Getty Images

U.S. men hold small edge in swimming world rankings

Leave a comment

The U.S. still reigns in men’s swimming, but the world rankings show the field is as diverse as ever and much tighter than on the women’s side, where there are U.S. medal contenders in every event.

U.S. men would earn four golds and eight medals overall from the 14 individual Olympic events based on fastest times from 2018 across all competitions. That’s one more gold and two more total medals than the second-place nations. It’s close.

Japan, ramping up to host the Olympics in two years, is second in the world in men ranked in the top three (six) and top five (11 to the U.S.’ 14) of Olympic events.

The biggest meet remaining on the calendar, the Asian Games, finished last week. Every swimming power has had its major international meet of the year among the Commonwealth Games in April and the European Championships, Pan Pacific Championships and Asian Games this month.

Gone for now are the days of the U.S. and Australia dominating and American superstars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte collecting four or five individual gold medals in Olympic events.

Caeleb Dressel could succeed Phelps and Lochte. He did earn a Phelps record-tying seven golds at the 2017 Worlds, including three in individual Olympic events. This year, Dressel ranks Nos. 1, 8 and 12 in those events (100m butterfly, 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle), although he did his job in qualifying for all three for the 2019 Worlds after a whirlwind spring turning professional.

The other Americans on top of the rankings are Ryan Murphy (100m back), who swept the backstrokes in Rio, and Chase Kalisz, who leads both individual medleys after sweeping them at the 2017 Worlds. No doubt Kalisz is the world’s best all-around swimmer.

But look around the world.

Lithuania, which has never put a man in the top six of an Olympic swimming event, has the world’s fastest 200m freestyler. Germany, which last earned Olympic men’s swimming gold as West Germany, and Ukraine, with no Olympic golds, have world leaders in distance freestyles.

Great Britain has two individual men’s medals total from the last three Olympics. But on 2018 times, it would earn two golds and two silvers, shared among four different swimmers. Adam Peaty has company in the British camp.

Russia last earned an Olympic men’s swimming gold in 1996, but it now has men in three different strokes atop world rankings.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Sun Yang requests second anthem after flags fall at Asian Games

2018 Swimming World Rankings — Men
50m Freestyle

1. Ben Proud (GBR) — 21.11
2. Bruno Fratus (BRA) — 21.35
3. Andrea Vergani (ITA) — 21.37
4. Kristian Gkolomeev (GRE) — 21.44
4. Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 21.44

100m Freestyle
1. Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 47.75
2. Katsumi Nakamura (JPN) — 47.87
3. Alessandro Miressi (ITA) — 47.92
4. Pedro Spajari (BRA) — 47.95
5. Gabriel Santos (BRA) — 47.98

200m Freestyle
1. Danas Rapsys (LTU) — 1:45.12
2. Duncan Scott (GBR) — 1:45.34
3. Sun Yang (CHN) — 1:45.43
4. Kyle Chalmers (AUS) — 1:45.56
5. Townley Haas (USA) — 1:45.56

400m Freestyle
1. Sun Yang (CHN) — 3:42.92
2. Mack Horton (AUS) — 3:43.76
2. Jack McLoughlin (AUS) — 3:44.20
4. Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) — 3:45.18
5. Zane Grothe (USA) — 3:45.32
5. James Guy (GBR) — 3:45.32

800m Freestyle
1. Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) — 7:42.96
2. Zane Grothe (USA) — 7:43.74
3. Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) — 7:45.12
4. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) — 7:45.19
5. Florian Wellbrock (GER) — 7:45.60

1500m Freestyle
1. Florian Wellbrock (GER) — 14:36.15
2. Mykhailo Romanchuk (UKR) — 14:36.88
3. Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) — 14:42.85
4. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) — 14:46.93
5. Jack McLoughlin (AUS) — 14:47.09

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 51.94
2. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 52.34
3. Kliment Kolensikov (RUS) — 52.51
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 52.53
5. Matt Grevers (USA) — 52.55

200m Backstroke
1. Evgeny Rylov (RUS) — 1:53.36
2. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 1:53.57
3. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 1:53.99
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 1:55.11
5. Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 1:55.40

100m Breaststroke
1. Adam Peaty (GBR) — 57.10
2. James Wilby (GBR) — 58.64
3. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) — 58.78
4. Anton Chupkov (RUS) — 59.06
5. Arno Kamminga (NED) — 59.14
5. Ross Murdoch (GBR) — 59.14

200m Breaststroke
1. Anton Chupkov (RUS) — 2:06.80
2. Josh Prenot (USA) — 2:07.28
3. Ippei Watanabe (JPN) — 2:07.56
4. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) — 2:07.81
5. Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS) — 2:07.89

100m Butterfly
1. Caeleb Dressel (USA) — 50.50
2. Piero Codia (ITA) — 50.64
3. Chad le Clos (RSA) — 50.65
4. Jack Conger (USA) — 51.00
5. Joseph Schooling (SIN) — 51.04

200m Butterfly
1. Kristof Milak (HUN) — 1:52.71
2. Nao Horomura (JPN) — 1:53.79
3. Chad le Clos (RSA) — 1:54.00
4. Tamas Kenderesi (HUN) — 1:54.14
5. Daiya Seto (JPN) — 1:54.34

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz (USA) — 1:55.40
2. Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 1:56.21
3. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) — 1:56.37
4. Wang Shun (CHN) — 1:56.52
5. Philip Heintz (GER) — 1:56.67

400m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz (USA) — 4:07.95
2. Daiya Seto (JPN) — 4:08.79
3. Jay Litherland (USA) — 4:10.21
4. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) — 4:10.30
5. David Verraszto (HUN) — 4:10.65

2021 Burton U.S. Open snowboarding event canceled

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

MORE: Takeaways from abbreviated 2019-20 winter sports season

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Kara Eaker
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Laurie Hernandez, Maggie Haney react to coach’s suspension