at next week’s event in France.

Rostelecom Cup continues later Saturday with the free programs for ice dance, pairs and women, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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