Ryan Lochte wins U.S. swimming title in return from suspension

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Ryan Lochte won the 200m individual medley on Sunday to close the U.S. Championships, his first meet back from a 14-month suspension over a social media blunder.

At 35, Lochte proved he has a chance to make a fifth Olympic team next year.

The 12-time Olympic medalist clocked 1:57.76 for his 27th national title, .12 faster than his time trial Thursday.

His time ranks 11th in the world this year and fourth among Americans (the top three — Chase Kalisz, Michael Andrew and Abrahm Devine — skipped nationals after competing at the world championships last week).

The top two at trials in June make the Olympic team.

“This was a lot easier 10 years ago,” Lochte, breathing heavily, told Tanith White on Olympic Channel moments after getting out of the pool. “I got a lot of ways to go for 2020.”

Lochte had to be satisfied, given he said he trained “maybe” four times per week in the seven weeks since the birth of his second child, daughter Liv.

“The time wasn’t that good … but it’s a good starting point,” he said. “I’m just kicking the rust off.”

Lochte was also banned from competition until late July. He was caught last year receiving an IV infusion of a legal substance that, after a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation with Lochte’s cooperation, was deemed above the legal limit of 100 milliliters.

The probe was sparked by Lochte, for he posted a social-media image of the infusion in May 2018. Lochte had already served a 10-month ban for his Rio gas station incident.

“It’s pretty obvious now, I’m 100 percent family,” Lochte said. “That party-boy image that I used to have, I know it kind of messed me up, and it stuck with me, but that’s not me. I could care less about that lifestyle. My celebrations are picking up my son and my daughter and playing with them.”

Lochte, who went to rehab for alcohol addiction during his most recent ban, will turn 36 during the Tokyo Olympics. He will be older than all but two previous U.S. Olympic swimmers in individual events (Edgar Adams, 1904, and Dara Torres, 2008).

In other events Sunday, Madisyn Cox won the women’s 200m IM in 2:10.00, ranking her ninth in the world this year and second among Americans behind Melanie Margalis. Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist, missed last week’s worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin.

Ryan Held won the 50m freestyle in 21.87, lowering his personal best twice Sunday. Held, a Rio Olympic 4x100m free champion, won the 100m free on Wednesday in a time that would have taken bronze at worlds. His 50m free was not quite as impressive but does rank him third among Americans this year behind Caeleb Dressel and Michael Andrew.

Erika Brown took the women’s 50m free in 24.71, ranking her third among Americans this year behind world champion Simone Manuel and Rio Olympian Abbey Weitzeil.

Ally McHugh completed a sweep of the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles by taking the longest distance in 16:05.98. The field lacked Katie Ledecky, whose world record is 15:20.48 in an event that debuts at the Olympics next year. McHugh ranks fourth among Americans in the 1500m this year.

Bobby Finke upset Zane Grothe in the 800m free, clocking 7:47.58, the fastest time by an American this year. Finke, who also won the 1500m free and 400m IM at nationals, would have placed eighth at worlds with that time.

The 2019-20 swimming season starts with a Tyr Pro Series stop in Greensboro, N.C., from Nov. 6-9.

MORE: Reece Whitley, long a standout swimmer, breaks through at nationals

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Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
Puma
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Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, checklist complete, carries lessons into new World Cup season

Mikaela Shiffrin
Atomic
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Mikaela Shiffrin said she hit every possible statistical goal in the first 11 years of her Alpine skiing career. Keep that in mind as the storyline the next few seasons may turn to the World Cup wins record.

Shiffrin, who begins her 12th World Cup season in Soelden, Austria, in two weeks, is up to 74 victories on the circuit. The 27-year-old ranks third all-time behind Lindsey Vonn, who owns the women’s record of 82 wins, and Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who has the overall record of 86.

Shiffrin did rounds of interviews Thursday at the media day for her ski sponsor, Atomic. In one sitdown streamed by Atomic, she was asked, “Are you aiming for the record? … There’s just 12 left. Normally, winning 12 races, that’s a lot, but you already won 74, so it doesn’t sound that much anymore.”

“Just 12,” Shiffrin joked. “If you look at it like that, but that’s maybe oversimplification.” (Note greats including Americans Picabo Street and Julia Mancuso didn’t win 12 World Cups over a career.)

Then Shiffrin asked if the interviewer did in fact say 74 — “Yeah, you have 74,” the interviewer confirmed to Shiffrin, who sat between fellow stars Sofia Goggia of Italy and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway.

“Even after 74 … one race feels like a lot,” Shiffrin continued. “Twelve [wins] still feels like a large mountain to climb, for sure, but it’s step by step or race by race. If I just focus on what’s coming in the next couple weeks and then keep going from there, then we’ll see.”

From 2017 to 2019, Shiffrin won 11, 12 and 17 times on the World Cup. Her last three seasons were abbreviated after her father’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic and back problems. She still won an average of five races each year.

In an earlier interview Thursday, Shiffrin expressed confidence about her preseason form. She followed February’s Beijing Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth, by bagging her fourth World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, crowning the best all-around skier.

“Finishing off [at last March’s World Cup Finals] in Meribel, that final race of the season, I was thinking, I could use a moment to breathe,” she said. “There was also this part of me that’s like, I kind of didn’t want this to be the last race. I was a little bit antsy to actually get going on the next season already.”

Shiffrin took less of a break than a year ago, spending 10 days in Maui. She had “really productive” training camps in Colorado, Switzerland and Chile and arrived back in Europe on Wednesday for the run-up to the World Cup opener on Oct. 22.

As always, the priority is keeping her slalom and giant slalom technique top-notch. As long as that’s flowing, Shiffrin feels comfortable branching into the speed events, starting with super-Gs. She plans to race both the slalom and GS at February’s world championships, then possibly the super-G with the combined less of a priority. The downhill is “fairly doubtful,” but she has a few months to make a final decision.

Of course, Shiffrin raced everything at the Olympics in February. In interviews last winter, she couldn’t quite explain why the greatest technical skier in history did not finish any of her three technical runs at the Games.

Shiffrin gave a detailed, two-and-a-half-minute answer when asked Thursday if she went back during this offseason to analyze those races. Or if she is brushing them off as an anomaly.

“Statistically, it’s an anomaly, but there was a lot of culminating factors that could have been involved,” she said.

In basic terms, she got on her inside ski in the opening GS and fell within 13 seconds — “a technical flaw that had a much higher consequence than it’s ever had in any other race that I’ve ever done.” In slalom, she had too much intensity, or too much speed, in a section that required more precision and skidded out within six seconds — “I was not giving anything away, and then I gave everything away.”

“There was less margin for error in Beijing because of the snow conditions,” said Shiffrin, who like every other racer hadn’t previously raced on that slope of manufactured snow. “I don’t think I maybe considered that enough in the moment when I was skiing to kind of reel it in sometimes when it would have been necessary. But I also wasn’t skiing to reel it in or make it to the finish. I was skiing to like, blow the course apart. I was going for it.”

She hopes to take that mentality into this season. In the spring and summer, she devoted more time to developing equipment that works better on softer snow, which is becoming more commonplace at World Cup venues given warmer temperatures.

“If you have a checklist of goals you want to achieve before you retire, actually, my checklist is complete,” she said. “If I had one, it would be complete. Somehow, I feel like I still have something left to accomplish, or faster skiing to do, so that’s kind of why I’m here. Hopefully I can remember that when there’s points in the season that feel stressful or pressure. There’s nothing that has to be done.”

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