Lilly King completes sweep of Yuliya Efimova at FINA Champions Series

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Lilly King is the fastest breaststroker going into next month’s world championships. She can let her swimming do the talking when it comes to Russian rival Yuliya Efimova.

King beat Efimova three times in two nights at the FINA Champions Series stop in Indianapolis, wrapping up her breaststroke sweep in the 100m on Saturday. It marked their first races against each other since the 2017 World Championships.

King clocked 1:05.13 to hold off Efimova by .38 in the four-swimmer race.

King lowered her own fastest time in the world this year. She now owns the fastest times of 2019 in the 50m, 100m and 200m breasts among swimmers going to worlds. (The only woman with a faster breaststroke is training partner Annie Lazor, who did not qualify for worlds last summer, in the 200m.)

King and Efimova traded victories (and finger wags) at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, with Efimova excelling at 200m. Now it appears King, who at 22 is five years younger than Efimova, is really coming into her own ahead of worlds in South Korea in late July.

Full FINA Champions Series results are here.

In other events Saturday, Jacob Pebley scored a rare win over Olympic champion Ryan Murphy in the 200m backstroke. Pebley, who took second to Murphy at nationals in 2016, 2017 and 2018, touched in 1:56.35 and .16 ahead of Murphy. Russian Yevgeny Rylov, who was not in Indianapolis, remains far and away the fastest in the world this year at 1:54.00.

Hali Flickinger swam the world’s fastest 200m butterfly of 2019, a 2:06.40 to crush Katinka Hosszu by 1.47 seconds. Flickinger was seventh in Rio and missed the 2017 World final, but she was second-fastest in the world in 2018 and appears destined for her first individual medal next month.

The U.S. last put a woman on the Olympic 200m fly podium in 2000 (Misty Hyman, gold) and last had a world champion in 1991 (Summer Sanders), its longest droughts for any pool event in both respects.

Hosszu was later scared in one of her trademark events, the 200m individual medley. The Olympic and world champion made up a 1.29-second deficit to Canadian Sydney Pickrem in the last 50 meters of freestyle. Hosszu’s time, 2:08.50, is the world’s fastest in 2019. Hosszu will try to sweep the IMs at a fourth straight worlds next month.

Dane Pernille Blume won a loaded women’s 50m freestyle. The Rio Olympic champion finished in 24.08, topping world-record holder Sarah Sjöström (24.18) and London Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo (24.56). Sjöström remains fastest in the world this year with a 23.91.

Russian Anton Chupkov prevailed in a rematch of the 2016 Olympic medalists in the 200m breast. He clocked 2:08.98, which was 1.04 seconds faster than surprise Rio gold medalist Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan and 2.81 better than Josh Prenot. Chupkov has been the fastest in the world this year and last year.

The Tyr Pro Swim Series resumes with the last meet before worlds in two weeks in Clovis, Calif.

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Tokyo Olympics have 3 months to decide virus impact, senior IOC member says

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TOKYO (AP) — Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the IOC, estimates there’s a three-month window to decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, which are being threatened by the fast-spreading virus from China.

Pound, in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, did not sound alarmist. But he did speak frankly about the risks facing the Olympics, which open July 24.

Pound has been an International Olympic Committee member since 1978, 13 years longer than current President Thomas Bach.

“You could certainly go to two months out if you had to,” Pound said, which would mean putting off a decision until late May and hoping the virus is under control. “A lot of things have to start happening. You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels, The media folks will be in there building their studios.”

And if it got to the point of not going ahead, Pound speculated “you’re probably looking at a cancellation.”

“This is the new war and you have to face it. In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo, or not?’”

China on Tuesday reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths, 68 of them in the central city of Wuhan, where the epidemic was first detected in December.

The updates bring mainland China’s totals to 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths. South Korea now has the second-most cases in the world with 977, including 10 deaths.

Clusters of the illness are now appearing in the Middle East and Europe. This could signal a new stage in the spread of the virus with four deaths reported in Japan.

Pound encouraged athletes to keep training. About 11,000 are expected for the Olympics, and another 4,400 for the Paralympics, which open on Aug. 25.

“As far as we all know you’re going to be in Tokyo,” Pound said. “All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual. So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.”

The modern Olympics dating from 1896 have only been cancelled during wartime, and faced boycotts in 1976 in Montreal, in 1980 in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles — all in Pound’s memory.

The Olympics in 1940 were to be in Tokyo, but were called off because of Japan’s war with China and World War II.

Pound called uncertainty a major problem and repeated the IOC’s stance — that it’s depending on consultations with the World Health Organization, a United Nations body, to make any move. So far, the games are on.

“It’s a big, big, big decision and you just can’t take it until you have reliable facts on which to base it,” Pound said.

He said whatever advice the IOC is now getting, “it doesn’t call for cancellation or postponement of the Olympics. You just don’t postpone something on the size and scale of the Olympics. There’s so many moving parts, so many countries and different seasons, and competitive seasons, and television seasons. You can’t just say, we’ll do it in October.”

If changes have to be made, Pound said every option faced obstacles.

Pound said moving to another city seemed unlikely.

“To move the place is difficult because there are few places in the world that could think of gearing up facilities in that short time to put something on,” Pound said.

London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has suggested the British capital as an alternative. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike suggested that was an inappropriate offer, using the virus as political campaign fodder.

Pound said he would not favor a dispersal of events over various venues because that wouldn’t “constitute an Olympic Games. You’d end up with a series of world championships.”

He said it would be very difficult to spread around all these sports in a 17-day period with only a few month’s notice.

Staying in Tokyo but moving it back a few months would be unlikely to satisfy North American broadcasters, whose schedules are full in the fall with American football, college football, European soccer, basketball, baseball, and ice hockey. Of course, other world broadcasters also have jammed schedules.

“It would be tough to get the kind of blanket coverage that people expect around the Olympic Games,” Pound said. “It’s certainly tougher than it would have been in 1964 in Tokyo when you didn’t have the saturation sports schedule on television.”

How about delaying for a year, but staying in Tokyo? Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, although a national audit board says the country is spending twice that much.

“Then you have to ask if you can hold the bubble together for an extra year,” Pound said. “Then of course you have to fit all of this into the entire international sports schedule.”

Pound said the IOC has been building up an “emergency fund” for such circumstances, reported to be about $1 billion. That could fund international sports federations who depend on income from the IOC to operate — and the IOC itself.

“This would be what you normally call a force majeure,” said Pound, a Canadian lawyer by training, using the legal phrase for “unforeseeable circumstances.”

“It’s not an insurable risk and it’s not one that can be attributed to one or the other of the parties. So everybody takes their lumps. There would be a lack of revenue on the Olympic Movement side.”

He said broadcasters may have their own insurance that would “mitigate some of the losses.”

About 73% of the IOC’s $5.7 billion income in a four-year Olympic cycle is from broadcast rights.

Pound said the future of the Tokyo Games was largely out of the IOC’s hands, depending on the virus and if it abets.

“If it gets to be something like the Spanish Flu,” Pound said, referring to a deadly pandemic early in the 20th century that killed millions. “At that level of lethality, then everybody’s got to take their medicine.”

Six months to Tokyo Paralympics: Ten athletes to watch

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Ten Paralympic hopefuls to watch, six months out from the Tokyo Games Opening Ceremony on Aug. 25 …

Chuck Aoki (Rugby)
The U.S.’ top scorer, but still looking for a Paralympic title after bronze and silver medals in 2012 and 2016. Aoki’s father’s family is from Japan, immigrating to the U.S. in the early 1900s. His great-grandparents and grandparents were placed in World War II internment camps. Aoki switched from wheelchair basketball to rugby after seeing the 2005 Oscar-nominated documentary “Murderball.” He has been on the national team since 2009.

Shingo Kunieda (Tennis)
Japan is known for its tennis players (Naomi OsakaKei Nishikori), but Kunieda is by far the most accomplished. He owns a wheelchair record 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 21 Grand Slam doubles titles and three Paralympic gold medals. Japan earned 24 medals at the Rio Paralympics, but they were all silver or bronze.

Oksana Masters (Cycling)
Already a Paralympic rowing and Nordic skiing medalist, Masters bids for a second Games to add a road cycling medal to her haul. In Rio, she placed fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial. At her last Paralympics in PyeongChang, Masters came back from a fractured right elbow to earn five medals, including two golds.

Evan Medell (Taekwondo)
The U.S. has a medal contender in taekwondo, which debuted as an Olympic medal sport in 2000 and is on the Paralympic program for the first time in Tokyo. Medell, a 22-year-old licensed diesel mechanic, is ranked No. 1 in the world in the K44 +75kg division after 2019 titles at the European and Parapan American Championships.

Morteza Mehrzad (Volleyball)
Iran dominates men’s sitting volleyball. None of its players were more noticeable in Rio than the 8-foot, 1-inch Mehrzad, who led the team in scoring in the gold-medal match. Mehrzad was also part of Iran’s 2018 World title team, a signal that he could return for another Paralympics in Tokyo.

Becca Meyers (Swimming)
Earned three golds and one silver in individual events at the Rio Games, plus broke three world records. Meyers followed that with medals across three different strokes (plus the individual medley) between the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. She has trained at both the North Baltimore Aquatic Club and the Nation’s Capital Swim Club, which produced Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, respectively.

Becca Murray (Basketball)
The leading scorer on the U.S.’ Rio Paralympic champion team returned to the program in 2019 after two years away. Murray, who debuted at the Paralympics in 2008 at age 18 (and earned gold), looks to help the U.S. women bounce back from a 2018 World Championship sixth-place finish without her.

Daniel Romanchuk (Track and Field)
Eliminated in the heats of all his Rio Paralympic events as an 18-year-old. Now Romanchuk is a marathon superstar, winning the wheelchair division in Boston, Chicago, London and New York City in 2019. The University of Illinois product is expected to enter a range of distances in Tokyo, given he lowered 800m and 5000m world records on the track in his classification.

Allysa Seely (Triathlon)
Led a U.S. medals sweep in her classification in triathlon’s Paralympic debut in Rio. Followed with world championships medals in 2017 (silver), 2018 (gold in an undefeated season) and 2019 (silver).

Ben Thompson (Archery)
Upset the world No. 1 compound archer to win the world title in 2019. Ended the season with a No. 1 world ranking and Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. Thompson competed in recent years with sister-in-law Megan‘s name on his arrow wraps. Megan fought breast cancer for years before her death in November as he was en route to the Team USA Awards.

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