Allison Schmitt continues swimming comeback with national title

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Allison Schmitt‘s bid for a fourth Olympics, after taking nearly two years off competition, is very much in play.

Schmitt, an eight-time Olympic medalist, won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.97 at the U.S. Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday. The event lacked Olympic champion Katie Ledecky, who is resting after last week’s world championships.

Schmitt was satisfied by going 1.3 seconds faster than she did at worlds, where she placed 14th. Her time on Thursday would have put her ninth at worlds, still missing the final, but it marked her fastest 200m free since August 2018.

“Ever since I decided I was going to get back into the pool, eyes were set on 2020,”said Schmitt, who started her work outside the pool in the past year as a counselor at Arizona State, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in social work. “It’s definitely still a day-by-day process, has its ups and downs. But, as a whole, it’s been a good journey, and like I said, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming year.”

MORE: U.S. Swimming Champs TV Schedule

Schmitt, at 29, is the only female swimmer left from the 2008 U.S. Olympic team who is going for the Tokyo Games. Her American record from winning the 200m free at the 2012 London Games remains one of the few marks that Ledecky has chased but not broken.

Schmitt failed to qualify for the 2013 and 2015 Worlds but, after revealing her battle with depression, rallied to make the Rio Games in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays. She returned to competition in April 2018.

Schmitt, ranked fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m free, likely must improve on Thursday’s time come trials to become the oldest U.S. woman to race an individual event at an Olympics since 41-year-old Dara Torres in 2008. The top six in the event at trials in June are likely to make the Tokyo Olympic team in the relay, though.

In other events Thursday, Madisyn Cox took the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:23.84, a personal best by 1.78 seconds. Her time, against a field lacking top Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor, would have placed sixth at worlds.

Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist in the 200m individual medley, missed last week’s worlds after a failing a drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin. Her original two-year ban was reduced to six months, but she still had to miss last year’s nationals, which ruled her out of this year’s worlds.

Reece Whitley, at 6-foot-9, took his first national 200m breast title in a personal-best 2:09.69, delivering on promise as the 2015 Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year and cover star. Whitley, a rising Cal sophomore, ranks sixth in the U.S. this year in his best event. Thursday’s final lacked the top four.

Rising Texas junior Austin Katz captured the 200m backstroke in 1:55.72, which would have taken bronze at worlds. Katz, who did not make the world championships team, came into the meet ranked fifth in the world this year at 1:55.57.

Asia Seidt won the women’s 200m back in 2:08.90, which would have placed eighth at worlds. Regan Smith, the 17-year-old who broke the world record at worlds, opted not to race this event at nationals.

Australian 19-year-old Elijah Winnington took the 200m free in 1:46.19, a time that would not have made the final at worlds. The field lacked the top American freestylers like 2017 World silver medalist Townley Haas.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“What she did at the Olympics versus what she did in this run, two completely different things,” NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said on the Peacock broadcast, adding that it was “an error of aggression.” “It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out. This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships results

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Top 10 and notable results from the 2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships in Meribel and Courchevel, France …

Women’s Combined
Gold: Federica Brignone (ITA) — 1:57.47
Silver: Wendy Holdener (SUI) — +1.62
Bronze: Ricarda Haaser (AUT) — +2.26
4. Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT) — +2.48
5. Franziska Gritsch (AUT) — +2.71
6. Michelle Gisin (SUI) — +3.43
7. Laura Gauche (FRA) — +3.71
8. Emma Aicher (GER) — +3.78
9. Elena Curtoni (ITA) — +4.05
10. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) — +4.91
13. Bella Wright (USA) — +6.21
DQ (slalom). Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
DNS (slalom). Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI)
DNS (slalom). Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR)
DNS (slalom). Sofia Goggia (ITA)
DNF (super-G). Marta Bassino (ITA)
DNF (super-G). Breezy Johnson (USA)
DNF (super-G). Tricia Mangan (USA)

Men’s Combined (Feb. 7)
Women’s Super-G (Feb. 8)
Men’s Super-G (Feb. 9)
Women’s Downhill (Feb. 11)
Men’s Downhill (Feb. 12)
Team Parallel (Feb. 14)
Men’s Parallel (Feb. 15)
Women’s Parallel (Feb. 15)
Women’s Giant Slalom (Feb. 16)
Men’s Giant Slalom (Feb. 17)
Women’s Slalom (Feb. 18)
Men’s Slalom (Feb. 19)

ALPINE WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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