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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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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