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Five thoughts off Pan Pacific Swimming Championships

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Five thoughts off the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, which wrap up with the open-water events Tuesday …

1. Katie Ledecky among swimmers affected by travel
Ledecky extended her distance dominance to six years — earning three golds, a silver and a bronze — but after each of her individual finals sessions expressed either dissatisfaction with her race times or difficulty adjusting to the 16-hour time difference from their California training camp.

Ledecky said the team arrived in Japan on Sunday, four days before the meet began, and the acclimation was tougher than anticipated.

She was notably beaten by younger swimmers for the first time in the 200m free, challenged for the first time in five years in the 400m free and 18 seconds slower than her world record in the 1500m free.

Her best times this year all came before the year’s major international meet (a first).

Still, Ledecky’s wins in the 400m, 800m and 1500m frees came in times faster than any swimmer in history, aside from Ledecky. Judged by anybody else’s standard, Ledecky is still recording unheard-of performances.

A storyline to follow the next two years: Canadian Taylor Ruck, the 200m free winner, is set to enroll at Stanford, where Ledecky trains.

2. Caeleb Dressel’s off-summer not a major concern
A reminder of just how great Dressel was in 2017:

50m Freestyle: lowers PB by .38, fastest in the world by .12
100m Freestyle: lowers PB by .84, fastest in the world by .48
100m Butterfly: lowers PB by 2.36, fastest in the world by .76

If Dressel went on to drop his times by about half as much in 2018 and beyond, he would break all three world records (each set in the high-tech suit era).

The phrase “tied Michael Phelps‘ record” was attached to Dressel after his seven golds at 2017 Worlds. He had another record-breaking NCAA season at the University of Florida and turned professional in the spring.

Nationals and Pan Pacs did not go as planned. After his last swim in Tokyo, Dressel spoke openly for the first time about a late June motorcycle accident he said was caused by a driver pulling out in front of him that “maybe, maybe didn’t interfere with” his training.

Dressel did not improve any of his personal bests this summer (didn’t come within a half-second of them) and ranks Nos. 8 and 11 in the world this year in the 50m and 100m frees.

Still, Dressel is No. 1 in the world in the 100m fly and qualified for all three events for 2019 Worlds. He’s just 21 years old, younger than Phelps was at his peak. Plus not knowing how much the accident affected him, it’s no time for major panic.

3. Chase Kalisz is the world’s best swimmer
Kalisz was asked before nationals what was the more impressive feat — sweeping the individual medleys at a world championships or winning seven total gold medals at worlds.

“I just won two races,” Kalisz said then. “Caeleb won seven. So I’m going to give it to him.”

Fair enough. But Kalisz finished Pan Pacs as the only man in the world to be ranked No. 1 in multiple Olympic races. Give him his due.

Kalisz swept the 200m and 400m IMs, as he did at 2017 Worlds, soundly beating his biggest rivals, Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto, in their home country.

Hagino and Seto may have been training to peak at the Asian Games later this month, but for now Kalisz is the unquestioned king. While many swimmers struggled adapting to Tokyo, Kalisz went faster in both events than he did at nationals and set a personal best in the 200m IM.

Kalisz dominates the races that determine the world’s best all-around swimmer. That focus means he doesn’t get the relay opportunities like Dressel. Of Dressel’s seven golds in 2017, four came in relays.

4. Japan is emerging for Tokyo 2020
Rikako Ikee, 18, is the fastest female 100m butterflier this year, ahead of Olympic and world champion and world-record holder Sarah Sjöström.

Yui Ohashi, 22, leads both IMs in an off-year for Olympic and world champion and world-record holder Katinka Hosszu.

Japan would earn another nine individual silver and bronze medals right now if they were handed out based on fastest times in the world in Olympic events this year, according to FINA. And that’s with the Asian Games yet to take place.

That’s double the amount of individual swimming medals Japan earned at the Rio Olympics or the 2017 World Championships. It would be the most individual swimming medals earned by any nation other than the U.S. and Australia since East Germany at the 1988 Seoul Games.

5. Notable U.S. absences for 2019 World Championships
The following U.S. swimmers won’t be at 2019 Worlds in South Korea: 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte (suspended), four-time 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin, seven-time Olympic medalist Dana Vollmer, 2000 and 2016 Olympic 50m free champ Anthony Ervin, Olympic 100m breast bronze medalist Cody Miller, world 200m breast silver medalist Bethany Galat, world 100m breast silver medalist Kevin Cordes and world 200m IM bronze medalist Madisyn Cox (suspended).

Most of those were decided before or during nationals two weeks ago.

Moreover, five-time Olympic champ Nathan Adrian and Olympic 200m free bronze medalist Conor Dwyer qualified strictly in relays. No individual events for them.

These swimmers can take note of the past.

In 2010, Matt Grevers failed to qualify for 2011 Worlds. He still made the 2012 Olympic team and earned 100m back gold in London.

Michael Phelps didn’t compete at 2015 Worlds due to suspension (though he did qualify for that team). He came back to close his career with five golds in Rio.

The full list of U.S. qualifiers for worlds is here.

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MORE: Caeleb Dressel ‘lucky’ after motorcycle incident

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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MORE: Olympic champions, world-record holder to miss USATF Outdoor Champs