Michael Phelps world record shattered by 19-year-old at swimming worlds

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Michael Phelps‘ world record in his signature event was emphatically wiped away by 19-year-old Hungarian Kristof Milak at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea on Wednesday.

Milak clocked 1:50.73, taking .78 off Phelps’ mark from the 2009 World Championships, where since-banned high-tech swimsuits contributed to a bevy of fast times.

“As frustrated as I am to see that record go down, I couldn’t be happier to see how he did it,” Phelps said after watching the race online, according to The New York Times. “That kid’s last 100m was incredible. He put together a great 200 fly from start to finish.”

Phelps held the world record since 2001, his streak of 18 years the longest for one men’s event in swimming history, according to Olympic historians Bill Mallon and Hilary Evans.

Milak was a backstroker until age 14, but even when he devoted to the butterfly, he focused on the 100m because he lacked strength. Milak broke out in 2018 by lowering his 200m personal best to 1:52.71, the sixth-fastest time in history behind four from Phelps and one from countryman Laszlo Cseh.

“I tried to switch off everything, and I tried not to think of swimming at all before the race,” he said. “It’s a tremendous honor to set such a great record.”

Phelps won eight combined Olympic and world titles in the 200m fly, the event where he made his Olympic debut in 2000 (placing fifth).

Phelps broke his first of 39 world records across all events in the 200m fly in March 2001 at a meet where he listened to “Perfect Gentleman” by Wyclef Jean on a CD player on repeat before races. At 15, Phelps was the youngest man to break a world record.

He won his first world title in the 200m fly, later in 2001, and lowered the world record eight times overall.

Phelps, who retired after his record 28th Olympic medal in Rio and has brushed off comeback questions for the last three years, still owns world records in the 100m butterfly and 400m individual medley.

Milak became the first man to break a Phelps world record since Milorad Cavic took the 100m fly mark at the 2009 Worlds, where Phelps snatched the record back the following day.

SWIM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results

Also Wednesday, Caeleb Dressel‘s bid for a Phelps-record-breaking eight golds at a single worlds may have ended as Australia edged the U.S. by .02 in the mixed-gender 4x100m medley. Dressel made up a 7.21-second deficit on the third leg, the butterfly, because two women and two men were scattered across the four spots for each team. But Australian Cate Campbell made up a 1.25-second deficit on Simone Manuel on anchor.

Dressel matched Phelps’ record seven golds at a single worlds two years ago with the help of two mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program in Phelps’ heyday. Dressel can still get to seven as he’s expected to race in five more finals this week, but to reach eight, he must be added to the men’s 4x200m free, which he was not part of in 2017.

Controversial Chinese Sun Yang was sixth in the 800m freestyle, a final that went off without an American for the first time in 12 years. Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, the Olympic 1500m champion, prevailed by 2.01 seconds in 7:39.27.

Sun won the 800m in 2011, 2013 and 2015 but has in recent years shifted toward the 200m and 400m frees, which he won earlier this week and faced podium protests from Australian and British medalists. The 800m marked the last individual event for Sun at this meet.

Italian Federica Pellegrini earned her fourth world title in the 200m free and her eight straight medal dating to 2005. Pellegrini, a 30-year-old who next year will be older than any individual female Olympic swimming champion, surged past 18-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus in the last 50 meters to win by .44 in 1:54.22.

Two years ago, Pellegrini handed Katie Ledecky her first major international final loss in any individual event. Ledecky, plus medal contenders Emma McKeon of Australia and Taylor Ruck of Canada, withdrew before Tuesday’s 200m free heats, with Ledecky and McKeon citing illness. Ledecky was still under the weather on Wednesday, dampening her hopes of starting her last two events of the meet — Thursday’s 4x200m free and the 800m free Friday and Saturday.

Brit Adam Peaty completed a sweep of the 50m and 100m breaststrokes for a third straight worlds, clocking 26.06 seconds. Peaty owns the seven fastest times in history in the non-Olympic event, including the world record of 25.95.

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Carreira, Ponomarenko understand the depth of U.S. ice dance at nationals

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GREENSBORO, N.C. Heading into the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro this week, up-and-coming ice dancers Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko focused on their “quads” not four-revolution jumps, but still pretty tough to execute.

“(Our coaches) have us doing double run-through weeks, triple run-throughs, even quadruple run-throughs, to make sure we’re fully ready,” Carreira said. “We’re drilling a lot more, so at nationals we go in 100 percent confident.”

Pasquale Camerlengo, who trains the team along with primary coach Igor Shpilband, agreed that the run-up to Greensboro has been grueling for the skaters from Novi, Mich.

“We always plan a week we call the quads, performing (programs) four times,” Camerlengo said. “We’re trying to make them ready physically and work their stamina, to handle their programs in competition, which is a little bit different than in practice. Physically, they’re ready for it.”

Tough practices are just one component of what’s been a challenging but productive sophomore senior season for the two-time world junior medalists, fifth in the U.S. in 2019.

Thus far, they’ve competed at six international competitions, stretching from Lake Placid, N.Y., in August to NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan, in late November. Six is a lot, considering other top teams they’ll compete against in Greensboro have competed three to five times so far this season.

“Igor wants to get more experience at the senior level, and also more world points,” Carreira, 19, said. “For that we have to compete. We get out there and compete as much as we can, so our programs feel more trained.”

Those programs – a rhythm dance to Cole Porter’s “It’s Too Darn Hot” and flamenco free dance to “Farrucas” – stretch their abilities far more than last season’s routines. Competing every two weeks or so left little time to make adjustments, so the past six weeks were the key to their preparation for Greensboro.

“We pushed a lot of changes we needed to make until after NHK, to smooth out the programs and really train them,” Ponomarenko, 19, said.

He added that the grueling first half of 2019-20 was a necessary ice dance rite of passage.

“It’s very different from our first season. We really didn’t know what to expect. Now we kind of know where we’re at and how we can improve. We definitely feel the sophomore slump this year, but we just want to compete and keep putting our good performances.”

On paper, Carreira and Ponomarenko’s 2018 Grand Prix results – which included a bronze medal at Rostelecom Cup – look more impressive than the sixth-place finishes they earned at Skate America and NHK this season. But the skaters don’t think the placements tell the full story.

“Last season, results-wise, it might have looked better, because a lot of (top) teams took the Grand Prix season off last season,” Carreira said. “This season, I feel our programs are more difficult and we’re skating better. We want to improve our consistency so that we can compete with the top teams.”

It doesn’t take much to lose points in an ice dance routine, especially on step sequences and “twizzles,” a series of fast rotations moving across the ice. A few slips here – including a small mistake on their twizzles in the rhythm dance at Skate America – can easily drop teams out of the top group.

“They always have the feeling they could do more,” Camerlengo said. “But the season is a progression. They’re getting better and better. That’s the goal, to have them (be) more reliable.”

“They need to do what they’re capable of,” he added. “They just have to do what they’ve learned, with no fear, and just go for it.”

In Greensboro, Carreira and Ponomarenko will have to throw caution to the wind to grab one of the three U.S. ice dance spots at the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal this March.

With Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, very likely battling for gold, the Michigan skaters have their sights set on bronze. It’s a herculean task, considering the reigning U.S. bronze medalists, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season and notched career-best scores at Skate Canada this fall.

All three of those teams train together in Montreal. 

But Carreira and Ponomarenko think their programs, strengthened by adjustments and all of those quadruple run-throughs, give them a fighting chance.

“(A bronze medal) is more realistic now than last season,” Carreira said.

“I believe we’ve really grown as skaters,” Ponomarenko said. “Our programs are much more difficult, which has really helped us improve. I believe the podium at nationals is very reasonable. It could be achieved with some good skating.”

Other teams could be in the mix. Last season, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter placed a strong fourth, but injuries forced them to withdraw from one of their Grand Prix events this fall. A new pairing, Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, has gelled quickly, winning two medals at Challenger Series international events.

“The level of U.S. ice dance level is high, the depth in the U.S. is really the top worldwide,” Camerlengo said. “But the podium, it is reasonable for Christina and Anthony. They have been working hard and they have a very good level to fight for the medal. We’ll see how they will perform here. They’re ready for it.”

Not all of the team’s challenges are on the ice. The Montreal-born Carreira – who has lived and trained in Novi since she was 13 – faces hurdles gaining her U.S. citizenship, without which the couple cannot compete at the Olympics. Last May, she petitioned U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be deemed an “alien with extraordinary ability” under the immigration code, which would help smooth the way for legal permanent residency status. She was denied and filed suit against the USCIS, later dropping the action.

Carreira is still working to achieve a pathway to U.S. citizenship and prefers not to discuss the issue.

“I can’t really say anything,” she said. “We’re working on it, we’re hoping for the best.”

Citizenship issues never entered the skaters’ minds when they teamed up in the spring of 2014. Ponomarenko and his parents, 1988 Olympic ice dance champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, had long admired Carreira’s skating. When he and his former partner Sarah Feng split after the 2014 U.S. Championships, he tried out with Carreira in Novi.

“We really worked well together from the beginning,” Ponomarenko said. “I had wanted to skate with Christina for a really long time even before getting together, so it was no-brainer. The bump in the road (citizenship) can be worked through.”

“There were so many good factors it would be, I think, stupid to let something that can be fixed get in the way of (our partnership),” Carreira said. “We didn’t even think about it.”

The ice dance competition in Greensboro kicks off with the rhythm dance on Friday afternoon, with medalists decided with the free dance on Saturday night.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Coronavirus forces Olympic soccer and boxing qualifiers to move

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Olympic qualifying events in two sports were moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday because of an outbreak of a deadly viral illness.

A four-nation Asian qualifying group for the women’s soccer tournament was switched from the city at the center of the health scare to Nanjing.

The Asia-Oceania boxing qualifying tournament scheduled for Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan was cancelled. No new plans were announced.

The decisions followed Chinese health authorities telling people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

The Asian Football Confederation said the round-robin group — featuring host China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand — will be played on Feb. 3-9, retaining the same dates, in Nanjing.

More than 500 people have been infected and at least 17 killed since the outbreak emerged last month. The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. All involve people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

In the soccer qualifiers in China, two teams advance to a four-nation playoff round in March. That will decide which two teams from Asia join host Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

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