Lilly King completes sweep of Yuliya Efimova at FINA Champions Series

Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Japan’s Olympic champion swimmer to miss world champs

Brian Orser reveals Hanyu’s, Medvedeva’s, and Brown’s Grand Prix plans

Yuzuru Hanyu
Getty
Leave a comment

Over the past decade, the Toronto club where Brian Orser coached South Korea’s Yuna Kim to the 2010 Olympic title has become such an attraction for top figure skaters from around the globe that it could add a word to a name that already is a mouthful.

You could call it the Toronto International Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

But its reach now is limited by the deadly virus pandemic that has effectively frozen out the elite athletes from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Poland who train at the Cricket Club.

That situation won’t change quickly, even with the International Skating Union having announced Monday its plans to proceed with a live format for the international Grand Prix Series. This fall, it will become a series of six essentially domestic competitions scheduled to begin with Skate America Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas.

If they take place.

“As soon as the skaters can come back, it will be full steam ahead… to where, we don’t know,” Orser said via telephone Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains in Japan. Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is in Russia, four-time national champion Cha Jun-Hwan in South Korea, and two-time national champion Yekaterina Kurakova in Poland.

“We would like for them all to come back, but with the Canadian travel restrictions in place until at least Aug. 21, we can’t guarantee approval to get them in, and they would have a 14-day quarantine here if they do get in,” Tracy Wilson, who coaches with Orser, said via telephone Wednesday. “Right now, they are all training at home, and that’s OK.

“The situation is different for each one. The Japanese federation may need Yuzu to do the Grand Prix in Japan, and at this point he would face quarantine entering Canada and returning to Japan.

“For Yevgenia, as soon as she does the Russian test skates (scheduled for early September), we will re-evaluate her situation.”

Orser said he has been doing three video coaching sessions a week with Medvedeva, with whom he is in his third season as coach. Medvedeva, who left Russia for Canada after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, also is currently getting help from coach Elena Buyanova at the CSKA rink in Moscow.

“She (Medvedeva) looks way ahead of where she was at this point last year,” Orser said.

MORE: Looking back at Yuna Kim’s 10-year gold medal anniversary

Orser also has been having live remote sessions with Cha and Kurakova, and they are also sending videos to him. The only skater he has not seen is Hanyu.

“That’s normal when he is back in Japan,” Orser said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

How long Hanyu stays in Japan may depend on travel restrictions being loosened in both his homeland and Canada.

“I would like to get them all back, and they need to come back,” Orser said. “But facing a double quarantine is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Only two of the Cricket Club’s international skaters, 2014 Olympian Jason Brown of suburban Chicago and Yi Zhu of Los Angeles (who represents China), have come back to Toronto after leaving in late winter.

It took Brown two tries to get back across the border because of issues with the paperwork necessary for Canada to consider it essential he be allowed to enter. Orser and Wilson want to be sure any skaters coming from Asia and Europe are admitted on the first try.

From April to July, until skaters could get back on the ice in their various homelands, Brown led Thursday off-ice fitness classes via Zoom, with Medvedeva, Cha and Kurakova taking part.

“It was such a fun way to stay connected and still ‘train’ together while we were oceans apart,” Brown said in a Wednesday text message.

Orser and Wilson will recommend that all the foreign skaters training at the Cricket Club try to compete at Skate Canada, scheduled the last weekend of October at a 9,500-seat arena in Ottawa. Wilson thought if the event cannot have spectators, it might be moved to a smaller facility, possibly in a different city.

“All plans are in the early stages,” Skate Canada spokesperson Emma Bowie said in an email.

Grand Prix assignments have not yet been made.

Whether Brown picks Skate Canada over Skate America – if he gets a choice – could depend on when (and if) the Canadian government shortens quarantine periods for travelers from the United States.

“I know that we are in such unprecedented and uncertain times, so I love seeing the ISU being creative and trying to find a way to hold skating events this year,” Brown wrote. “While a lot can happen before October, if it’s safe to do so, I’ll be ready and eager to take part in any events that I can.”

The ISU said it wants to have the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, whether it takes place on its original dates (Dec. 10-13) or early in 2021. The competition is to be used as a test event of the skating venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There are no details yet on qualification for the final, which usually is determined by points for placements at the six “regular season” events of the series, held in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan. The top six in each of the sport’s four disciplines make the Final.

In the past, the highest-ranked skaters could compete in up to two Grand Prix events, but ISU Vice-President Alexander Lakernik of Russia said in a Tuesday email that everyone would be limited to one event this year.

Because the Final presumably would have much more of an international field than the six other events, staging it is infinitely more problematic because of travel involved.

“We want what’s best for the sport,” Wilson said. “We have to get these kids out there doing programs, to get them on TV. [Note: An NBC spokesman said the network would, as planned, provide coverage of the Grand Prix, with details forthcoming.] In terms of competition, we’re up for anything.

“For me, though, with all the restrictions, there is no way they will be able to run a fair qualification for the Grand Prix Final. You’ve got to reinvent yourself and make it something else – if you are able to have it at all.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Nathan Chen is surprised, grateful and posing questions about figure skating’s restart

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Steven Nyman, top U.S. downhiller, faces another obstacle

Steven Nyman
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Steven Nyman, the active U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins, tore his right Achilles in a training crash and had surgery earlier this week in Mt. Hood, Ore.

“I am moving forward,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “I’ve been through this before and have full intention to comeback [sic] and compete through the next Olympics.”

Nyman raced in three Olympics and owns three World Cup downhill victories.

He turns 40 during the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, when he will be three and a half years older than any previous U.S. Olympic Alpine skier.

Nyman missed the PyeongChang Olympics after a pair of major injuries: blowing out his left knee in a January 2017 downhill race crash and tearing his right ACL in downhill training in January 2018. He also tore his left Achilles in 2011.

He raced the last two seasons with a best World Cup finish of fifth in Val Gardena, Italy, site of all of his World Cup wins in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

The U.S. men’s program is in the midst of its longest World Cup downhill victory and podium droughts this millennium — none since Travis Ganong‘s win in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2017.

MORE: Alpine skiing World Cup plans earlier season start with fewer fans

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!