Caeleb Dressel repeats as 100m freestyle champ at swim worlds

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Caeleb Dressel repeated as 100m freestyle world champion, clocking the second-fastest time in history on Thursday.

Dressel earned his third gold in four events so far in Gwangju, South Korea, touching in 46.96 seconds, just .05 off Brazilian Cesar Cielo‘s world record from the 2009 Worlds. Frenchman Alain Bernard also swam 46.94 in 2009, but that time was not recognized because his swimsuit was not approved.

“I know I was just off the world record, but really the goal was just to swim the best race that I could, and if that was the time I got tonight, I was happy,” Dressel said. “I’m going to talk to [coach Gregg] Troy, and I guarantee you the first thing he’s going to say is what we could have done better.”

Dressel prevailed by .12 over Australian Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, who was absent from Dressel’s 2017 World Championships breakout due to heart surgery.

“I consider him a better 100m freestyler,” Dressel said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA of Chalmers. “I look up to him in that aspect.”

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Dressel previously won the 50m butterfly and was part of the victorious U.S. men’s 4x100m free this week. He also earned silver with the mixed-gender 4x100m medley.

Dressel won a Michael Phelps-record-tying seven golds at the 2017 Worlds, albeit two were in mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program in Phelps’ era. Dressel can still win seven this week if he runs the table from here on out, and possibly eight if he’s added to the 4x200m free relay.

If Dressel is added to that relay, he could swim three events both on Friday night and Saturday night. In all of Phelps’ Olympics, he never swam three times in one session.

In other events Thursday, Katie Ledecky returned from illness to help the U.S. go under the world record in the 4x200m free relay. Problem is, Australia went even faster to win. More on Ledecky and that event here.

American Chase Kalisz took bronze in the 200m individual medley, .64 of a second behind Japanese rival Daiya Seto.

It marked the first time a non-American won the event at an Olympics or worlds since 2001, snapping a streak of 12 straight titles among Phelps (seven), Ryan Lochte (four) and Kalisz (one). Kalisz, who swept the IMs at 2017 Worlds, has the 400m IM later this week.

“This is when I operate at my best, when I’m from a behind position,” Kalisz said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’ll be watching this race a few times next year.”

Hungarian Boglarka Kapas zoomed past Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters of the 200m butterfly.

Kapas kept the U.S. from ending a world title drought in the event dating to Summer Sanders‘ gold in 1991. Kapas clocked 2:06.78, slower than silver medalist Flickinger and bronze medalist Drabot’s leading semifinal times, and won by .17.

Australian Matthew Wilson tied the 200m breaststroke world record in the semifinals, clocking 2:06.67, two lanes across from the man whose mark he matched, Japanese Ippei Watanabe. They’ll be in Friday’s final, but Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot failed to advance.

Olympic and world 100m breaststroke champion Lilly King was absent from the women’s 200m semifinals because of a preliminary heat DQ.

American Olivia Smoliga won the 50m backstroke, which is not an Olympic event. Smoliga, who earned eight golds at the short-course worlds in December, edged Brazilian Etiene Medeiros by .11.

NBC Sports researcher Megan Soisson contributed to this report from Gwangju.

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1. The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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