Nathan Adrian
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Nathan Adrian, with cancer diagnosis, surgeries behind him, has simple ask for return meet

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Nathan Adrian would like to reveal special plans for his first meet since his testicular cancer diagnosis and two surgeries, but that is not his style.

“As I was preparing for this interview, I was thinking,” Adrian said Tuesday night, “I don’t even have something cool, like Damian Lillard wearing an Oakland A’s jersey to the arena.”

No, Adrian would be fine without extra fanfare at this weekend’s Tyr Pro Swim Series in Bloomington, Ind., where he will race the 100m freestyle on Friday and the 50m freestyle on Sunday.

“My hope is that you see the same Nathan Adrian at this meet that you’re used to,” the eight-time Olympic medalist said. “I just don’t know, because I am different, whether it be from a physical perspective — I’m missing an entire organ and lymph nodes and have pretty nasty scars. … And from an emotional perspective … I was moved to tears throughout that process.”

Adrian, now 30 years old, received his first Olympic gold medal in a vacuum-sealed packet at a team meeting a decade ago (as a preliminary heat swimmer before the famous Beijing 4x100m freestyle final). His second gold came by .01 of a second in the London 2012 100m free, after which he said he almost cried in the water (but appeared to stay composed in a TV interview and on the medal stand).

His last two golds in Rio relays brought teammates to tears — Ryan Held‘s sobbing in the 4x100m free and Michael Phelps welling up after his last career race in the medley. But Adrian stayed composed on the outside, per usual, casually opening that megawatt smile throughout the pool deck. His Twitter bio reads, “I have never taken myself too seriously and never intend to. I also went to the Olympics.”

“There are a lot of people that are really nice in this sport, but I can count on one hand the people that nobody dislikes,” said NBC Sports analyst Rowdy Gaines, who is on this week’s Olympic Channel call. “Nathan is that one guy that everybody loves.

“He walks into a room, and everybody’s instantly attracted to that, that humility and that grace and that magnetism. … He has time for the 90-year-olds and the 9-year-olds, and everyone in between.”

Tyr Pro Series — Bloomington TV/Stream Schedule

Day TV Stream Time (ET)
Thursday USASwimming.org 4 p.m.
Friday Olympic Channel NBCSports.com, OlympicChannel.com 6 p.m.
NBCSN NBCSports.com 12:30 a.m.
Saturday Olympic Channel NBCSports.com, OlympicChannel.com 6 p.m.
NBCSN NBCSports.com 1 a.m.
Sunday NBCSports.com 6 p.m.

*All streams on NBCSports.com and OlympicChannel.com also available on the NBC Sports app and Olympic Channel app, respectively.

Adrian, at 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds (pre-cancer), is a giant in the sport, perhaps the greatest American sprinter in history. The last year knocked him over like a tidal wave that accompanies him off the turn of a 100m free.

“I would wake up from being asleep and just be in tears, sobbing. I didn’t know why,” he said of life post-cancer diagnosis. “Those were more powerful emotions than I think I’ve ever felt.”

Before catching it early, and undergoing two surgeries, Adrian would have considered summer 2018 his greatest adversity as a swimmer. He failed to qualify for this summer’s world championships in an individual event. He is part of the 4x100m free relay at July’s worlds in South Korea, but it’s his first major international meet without an individual swim since Beijing 2008.

“I just chalk it up to a freak accident of a year,” Adrian said, echoing teammates like Katie Ledecky, who noted nationals and the Pan Pacific Championships being two weeks apart and having a few days to acclimate to the 16-hour difference after arriving in Tokyo for Pan Pacs. Usually, nationals/trials are about a month before Olympics or worlds, and the team has a training camp near the site of international meets.

“It was super weird to see the Americans struggling at night [in finals at Pan Pacs],” said Adrian, who was slower at Pan Pacs than at nationals. “We don’t normally have those issues. It was super weird with, honestly, how slow we were.”

Adrian is adamant that this is the beginning of a full-fledged return that will not end next summer. He is amped to not only race at Indiana University this weekend, not only in Gwangju, not only at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, but also, if maybe not this summer, the new FINA Champions Series and International Swimming League in the years ahead.

What he can’t predict is what it will feel like in Bloomington on Friday, when he mounts an official race starting block for the first time since Dec. 1. He’s lost a couple of inches of vertical leap, which affects his explosiveness off starts and turns.

“It’s one thing to be in good shape. It’s a different thing to be in racing shape,” Adrian said. “Even, like, from an emotional or mental perspective, I’m not in racing shape.

“I still love swimming, but at the same time there was this threat of maybe not being able to compete for a really long time. That certainly made me think, makes me appreciate every day that I get to be in the pool.”

As for tears? “I’m not an extremely emotional guy,” he said, “but you certainly can’t rule it out.”

MORE: U.S. swimmers qualified for world championships

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Takeaways from the abbreviated 2019-20 season in ski and snowboard sports

Chris Corning
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Most ski sports don’t hold world championships in even-numbered years, but the coronavirus pandemic brought World Cup campaigns to an early conclusion two years ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

With the seasons over, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team is collecting goggles to provide to health-care workers.

Here’s what we learned in various sports:

ALPINE: Mikaela Shiffrin has company 

The U.S. ski star was on pace to win her fourth straight World Cup season trophy before her father’s sudden passing in early February. She planned to return in March with an outside chance at keeping her title, but the remaining races of the season were canceled. Italy’s Federica Brignone took the trophy, with Shiffrin second.

While Shiffrin held a substantial lead in the World Cup before her hiatus, she wasn’t as unbeatable as she was in the 2018-19 season, when she won a staggering 17 times. That’s an impossible bar to clear, but Shiffrin’s rivals made up enough ground to make future World Cup season titles and the career win record seem less certain than they seemed a year ago.

In Shiffrin’s final slalom race, a discipline in which she has rarely lost in recent years, she placed third behind Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson. Ten days before that, she was second to Vlhova, whose progress impressed Shiffrin. That marked that first time since 2014 that she lost two straight slaloms in the same season. (She was second in the 2016-17 season finale and second again in the 2017-18 season opener, then won 12 of the next 13 slaloms.)

Shiffrin’s ability to get on the podium in any race, no matter the discipline, will make her the World Cup favorite for years to come. But the big prize won’t be as easy as she has made it seem in recent years, and at 66 career victories, she’ll need time to catch Lindsey Vonn‘s women’s record of 82 wins and Ingemar Stenmark‘s overall record of 86.

CROSS-COUNTRY: Diggins, Bjornsen stay in world’s elite 

Jessie Diggins will forever be remembered for winning the 2018 Olympic team sprint with Kikkan Randall as NBC’s Chad Salmela screamed “HERE COMES DIGGINS,” but she also has a strong World Cup resume that she continues to build.

Diggins finished sixth in the season standings for the second straight year, a drop from her second-place finish in 2018 but still comfortably in the top 10. She was joined there by Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, who eighth-place season put her in the top 10 for the second time.

Bjornsen led the three-stage season opener in Ruka, Finland, after taking third in the sprint and finished fourth overall, one place ahead of Diggins, who took third in the pursuit. Diggins added four more podium finishes before the end of the season.

NORDIC COMBINED: Norway takes control 

Jarl Magnus Riiber won his second straight World Cup title at age 22, with fellow Norwegian Joergen Graabak taking a career-high second. Two more Norwegians were in the top six Jens Luraas Oftebro (fourth) and Espen Bjoernstad (sixth). 

In women’s Nordic combined, which is on track to become an Olympic event, U.S. athlete Tara Geraghty-Moats was a close second to Russia’s Stefaniya Nadymova.

READ: Geraghty-Moats has eyes on 2026

SKI JUMPING: U.S. women shut out 

A decade after leading the charge to get women’s ski jumping in the Olympics and eight years after teenager Sarah Hendrickson won the World Cup, the U.S. women went a whole season without an athlete picking up World Cup points. Hendrickson postponed her retirement but competed only on the Continental Cup this season.

U.S. women also won two of the first three ski jumping world championships Lindsey Van in 2009 and Hendrickson in 2013.

In men’s jumping, Austria’s Stefan Kraft edged out Germany’s Karl Geiger to reclaim the World Cup title he last held in 2017. Geiger’s previous career best was 10th in 2019. Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi, last year’s champion, took third.

FREESTYLE SKIING: Blunck keeps flying

U.S. halfpipe skier Aaron Blunck followed up his second straight world championship in 2019 with his first World Cup season title. Blunck won both events in the U.S. — December’s competition at Copper Mountain and February’s event at Mammoth Mountain. 

Colby Stevenson (slopestyle) and Alexander Hall (big air) were second in their events. Hall won twice, landing a switch left double 1800 to win in the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park. Stevenson also won at the X Games in Aspen.

In women’s competition, 18-year-old Marin Hamill was second in slopestyle, and Jaelin Kauf finished in the top three for the third straight year.

French skier Perrine Laffont had a dominant season in women’s moguls, winning all six regular moguls events and two of four dual moguls, to take her second straight World Cup title.

SNOWBOARDING: Corning wins in Atlanta and in World Cup

Atlanta’s SunTrust Park hosted a World Cup big air competition, with Chris Corning and Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi winning. Corning also won in Cardrona, New Zealand, and took his second big air season title to go along with slopestyle titles in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Dusty Henricksen was third in World Cup slopestyle on the strength of a win at Mammoth Mountain, followed by fellow U.S. teen Justus Henkes.

U.S. women’s snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Julia Marino won the only World Cup slopestyle events each one entered. Anderson also won the X Games slopestyle.

Olympic and world halfpipe champion Chloe Kim sat out the season after breaking an ankle in March 2019 and enrolling at Princeton.

BIATHLON: Never count out Dunklee 

Susan Dunklee hasn’t had great success on the World Cup circuit since taking a world championship silver medal in 2017, when she finished a career-best 10th in the World Cup, but she once again took world championship silver in the sprint at Antholz.

Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Boe won the men’s World Cup title despite missing two weeks after the birth of his first child, edging Frenchman Martin Fourcade by two points to spoil the seven-time World Cup champion’s final season.

Boe won his second straight World Cup title, as did Italy’s Dorothea Weirer in the women’s competition.

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Simon Ammann ramps up for one more run at Olympic ski jumping

Simon Ammann
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Simon Ammann, the Swiss ski jumper who gained fame for his resemblance to Harry Potter in 2002 and went to win all four Olympic ski jumps on North American soil this century, has walked back talk of retirement and now says he wants to continue through the 2022 Olympics.

Ammann won the normal hill and large hill in Salt Lake City in 2002. European ski jumpers don’t necessarily get attention from U.S. talk shows, but the 20-year-old Ammann had two things that set him apart. First, his wins were tremendous upsets. Second, he looked like Harry Potter.

He wound up appearing on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which makes him a wild-card connection in the Kevin Bacon game the peripatetic actor was the other guest on the show that night, and Ammann happily posed with Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick after the show.

Eight years later, Ammann duplicated the feat in Vancouver. This time, he left behind the Harry Potter glasses behind, though he made an enthusiastic walk through the mixed zone wearing comically oversized sunglasses that made him look like the Buggles’ Trevor Horn in the “Video Killed the Radio Star” video, the first music video on MTV.

In 2010, his victories weren’t quite as unexpected. He won the World Cup season title that year, sandwiched between two second-place finishes.

In 2002, on the other hand, he took off from the Olympic hill at Park City having never won a World Cup event. His two wins in the Olympics were his first two in any international competition in the FIS database.

Ammann has also had success in major competition in Asia. He took gold and silver in the 2007 world championships in Sapporo, Japan, the first two of his four career world championship medals. He also won a World Cup event in Sapporo in 2010.

In recent years, though, Ammann hasn’t been competitive on the World Cup circuit. He has been on the podium only once since 2015. Since taking his last major-event medal in 2011, his best result in the world championships was seventh place in 2013.

But he’s already shown he can, like Harry Potter, conjure a surprising performance.

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