Simone Manuel wins gold in 100-meter freestyle

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Defending world and Olympic champion Simone Manuel pulled off a rare feat Friday at the World Swimming Championships, winning another 100-meter freestyle title from all the way out in Lane 1, setting a new American record time of 52.04 seconds.

The U.S. team took three medals in the evening session, with Ryan Murphy taking silver in the 200m backstroke and the men taking bronze in a back-and-forth 4x200m freestyle relay. American swimmers also took two world records, with Caeleb Dressel and Regan Smith smashing the long-standing marks in their semifinals.

READ: Dressel, Smith set world records in Friday semifinals

READ: U.S. women win third straight water polo gold

Manuel hadn’t looked as strong this week as Cate Campbell, who raced past Manuel to lead Australia to victory in the 4×100-meter mixed medley relay. Campbell started in the middle of the pool alongside world record-holder Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden, while a slow semifinal put Manuel in the unfamiliar position of the outside lanes.

But Manuel started well and led at the turn, then touched the wall 0.39 seconds ahead of Campbell, who looked up in disbelief. Sjoestroem took her second freestyle bronze of the championships to go with her silver in the 100-meter butterfly. American Mallory Comerford finished seventh.

“I did feel a lot of pressure coming into the meet,” Manuel said. “I think a lot of it was on myself, wanting to repeat.”

Murphy followed up with a silver medal in the 200-meter backstroke behind Evgeny Rylov, getting within a few inches of the Russian swimmer after the final turn but fading just enough at the end to lose by half a body length. Rylov finished in 1:53.40 to Murphy’s 1:54.12, the two fastest times in the world this year.

“I judge my success off the Olympics,” Murphy said when asked if he was disappointed at the lack of an individual world championship.

Australia won a wild men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay full of lead changes, with Russia taking second and the U.S. rallying twice to take bronze.

The U.S. was in fifth after Andrew Seliskar‘s opening leg. Blake Pieroni, swimming the second leg, briefly gave the U.S. team the lead and finished his swim with the team in second. The U.S. faded again to fifth in Zach Apple‘s third leg, but Townley Haas, a veteran of several medal-winning relays in 2016 and 2017, forged ahead to challenge for the lead and finally finish with bronze ahead of Italy and defending champion Great Britain.

Russia took a third win of the session and the third world record of the session, after Dressel and Smith, when Anton Chupkov rallied past Australia’s Matthew Wilson to win the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:06.12.

Chupkov was in last place at the halfway mark, 1.58 seconds behind Wilson, who had tied the world record of 2:06.67 in the semifinals. Chupkov was still only fifth at the final turn but stormed past Wilson, who finished just a hair off his previous record with a time of 2:06.68.

American Andrew Wilson was second at the halfway mark and third at the final turn but faded to sixth.

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Iran banned from judo for instructing athlete to withdraw rather than face Israel opponent

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Iran has been banned from international judo for instructing one of its athletes to withdraw from August’s world championships rather than face an Israeli judoka.

The International Judo Federation said Iran authorities instructing Saeid Mollaei to withdraw rather than face Israeli judoka Sagi Muki was “a serious breach and gross violation” of its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter.

IJF spokesman Vlad Marinescu said any ban won’t apply to the Tokyo Olympics. That’s because it’s the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the Iranian Judo Federation, which formally enters the Olympic team.

“We have been informed by IJF that they will launch a proper procedure giving all concerned parties the right to be heard,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said. “Should the issue become an Olympic issue we will take the result of this procedure into consideration.”

An IJF disciplinary commission said it “has a strong reason to believe that the Iran Judo Federation will continue or repeatedly engage in misconduct” given its history of similar actions with its athletes potentially facing Israelis.

Mollaei, a 2018 World champion, said he was afraid to return to Iran after disobeying those orders at worlds. He competed anyway but lost one round before a potential final with Muki.

“I want to compete wherever I can,” Mollaei said in a statement from the IJF. “I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life.

“I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid.”

The IJF said it would help Mollaei prepare for next year’s Olympics, also in Tokyo. If Iran refuses to enter him, one option could be the International Olympic Committee-backed team of refugee athletes.

Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis, which the country does not recognize. The IJF has said Iranians have thrown matches and used “questionable injuries” to avoid competing against Israelis.

Mollaei’s case came four months after judo officials hailed a breakthrough in relations with Iran, publishing a letter signed by Salehi Amiri pledging to “fully respect the Olympic charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

Back in August, Iranian Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar accused the IJF of trying to “create problems” with Mollaei, the IRNA news agency reported. He said Iran will send a protest letter to the IOC.

Iranian team manager Majid Zareian also criticized the IJF, saying “everything was set in advance to put Mollaei against a participant from (Israel).”

“They did not allow me to be present next to my athlete in exercise salon,” Zareian said. “After the competitions they changed hotel of Mollaei without my permission, against the regulations.”

He denied reports Iranian authorities had put pressure on Mollaei.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Israel, judo federation hail letter from Iran; Tehran silent

Jacarra Winchester, after foe bites her, wins first wrestling world title

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Jacarra Winchester missed the Rio Olympic wrestling trials after tearing her knee playing soccer. She missed a medal at the 2018 World Championships after a semifinal-winning takedown was reversed.

There was no denying her on Wednesday.

Winchester, who picked up wrestling a decade ago as a high school junior, became the first American to earn a medal at the worlds in Kazakhstan this week. And it was gold.

She came back to beat Japanese Nanami Irie 5-3 in the final of the 55kg division, a weight class that is not on the Olympic program. Winchester must move to 53kg or 57kg next year.

But for now she can celebrate quite a journey. At 26, she’s one of the older wrestlers to become a first-time world champion. She believed she had what it took last year, when a reversed call kept her from the final and she subsequently lost a bronze-medal match.

Winchester, who has problems sleeping, said she replayed the end of that semifinal in her head ever since.

“There’s no reason why I should have gotten beat,” she said Wednesday. “Clearly I have what I need on the mat. I just need to change my mindset. … Just knowing you’re the best, pushing yourself and not letting anything get to me.”

That helped in Tuesday’s semifinals, where Winchester said her Turkish opponent bit her, pulled her hair and twisted her fingers. Winchester, who grew up in the Oakland, Calif., area, said that when she started wrestling she had no Olympic goals.

“I had a mindset of I’m not a quitter,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday, Adeline Gray reached Thursday’s 76kg final, where she will try to become the first American to earn five world titles.

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MORE: World Wrestling Championships TV Schedule