Ryan Lochte edged by swimmer half his age in Olympic trials preview

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If Ryan Lochte is to make a fifth Olympic team in his trademark event at nearly age 36, he will likely have to go through 18-year-old Carson Foster at the June Olympic trials.

But Foster scored a psychological victory on Saturday, relegating Lochte to second place in the 200m individual medley at a Pro Series meet in Greensboro, N.C.

Foster, the world junior champion, touched the wall in 1:58.93. Lochte, the four-time world champion and world-record holder in the event, registered 2:00.65. Both were off their fastest times of the year, unsurprising at a November meet where top swimmers are usually not at their peaks.

“I grew up idolizing Ryan,” Foster, who was 2 years old when Lochte competed at his first Olympics in 2004, said on NBCSN. “It’s an honor to be able to race him. I look forward to racing him more.”

That will surely happen. Foster and Lochte are two of the leading contenders in the 200m IM, though trials are still eight months away. Chase Kalisz, who earned gold and bronze at the last two worlds, is fastest among Americans this year by a comfortable .71 at 1:56.78.

Lochte and Foster rank Nos. 4 and 5, both within a second of the No. 2 swimmer Michael Andrew. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Lochte is trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event since 1904. And doing so after a pair of suspensions — 10 months in 2016 and 2017 for his Rio Olympic gas station incident and 14 months for a May 2018 IV infusion of an illegal amount of a legal substance.

He also spent six weeks in rehab for alcohol addiction after a reported early morning California hotel incident in October 2018.

Foster, meanwhile, is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

The Pro Series moves to Knoxville, Tenn., for the next stop in January. Top swimmers are also expected at the U.S. Open in Atlanta in early December.

In other events Saturday, Katie Ledecky won the 800m free by 15.93 seconds in 8:14.95. She has broken 8:15 a total of 25 times in her career, according to USA Swimming’s database. Her world record is 8:04.79, and no other woman has broken 8:14.

Ledecky finished the meet, her first on the Pro Series since struggling through the summer world championships with an illness, with her trademark sweep of the 200m, 400m and 800m frees.

“That felt about a thousand times better than it did at worlds,” Ledecky said Saturday. “I know I’m in a good spot right now.”

Simone Manuel also won her signature events, following her Thursday victory in the 100m freestyle with a 50m free title on Saturday. She clocked 24.96 seconds, beating Catie DeLoof by .16.

Manuel is the American record holder and world champion in both sprints and shaping for a possible six-event lineup at the Tokyo Games when including four relays.

MORE: Ryan Lochte says Michael Phelps helped him in comeback

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Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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