Chad le Clos clips Caeleb Dressel at short course worlds

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Chad le Clos exacted some revenge against the U.S. from the last two years, edging Caeleb Dressel in the 100m butterfly at the world short-course championships in Hangzhou, China, on Thursday.

The South African le Clos held off Dressel, the new American golden boy, by .21 to win his fourth straight short-course world title in the event. Le Clos had struggled recently in the 100m fly in the longer, Olympic-sized pool, missing the final at 2017 Worlds (won by Dressel) after sharing silver with rival Michael Phelps and Laszlo Cseh in Rio.

Le Clos called Thursday the biggest race of his short-course career.

“I was anxious because I was waiting the whole day for this, the whole week and the past three months because I knew this one could come,” he said, according to FINA. “I really wanted to race Dressel. He is the best short-course yards swimmer, and I am the best meters swimmer.”

Dressel, who earned a Phelps record-tying seven golds at 2017 Worlds, may have been slowed in the 100m fly final by racing 25 minutes after his 50m freestyle semifinal. He later anchored a U.S. 4x50m mixed-gender medley relay to gold in a world-record time.

“The fly could have been better, but you just move on and learn from it,” he said, according to FINA.

Short-course worlds are held in even-numbered years in a 25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used at the Olympics. U.S. Olympic champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Lilly King are among those not competing this week.

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In other events Thursday, Lisa Bratton was the surprise 200m backstroke champion, edging the U.S.’ best long-course backstroker, Kathleen Baker, by .08. Bratton, 22, missed the Rio Olympic team by one spot at trials and ranks fourth in the U.S. in the long-course 200m back this year.

Mallory Comerford added 100m free bronze to her 200m silver from earlier in the week, breaking Manuel’s American record and giving her five medals through the meet’s first three days.

Leah Smith earned 800m free bronze, as she did at long-course worlds last year.

Worlds continue Friday, with finals streaming live on OlympicChannel.com and the Olympic Channel app.

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David Boudia adjusts diving event, goal for world championships

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David Boudia earned diving medals at his last three world championships and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but that was on the platform. He competes on the global stage on the springboard for the first time at worlds this week.

“I don’t have a lot of high hopes,” Boudia, who is still learning the springboard after switching to it in the last year, said in a phone interview from South Korea, where he begins competition Wednesday (TV schedule here). “But I think my biggest goal is to walk away with an Olympic spot.”

An Olympic spot not necessarily for himself, but for the U.S.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, and any other American will clinch 2020 Olympic quota spots by placing in the top 12 in their respective individual events this week. Those spots, and any others earned at later competitions in the next year, will be filled at trials in June in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter believes Boudia, who left the sport to sell homes in 2017 and came back and suffered a concussion off the platform in 2018, can meet his goal of making Friday’s 12-man final in Gwangju.

“He would have to dive well, but not better than he’s been diving,” she said. “His springboard is really well-timed, rhythmic, and he’s for a long time known how to go into the water without making a splash.”

But challenging Rio Olympic gold and silver medalists Cao Yuan of China and Jack Laugher of Great Britain, plus defending world champion Xie Siyi of China would be very tough.

Boudia lacks their degrees of difficulty, for now. He hopes to switch out two of his six dives before his first competition of 2020, though he could insert one of them should he make the world final.

“I need a good six months, so from August to December is when we’re kind of really drilling the fundamentals of learning those new dives and getting them perfected,” he said.

Boudia rallied to beat Rio Olympic springboard diver Michael Hixon for the title in May at nationals, where the top two per event earned world berths. But Boudia competed there with about a month of competition dive practice, about half as long as he would prefer.

“Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five,” at worlds, Boudia said in May, according to TeamUSA.org.

Boudia is the lone U.S. diver to earn an individual world medal in an Olympic diving event since 2009.

The U.S. produced breakthroughs at worlds so far. Sarah Bacon became the first American woman to earn a world title since 2005, taking the non-Olympic 1m springboard event. Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young bagged bronze in synchronized platform, ending a decade-long medal drought in any synchro event.

But Boudia’s goal must be shared among the whole team — as many top-12 finishes individually and top three in synchro events to gobble up Tokyo 2020 quota spots. The U.S. failed to qualify full teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the top 12 in the four individual Olympic events is the big deal right now,” Potter said. “Whether you are on the awards stand or not, that would be icing on the cake for a lot of these divers.”

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MORE: Diving Worlds TV Schedule

Anita Wlodarczyk, one of track and field’s most dominant, sidelined

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Poland hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the only woman to win the last five combined Olympic and world titles in a track and field event, will not go for a fourth straight world championship this fall.

Wlodarczyk had season-ending, arthroscopic left knee surgery on Monday, according to Polish media citing her coach.

Wlodarczyk, 33, has the top 15 throws on the IAAF’s all-time list, and 27 of the top 29. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history. She originally took silver at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds but was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Lysenko was stripped for doping.

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017, then suffered three losses in 2018 and two so far this year in three lower-level meets before the operation.

Americans DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. A U.S. woman has never finished in the top five of an Olympic or world championships hammer throw, which debuted at worlds in 1999 and the Olympics in 2000.

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