As swimmers finish Olympic Trials prep, must-see events take shape

2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials - Day 7
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Over the next two weekends, many of the U.S.’ top swimmers are expected to fine-tune in races ahead of next month’s Olympic Trials by competing across the country.

Indianapolis hosts the last pre-Trials meet of the Tyr Pro Swim Series this week. Olympic Channel airs live finals coverage Friday at 6 p.m. ET. NBCSN airs live finals coverage Saturday at 6. streams finals on Wednesday and Thursday.

Lilly KingRegan Smith and Nathan Adrian are the headliners in Indy.

Over in Georgia, Caeleb DresselRyan Lochte and Ryan Murphy are entered in the Atlanta Classic from Friday through Sunday, live streaming on Swim Atlanta’s YouTube channel.

Next week, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel are expected to compete in Austin, Texas, according to

At Trials in Omaha, the top two per individual event will make the Olympic team. Here’s a look at what are shaping up to the most exciting finals at Trials …

Women’s 100m Backstroke
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Regan Smith 57.57 WR
2. Kathleen Baker 58.56
3. Phoebe Bacon 58.63
4. Olivia Smoliga 58.73
5. Katharine Berkoff 59.29

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Olivia Smoliga 59.04
2. Claire Curzan 59.37
3. Regan Smith 59.39
4. Kathleen Baker 59.45
5. Rhyan White 59.66

The most loaded event in American swimming: the current world record holder (Smith), the previous world record holder (Baker), the world bronze medalist (Smoliga) and a pair of teen stars (Bacon, 18, and Curzan, 16). The U.S. has four in the world top 10 since the start of 2019, and that doesn’t include Curzan, who during the pandemic lowered a bunch of national age group records. An Olympic medal-worthy swimmer will not make the team.

Men’s 200m Individual Medley
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Chase Kalisz 1:56.78
2. Michael Andrew 1:56.83
3. Carson Foster 1:57.59
4. Abrahm DeVine 1:57.66
5. Ryan Lochte/Sam Stewart 1:57.76

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Michael Andrew 1:57.98
2. Kieran Smith 1:59.38
3. Abrahm DeVine 1:59.65
4. Ryan Lochte 1:59.72
5. Caeleb Dresel 2:00.13

The most intriguing men’s event ever since it became clear that it’s Lochte’s primary, and maybe only, shot at qualifying for a fifth Olympics at age 36. To become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in history, Lochte must navigate a field that includes the 2017 World champion (Kalisz), a phenom who turned professional at age 14 (Andrew, now 22) and a man nearly half his age (19-year-old Carson Foster, who in 2018 broke a national age group record). In Lochte’s favor: the U.S. is not nearly as dominant in this event as it once was. No Americans are in the top five in the world since the start of 2019. None are in the top 10 this year. And it’s believed that Lochte hasn’t raced a 200m IM fully fit or fully rested in this Olympic cycle. He has the ability to go significantly faster than the 1:57.76 he clocked at 2019 Nationals, his first meet back from a 14-month suspension when he said he was 22 pounds overweight.

Women’s 200m Freestyle
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Katie Ledecky 1:54.40
2. Allison Schmitt 1:56.01
3. Simone Manuel 1:56.09
4. Katie McLaughlin 1:56.48
5. Leah Smith 1:57.40

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Katie Ledecky 1:54.40
2. Katie McLaughlin 1:57.48
3. Allison Schmitt 1:58.04
4. Torri Huske 1:58.09
5. Justina Kozan 1:58.10

For Ledecky, the most challenging event on her program given she’s not expected to try for the Olympic team in the 100m free. Though Ledecky hasn’t won a major international 200m free title since Rio, she also hasn’t been beaten by a countrywoman in a full meet 200m free in seven years. The Olympic Trials field should nonetheless be decorated. Schmitt is the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder. Manuel is the world champion in the 50m and 100m frees who should be valuable on the 4x200m free relay come Tokyo, if not making the individual 200m free. Smith is the Olympic 400m free bronze medalist.

Men’s 100m Freestyle
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Caeleb Dressel 46.96
2. Ryan Held 47.39
3. Maxime Rooney 47.61
4. Zach Apple 47.69
5. Blake Pieroni 47.87

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Ryan Held 48.68
2. Nathan Adrian 48.74
3. Caeleb Dressel 48.82
4. Zach Apple 48.89
5. Justin Ress 49.06

Dressel repeated as world champion in 2019 in the second-fastest time in history. He’s expected to make the Olympic team in three individual events, including this one. The intrigue lies with Adrian, the 2012 Olympic champion coming back from testicular cancer. Adrian, an eight-time Olympic medalist, made the U.S. team for the year’s biggest meet (Olympics/worlds/Pan Pacs) each of the last 12 times. The 32-year-old also has a chance in the 50m free, but his focus has always been the 100m. Keep in mind that, in addition to the top two racing it individually at the Olympics, it’s expected that the top six at Trials will make the Olympic team in the 4x100m free relay pool. Adrian is ranked eighth in the U.S. since the start of 2019.

Women’s 100m Butterfly
Top 5 since 1/1/2019
1. Claire Curzan 56.20
2. Torri Huske 56.69
3. Kelsi Dahlia 57.06
4. Katie McLaughlin 57.23
5. Regan Smith 57.34

Top 5 since 1/1/2021
1. Claire Curzan 56.20
2. Torri Huske 56.69
3. Katie McLaughlin 57.39
4. Gretchen Walsh 57.43
5. Regan Smith 57.88

Maybe no event has been impacted more by the one-year Olympic postponement. Dahlia was the U.S.’ fastest 100m flyer every year from 2015 through 2019. But last month, high schoolers Curzan and Huske posted those nation-leading times. Then there’s Smith, another teen, who owns both backstroke world records but can also swim both butterflies at Olympic Trials without having to race more than twice in any single session in Omaha. This will be the first event at Trials for all of these swimmers. The 200m fly may be just as exciting, featuring world silver and bronze medalists Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot and Smith, who just before the Olympics were postponed swam a time that would have won the 2019 World title.

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Swiss extend best streak in curling history; Norway continues epic winter sports season

Switzerland Women Curling

Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni extended the most dominant run in world curling championships history, skipping a women’s team to a fourth consecutive title and pushing an unbeaten streak to 36 consecutive games.

Tirinzoni, along with Alina Pätz (who throws the last stones), Carole Howald and Briar Schwaller-Hürlimann, beat Norway 6-3 in Sunday’s final in Sandviken, Sweden.

They went 14-0 for the tournament after a Swiss team also skipped by Tirinzoni also went 14-0 to win the 2022 World title. Tirinzoni’s last defeat in world championship play came during round-robin in 2021 at the hands of Swede Anna Hasselborg, the 2018 Olympic champion.

In all, Tirinzoni’s Swiss are 42-1 over the last three world championships and 45-1 in world championship play dating to the start of the 2019 playoffs. Tirinzoni also skipped the Swiss at the last two Olympics, finishing seventh and then fourth.

Tirinzoni, a 43-year-old who has worked as a project management officer for Migros Bank, is the lone female skip to win three or more consecutive world titles.

The lone man to do it is reigning Olympic champion Niklas Edin of Sweden, who goes for a fifth in a row next week in Ottawa. Edin’s teams lost at least once in round-robin play in each of their four title runs.

Norway extended its incredible winter sports season by earning its first world medal in women’s curling since 2005.

Norway has 53 medals, including 18 golds, in world championships in Winter Olympic program events this season, surpassing its records for medals and gold medals at a single edition of a Winter Olympics (39 and 16).

A Canadian team skipped by Kerri Einarson took bronze. Canada has gone four consecutive women’s worlds without making the final, a record drought for its men’s or women’s teams.

A U.S. team skipped by Olympian Tabitha Peterson finished seventh in round-robin, missing the playoffs by one spot.

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Ilia Malinin eyed new heights at figure skating worlds, but a jump to gold requires more


At 18 years old, Ilia Malinin already has reached immortality in figure skating for technical achievement, being the first to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition.

The self-styled “Quadg0d” already has shown the chutzpah (or hubris?) to go for the most technically difficult free skate program ever attempted at the world championships, including that quad Axel, the hardest jump anyone has tried.

It helped bring U.S. champion Malinin the world bronze medal Saturday in Saitama, Japan, where he made more history as the first to land the quad Axel at worlds.

But it already had him thinking that the way to reach the tops of both the worlds and Olympus might be to acknowledge his mortal limits.

Yes, if Malinin (288.44 points) had cleanly landed all six quads he did instead of going clean on just three of the six, it would have closed or even overcome the gap between him and repeat champion Shoma Uno of Japan (301.14) and surprise silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan (296.03), the first South Korean man to win a world medal.

That’s a big if, as no one ever has done six clean quads in a free skate.

And the energy needed for those quads, physical and mental, hurts Malinin’s chances of closing another big gap with the world leaders: the difference in their “artistic” marks, known as component scores.

Malinin’s technical scores led the field in both the short program and free skate. But his component scores were lower than at last year’s worlds, when he finished ninth, and they ranked 10th in the short program and 11th in the free this time. Uno had an 18.44-point overall advantage over Malinin in PCS, Cha a 13.47 advantage.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Chock, Bates, and a long road to gold | Results

As usual in figure skating, some of the PCS difference owes to the idea of paying your dues. After all, at his first world championships, eventual Olympic champion Nathan Chen had PCS scores only slightly better than Malinin’s, and Chen’s numbers improved substantially by the next season.

But credit Malinin for quickly grasping the reality that his current skating has a lot of rough edges on the performance side.

“I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to go for a lot of risks,” he said in answer to a press conference question about what he had learned from this competition. “Sometimes going for the risks you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and go for a lot cleaner skate. I think it will be beneficial next season to lower the standards a bit.”

So could it be “been-there, done-that” with the quad Axel? (and the talk of quints and quad-quad combinations?)

Saturday’s was his fourth clean quad Axel in seven attempts this season, but it got substantially the lowest grade of execution (0.36) of the four with positive marks. It was his opening jump in the four-minute free, and, after a stopped-in-your tracks landing, his next two quads, flip and Lutz, were both badly flawed.

And there were still some three minutes to go.

Malinin did not directly answer about letting the quad Axel go now that he has definitively proved he can do it. What he did say could be seen as hinting at it.

“With the whole components factor … it’s probably because you know, after doing a lot of these jumps, (which) are difficult jumps, it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” he said.

“Even though some people might enjoy jumping, and it’s one of the things I enjoy, but I also like to perform to the audience. So I think next season, I would really want to focus on this performing side.”

Chen had told me essentially the same thing for a 2017 Ice Network story (reposted last year by about his several years of ballet training. He regretted not being able to show that training more because of the program-consuming athletic demands that come with being an elite figure skater.

“When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through,” Chen said then. “When I watch my artistry now, it’s like, ‘Yes, it’s still there,’ but at the same time, I’m so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it.”

The artistry can still be developed and displayed, as Chen showed and as prolific and proficient quad jumpers like Uno and the now retired two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have proved.

For another perspective on how hard it is to combine both, look at the difficulty it posed for the consummate performer, Jason Brown, who had the highest PCS scores while finishing a strong fifth (280.84).

Since Brown dropped his Sisyphean attempts to do a clean quad after 26 tries (20 in a free skate), the last at the 2022 U.S. Championships, he has received the two highest international free skate scores of his career, at the 2022 Olympics and this world meet.

It meant Brown’s coming to terms with his limitations and the fact that in the sport’s current iteration, his lack of quads gives him little chance of winning a global championship medal. What he did instead was give people the chance to see the beauty of his blade work, his striking movement, his expressiveness.

He has, at 28, become an audience favorite more than ever. And the judges Saturday gave Brown six maximum PCS scores (10.0.)

“I’m so happy about today’s performance,” Brown told media in the mixed zone. “I did my best to go out there and skate my skate. And that’s what I did.”

The quadg0d is realizing that he, too, must accept limitations if he wants to achieve his goals. Ilia Malinin can’t simply jump his way onto the highest steps of the most prized podiums.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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