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Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel face off twice at TYR Pro Swim Series opener

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Two showdowns between Stanford training partners Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky will be among the featured races this weekend as the TYR Pro Swim Series begins in Greensboro, N.C.

Manuel is a sprint specialist who won world titles in the 50m freestyle and 100m free this summer, adding to a resume that includes the 2017 world championship and 2016 Olympic gold in the 100m along with countless relay golds. Ledecky has been nearly unbeatable in longer races for much of the 2010s, dating back to her gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in the 800m free at age 15, until battling illness during this summer’s world championships.

READ: Manuel defends world title from Lane 1

Despite their different specialties, the two swimmers will overlap in the 200m freestyle, and Ledecky will make a further foray into sprinters’ territory in the 100m free. Manuel doesn’t usually contest the 200m free but has posted a time that could make Ledecky sweat. Ledecky is only the sixth seed in the 100, which also includes 2012 200m gold medalist Allison Schmitt.

Ledecky will not be swimming in the 1,500m. The top seed in that event is Ashley Twichell, who has already qualified for the Olympics in open water swimming and is trying to complete a rare double by qualifying in the pool as well.

The meet also includes two world champions from Canada Kylie Masse (100m backstroke) and University of Michigan swimmer Maggie MacNeil (100m butterfly).

World championship silver medalist Hali Flickinger is the runaway favorite in the 200m fly and may compete with Ledecky, Schmitt and Twichell in the 200 and 400 free. Flickinger also is scheduled to swim in the 200m backstroke, where Kathleen Baker has the fastest seed time by more than two seconds as she continues her comeback from a rib injury.

Flickinger and Ledecky also are listed in the field for the 400m individual medley.

In the men’s races, world championship runner-up Jay Litherland is the favorite in the 400m medley. Andrew Wilson, who took silver in two world championship relays, leads the field for the 200m breaststroke.

Ryan Lochte, who returned from suspension to win the U.S. 200m medley title in August, is listed in the field for the 200m medley.

The series offers cash prizes for the top three in each event and a bonus for the men’s and women’s best performances, determined by FINA’s calculations of comparable times across all events, at each meet. The top men’s performance and top women’s performance across the five-meet series will be worth $10,000.

The rest of the series stops:

  • Jan. 16-19: Knoxville, Tenn.
  • March 4-7: Des Moines, Iowa
  • April 16-19: Mission Viejo, Calif.
  • May 6-9: Indianapolis

Coverage will air on the Olympic Channel at 6 p.m. ET Friday and on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET Saturday. Earlier rounds will air at usaswimming.org

READ: Simone Manuel’s Halloween costume: Simone Biles

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‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ primetime special covers social justice, combating inequality

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Athletes, including Olympians, discussed social justice, locker room conversations about race and ways that sports can help combat inequality in “Race and Sports in America: Conversations,” airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Olympic Channel, Golf Channel and NBC Sports Regional Networks.

NBC Sports’ Damon Hack hosted roundtables with active and retired athletes at the American Century Championship Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, last week.

Panelists, including Olympians James Blake and Charles Barkley and Tokyo Olympic hopeful Stephen Curry, also reflected on personal experiences.

Barkley, an Olympic gold medalist in 1992 and 1996, said coaches recently reached out to him to speak to their teams.

“First of all, relax and breathe,” Barkley said. “This crap started 400 years ago. We can’t do nothing about that. We can’t do anything about systematic racism. What I challenge every Black person, every white person to do: What can I do today going forward?

“You have to ask yourself, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Blake, a retired former top-five tennis player and 2008 Olympian, was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by a plainclothes New York City police officer in 2015 in a case of mistaken identity caught on video. The police officer’s punishment was a loss of five vacation days.

“The first thing I said when I got tackled was, I’m complying 100 percent,” Blake said. “And that shouldn’t have to be your response the first time you interact with a police officer. And because that’s the way my dad taught me is stay alive. Do whatever you can to stay alive. Sort it out later with lawyers or however you want to do it, and stay alive in that moment. The fact you have to have those rules in 2020 means maybe we have to do something drastic to change the way police interact with the African-American community and the way the community interacts with the police.”

Curry said his daughters, 7-year-old Riley and 5-year-old Ryan, asked questions about the images they recently saw. He’s not shielding them, but rather being honest about society, going back centuries.

“We have to continue to double down and double down and keep people accountable in all walks of life, all industries, all forms of leadership, the judicial system, all those type of things,” Curry said. “And hopefully for my kids’ generation, their kids, we will see change. I’m hopeful and optimistic about, but I understand how much work will need to go into that.”

The full list of athletes who participated in the “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” roundtables:

• Charles Barkley – 1992 and 1996 Olympic basketball champion
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion, 2008 Olympian
• Stephen Curry – two-time NBA MVP, two-time FIBA world champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall of Famer

Additionally, Hack was joined by Super Bowl champion running back Jerome Bettis for an extended interview that will be published on NBC Sports’ digital and podcast platforms.

MORE: Elana Meyers Taylor’s claims of racism in bobsled being investigated

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

Shelby Houlihan
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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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