Caeleb Dressel
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2019 U.S. swimming rankings (men)

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With many of the U.S.’ top swimmers taking a break after the world championships, and thus missing the national championships, the best way to survey the early favorites for June’s Olympic trials is to look at rankings by swimmers’ fastest times for 2019.

Last week’s world junior championships marked the last top international meet of the summer, making it a good time to take stock of the field in all of the individual Olympic events.

Caeleb Dressel, fresh off a six-gold, eight-medal world championships, is comfortably ahead in his three primary individual events (50m and 100m freestyles and 100m butterfly) by .58, .43 and 1.18 seconds.

He is in line to try for at least six Olympic events when including the men’s 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays and a mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay. Two of his events at worlds aren’t on the Olympic program.

Dressel could get up to the Phelpsian eight events next year if he adds the 200m free and men’s 4x200m free relay, but he ranks 11th in the U.S. in the 200m free this year (granted didn’t swim it when peaked at worlds). The top six at trials should make the relay pool, and the top two will make the individual event. Keep an eye on if he swims the 200m free in Tyr Pro Series meets next spring leading up to trials.

MORE: U.S. women’s swim rankings

Aside from triple Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy topping both backstrokes, the rest of the U.S. men’s rankings have seen major changes in this Olympic cycle.

Zane Grothe and Bobby Finke succeeded the retired Connor Jaeger as the top distance freestylers. Andrew Wilson, who was fourth and fifth in the two breaststrokes at 2016 trials, is now the top man in that stroke.

Then there’s Ryan Lochte, who is trying to come back from two suspensions to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event since 1904. Lochte, who turns 36 during the Tokyo Games, moved to fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m individual medley by winning the national title.

Another veteran Olympic champion, Nathan Adrian, would just miss a hypothetical Olympic team if it was based on best times of 2019. Adrian, who is coming back from testicular cancer, is one spot shy in the 50m free and two spots shy of a 4x100m free relay spot. But that he’s even contending after announcing his diagnosis on Jan. 24 and undergoing two surgeries is impressive. Look for faster times in 2020.

Teen watch: Luca Urlando, 17, followed up breaking Phelps’ national age group record in the 200m butterfly by winning the world junior title last week with a time more than a second slower than his personal best. He ranks third in the world and first in the U.S. this year but wasn’t at July’s worlds because he didn’t qualify last summer.

Another 17-year-old, Carson Foster, won the world junior title in the 200m IM. He slots right behind Lochte in the U.S. rankings. Foster was 2 years old when Lochte made his Olympic debut in 2004. And yet another 17-year-old, Jake Mitchell, is second to Grothe in the 400m free.

Either Urlando or Foster would be the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since Phelps, Aaron PeirsolIan Crocker and Klete Keller in 2000.

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2019 U.S. Swimming Rankings — Men
50m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 21.04
2. Michael Andrew — 21.62
3. Nathan Adrian — 21.87
3. Ryan Held — 21.87
5. Michael Chadwick — 21.95
5. David Curtiss — 21.95

100m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 46.96
2. Ryan Held — 47.39
3. Maxime Rooney — 47.61
4. Zach Apple — 47.79
5. Blake Pieroni — 47.87
6. Tate Jackson — 47.88

200m Freestyle
1. Andrew Seliskar — 1:45.71
2. Kieran Smith — 1:46.21
3. Townley Haas — 1:46.37
4. Dean Farris — 1:46.45
5. Luca Urlando — 1:46.51
6. Blake Pieroni — 1:46.62

400m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 3:45.78
2. Jake Mitchell — 3:47.95
3. Bobby Finke — 3:48.17
4. Eric Knowles — 3:48.34
5. Mitch D’Arrigo — 3:48.39

800m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 7:47.58
2. Zane Grothe — 7:50.14
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 7:53.11
4. Michael Brinegar — 7:54.56
5. Andrew Abruzzo — 7:54.70
5. Jake Mitchell — 7:54.70

1500m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 14:51.15
2. Zane Grothe — 14:56.10
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 14:59.94
4. Michael Brinegar — 15:00.82
5. Arik Katz — 15:05.93

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 52.44
2. Shaine Casas — 52.72
3. Matt Grevers — 52.75
4. Justin Ress — 53.31
5. Michael Andrew — 53.40
5. Jacob Pebley — 53.40

200m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 1:54.12
2. Austin Katz — 1:55.57
3. Shaine Casas — 1:55.79
4. Jacob Pebley — 1:56.35
5. Clark Beach — 1:57.14

100m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 58.93
2. Cody Miller — 59.24
3. Ian Finnerty — 59.49
4. Michael Andrew — 59.52
5. Devon Nowicki — 59.69

200m Breaststroke
1. Will Licon — 2:07.62
2. Andrew Wilson — 2:07.77
3. Nic Fink — 2:08.16
4. Josh Prenot — 2:08.77
5. Cody Miller — 2:08.98

100m Butterfly
1. Caeleb Dressel — 49.50
2. Maxime Rooney — 50.68
3. Jack Conger — 51.21
4. Andrew Seliskar — 51.34
5. Jack Saunderson — 51.36

200m Butterfly
1. Luca Urlando — 1:53.84
2. Zach Harting — 1:55.26
3. Miles Smachlo — 1:55.94
4. Nicolas Albiero — 1:56.05
5. Trenton Julian — 1:56.09

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:56.78
2. Michael Andrew — 1:57.49
3. Abrahm Devine — 1:57.66
4. Ryan Lochte — 1:57.76
5. Carson Foster — 1:58.46

400m Individual Medley
1. Jay Litherland — 4:09.22
2. Charlie Swanson — 4:11.46
3. Bobby Finke — 4:13.15
4. Carson Foster — 4:13.39
5. Chase Kalisz — 4:13.45

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

Skate America
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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

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