Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel
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2019 U.S. swimming rankings (women)

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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.

To no surprise, Katie Ledecky leads in her main events — the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles — despite missing events at worlds (and being slowed in those she did enter) due to illness. Her Stanford training partner, Simone Manuel, tops the 50m and 100m frees after sweeping those sprints at worlds.

Perhaps the most interesting note in the freestyle ranks is that Manuel is a close second to Ledecky in the 200m free. Manuel has never contested that event at an Olympics or worlds, but led off the 4x200m free relay at worlds in a personal-best time by .92.

MORE: U.S. men’s swim rankings

Regan Smith, the 17-year-old breakout swimmer of worlds, leads both backstrokes after breaking both world records. Kathleen Baker, the U.S. leader in the backstrokes and the 200m individual medley in 2018, ranks third and fourth in the backstrokes this year despite being slowed by pneumonia and a broken rib.

Lilly King, queen of the breaststrokes the last three years, tops her favored 100m breast and is second to resurgent veteran Annie Lazor in the 200m.

There is more parity in the butterfly and individual medleys, where Rio Olympians lead the 100m fly (Kelsi Dahlia), 200m fly (Hali Flickinger) and 200m IM (Melanie Margalis), but rising high school senior Emma Weyant tops the 400m IM. Retirements of Dana Vollmer (recent) and Maya DiRado (after Rio) helped open things up in those disciplines.

A newcomer to watch is Gretchen Walsh, a 16-year-old who swept the 50m and 100m frees at junior worlds.

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MORE: Dana Vollmer at peace with retirement

2019 U.S. Swimming Rankings — Women
50m Freestyle
1. Simone Manuel — 24.05
2. Abbey Weitzeil — 24.47
3. Erika Brown — 24.71
3. Gretchen Walsh — 24.71
5. Maxine Parker — 24.75

100m Freestyle
1. Simone Manuel — 52. 04
2. Mallory Comerford — 52.98
3. Abbey Weitzeil — 53.18
4. Gretchen Walsh — 53.74
5. Margo Geer — 54.09
6. Erika Brown — 54.13

200m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 1:55.78
2. Simone Manuel — 1:56.09
3. Katie McLaughlin — 1:56.48
4. Allison Schmitt — 1:56.97
5. Leah Smith — 1:57.40
6. Gabby DeLoof — 1:57.62

400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 3:59.28
2. Leah Smith — 4:01.29
3. Kaersten Meitz — 4:05.80
4. Melanie Margalis — 4:06.35
5. Ally McHugh — 4:07.08

800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 8:10.70
2. Leah Smith — 8:16.33
3. Ashley Twichell — 8:25.43
4. Ally McHugh — 8:26.04
5. Erica Sullivan — 8:26.13

1500m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 15:45.59
2. Ashley Twichell — 15:54.19
3. Erica Sullivan — 15:55.25
4. Ally McHugh — 16:05.98
5. Kensey McMahon — 16:09.80

100m Backstroke
1. Regan Smith — 57.57
2. Olivia Smoliga — 58.73
3. Phoebe Bacon — 59.02
4. Kathleen Baker — 59.03
5. Katharine Berkoff — 59.29

200m Backstroke
1. Regan Smith — 2:03.35
2. Lisa Bratton — 2:07.91
3. Kathleen Baker — 2:08.08
4. Alex Walsh — 2:08.30
5. Hali Flickinger — 2:08.36

100m Breaststroke
1. Lilly King — 1:04.93
2. Annie Lazor — 1:06.03
3. Breeja Larson — 1:06.78
4. Kaitlyn Dobler — 1:06.97
5. Bethany Galat — 1:07.13

200m Breaststroke
1. Annie Lazor — 2:20.77
2. Lilly King — 2:21.39
3. Bethany Galat — 2:21.84
4. Emily Escobedo — 2:22.87
5. Madisyn Cox — 2:23.84

100m Butterfly
1. Kelsi Dahlia — 57.06
2. Katie McLaughlin — 57.23
3. Amanda Kendall — 57.51
3. Kendyl Stewart — 57.51
5. Aly Tetzloff — 57.70

200m Butterfly
1. Hali Flickinger — 2:05.96
2. Katie Drabot — 2:06.59
3. Regan Smith — 2:07.26
4. Lillie Nordmann — 2:07.43
5. Dakota Luther — 2:07.76

200m Individual Medley
1. Melanie Margalis — 2:08.91
2. Madisyn Cox — 2:10.00
3. Kathleen Baker — 2:10.65
4. Ella Eastin — 2:10.72
5. Alex Walsh — 2:11.24

400m Individual Medley
1. Emma Weyant — 4:35.47
2. Brooke Forde — 4:36.06
3. Ella Eastin — 4:37.18
4. Madisyn Cox — 4:37.23
5. Makayla Sargent — 4:37.95

Iris Cummings, last living 1936 U.S. Olympian, has flown ever since Berlin

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Iris Cummings is one of the last living members of a historically significant, global group: athletes who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She is the only U.S. Olympian from those Games believed to still be alive.

Cummings, a 99-year-old who still swims regularly, was one of 46 U.S. women (along with 313 U.S. men) who competed at the Berlin Olympics, best known for Jesse Owens triumphing in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Since swimmer Adolph Kiefer‘s death in May 2017, the breaststroker Cummings and canoeist John Lysak were the last living 1936 U.S. Olympians. Olympic historians recently learned that Lysak died in January at 105 years old (which Lysak’s family confirmed this week). Canadian Paul Tchir of the OlyMADMen keeps a list of the oldest living Olympians here.

Lysak, born in New Jersey, turned 4 years old when his mom died in 1918 due to the flu pandemic. He was orphaned by his father, overwhelmed with taking care of a farm and four children.

Lysak got a bike to handle a paper route as a boy. That allowed him to sneak down to the Hudson River and row with homemade boats with his younger brother, Steven, who became a 1948 Olympic gold and silver medalist.

“I couldn’t swim, but I floated with a log,” Lysak told NBC Sports for the 2016 film “More than Gold,” about Owens and the 1936 Olympics. “I grew up paddling.”

He specialized at the Yonkers Canoe Club, made the Olympic team and finished seventh in a 10km doubles event with James O’Rourke in Berlin. Lysak later became a Marine and served during World War II.

Lysak spent his last years in California, where Cummings learned to swim off the Pacific beaches as a girl around the time of the Great Depression.

Cummings credited an ability to become an Olympian and one of the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft to her parents, who met while serving in France during World War I. Her father was a medic and sports doctor. Her mother a member of the American Red Cross canteen service.

She said her father, an all-around athlete, gave up a chance to try out for the first modern Olympics in 1896 to attend Tufts University School of Medicine.

“My mother provided the intellectual and academic inspiration from her rare perspective as a woman college graduate and a high school language teacher when very few women ever went to college,” Cummings told NBC Sports in an interview for “More than Gold.”

In 1928, Cummings’ dad took her to her the National Air Races at what is now Los Angeles International Airport.

“I watched Charles Lindbergh at the peak of his fame fly in the air show,” she said.

In 1932, at age 11, Cummings was introduced to the Olympics in person. Her dad was a track and field official at those Los Angeles Games.

Iris Cummings
Iris Cummings (center) competed in the 200m breaststroke at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Courtesy Iris Cummings)

All of Cummings’ swimming up to age 13 came in the ocean due to a lack of pools. But from 1934 to ’36, she developed into an Olympian in the breaststroke. In 1936, a 15-year-old Cummings was offered a paid-for, round-trip, cross-country train ticket to swim at a national championships in Long Island, N.Y.

“My mother had to borrow money to buy her railroad ticket to accompany me,” she said.

In a telegraph after nationals, Cummings was told by a California club coach to stay back East for five weeks before Olympic Trials (also on Long Island) because they had no money to send her back and forth again.

“So my mother figured out how we could stay with my grandmother in Philadelphia with almost no place to swim,” Cummings said. They found a country club pool, where she swam after hours while a janitor cleaned.

Cummings placed third in the 200m breast at trials to make the team as its youngest member in an individual event. (Today, only the top two at trials per individual event make the Olympics.)

“They stated, ‘You have made the team, but we don’t have enough money to send all of you,'” Cummings said. “‘The S.S. Manhattan sails in five days. Get out and raise as much money as you can from your hometown.’ My mother and I telegraphed our local newspaper, and a small amount was sent in from Redondo Beach.”

Olympic team members took a 10-day trip on the ship to Germany. Swimmers had one 20-foot-by-20-foot pool in which to train while at sea.

“They pumped the saltwater into it, and it sloshed around as the ship rolled,” Cummings said in an LA84 Foundation interview.

After arriving in Hamburg, U.S. athletes took a boat train that had swastikas on it out of the port.

“Most of us were quite aware of the evolving difficulties or however you want to classify the rise of Nazism in Germany,” said Cummings, adding that U.S. swim coach Charlotte Epstein previously boycotted attending the Olympics. “We’d heard the same rumors [about a U.S. boycott]. We were all wondering if the Olympic committee was going to take action before the boat sailed. That had come up in most everyone’s minds.”

At the Opening Ceremony, Cummings was bored by speeches and instead said she took pictures of the Hindenburg flying above. She had no fear about being there.

“The concerns were from nations that had proximity to the situation like a Belgium, or Holland or Austria,” she said. “We’ve got this passport, I know Margie [Marjorie Gestring, a gold-medal diver at age 13] and I looked at this and said, we’ve got this special passport. They can’t touch us.”

Most of Owens’ events took place before Cummings was eliminated in the first round of the 200m breast. She nonetheless took advantage of passes for athletes to watch track and field at the Olympic Stadium. She saw all of Owens’ races, sitting in an athlete section about 15 or 20 rows above Hitler’s box.

“Whenever [Hitler] came in, we could see him down there,” she said. “He wasn’t very far away.”

Iris Cummings
(Courtesy Iris Cummings)

Eight decades later, Cummings still remembered the crowd cheering for Owens after his victories.

“The whole stadium was rooting for Jesse,” she said.

Soon after the team returned to the U.S., Cummings began attending the University of Southern California. She enrolled in a pilot training program in 1939, earned her license the next year and worked as a flight instructor during the war. Then she became a pilot for the AAF Ferry Command in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later included in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

“None of us thought there were going to be Olympics in ’40,” she predicted, correctly. Not in 1944, either.

She estimated that she’s flown more than 50 types of airplanes.

“There were only 21 of us [women] who ever flew the P-38,” she said, “and there were only four of us who ever flew the P-61 Black Widow.”

After the war, marriage to Howard Critchell and childbirths, Cummings continued to race planes. She developed curricula for the Federal Aviation Administration, founded an aeronautics program at Harvey Mudd College and was inducted into the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame, among many honors.

“I’ve been flying 76 years, and it’s a privilege to just be around,” she said shortly before she stopped piloting in 2016.

Cummings still flies as a passenger with a former student.

“It’s a treat to be up there with the elements and appreciate it all,” she said. “It’s you and the air movement and the wind and what you can do with your airplane.”

MORE: Wyomia Tyus’ Olympic protest resonates 52 years later

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NBA participation in Tokyo Olympics could be limited, Adam Silver says

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Tokyo Olympics’ effect on the league’s schedule planning for 2021 is unclear, but that it’s possible that Olympic participation may be limited.

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver told Bob Costas on CNN on Tuesday. “Obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics from other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through. I just say, lastly, these are highly unique and unusual circumstances. I think, just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. We’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations.”

Silver said his best guess is that the next NBA season starts in January with a goal of a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. A schedule has not been released.

In normal NBA seasons that start in late October, the regular season runs to mid-April and the NBA Finals into mid-June.

The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. If an NBA season is pushed back two or three months to a January start, and the schedule is not condensed, the Olympics would start while the NBA playoffs are happening.

The current NBA season is in the conference finals phase in an Orlando-area bubble after a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a factor in our planning,” Silver said of the Olympics. “It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear.”

The NBA has participated in every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Monday was the 29th anniversary of the announcement of the first 10 members of the original Dream Team on an NBC selection show (hosted by Costas).

Before the NBA era, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams consisted of college players.

MORE: When Michael Jordan lost in wheelchair basketball to Paralympian

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