Simone Manuel, Nathan Adrian get last shots at Tokyo team at Olympic Trials

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Simone Manuel and Nathan Adrian own a combined 44 Olympic and world championships medals. Their Tokyo fates should come down to fractions of a second on the final day of U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials on Sunday.

Manuel and Adrian must finish in the top two of their 50m freestyle finals in Omaha to qualify for the U.S. team.

Each failed to make the final of the 100m free, which Adrian won by .01 at the London Olympics and Manuel tied for gold at the Rio Games, becoming the first U.S. Black female swimmer to take individual gold.

In the 50m free — the splash and dash, the shortest, fastest and usually closest race in swimming — Manuel and Adrian each qualified third into Sunday’s finals.

SWIM TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | ON HER TURF: Manuel carries unfair burden

Manuel finished ninth in the 100m free on Thursday. Then she disclosed an overtraining syndrome diagnosis in March, taking three weeks out of the pool, and depression.

She was pleased to swim 24.50 seconds in her Saturday semifinal of the 50m free, where she is reigning world champion and the American record holder (23.97).

Only Rio Olympic teammate Abbey Weitzeil (24.27) and 18-year-old Torri Huske (24.45) were faster in the semis. Manuel must beat one of them, plus hold off the other handful in the field.

“I desperately want to be on the team. I feel like I have so much to give this sport, not just in the pool but out of the pool,” Manuel said after being told that Michael Phelps said that the U.S. needs Manuel (and Adrian) on the team (presumably not just for their swimming, but for their leadership and experience). “I just want to see whatever I‘ve got. I want to walk away with my head held high at the end of this meet. Hopefully, it gets me a ticket to Tokyo, but if it doesn’t, I’m proud of myself.”

Adrian’s comeback story is different. It was known going into Olympic Trials that he was no sure thing to qualify in the 100m free, his primary event, even with up to six men going for relay purposes. Adrian, 32, was diagnosed with testicular cancer two and a half years ago and underwent two surgeries.

He entered Olympic Trials ranked eighth in the U.S. in the 100m free since the start of 2019 (though third in 2021). He was 13th in the 100m free semifinals. Adrian’s faster time from prelims, 48.37, would have qualified fifth into the eight-man final.

“I knew that prelims was going to be a lot faster, a lot more difficult than normal, so I probably threw a little bit more emotional energy into prelims than I should have,” he said.

Adrian, who made the last three Olympic teams, since Rio got married and became a father.

“When I had a bad practice before [having a family], it was a little bit of a dagger in the heart,” he said. “Now I sort of go home and I let it go immediately and get to give my wife and my baby a big hug and a kiss.”

PODCAST: Nathan Adrian talks cancer battle on ‘My New Favorite Olympian’

A look at today’s races

Men’s 50m Freestyle FINAL — 8:15 p.m. ET
It looks tougher for Adrian to make the team than Manuel. World champion Caeleb Dressel swam 21.51 in the semis (after a 100m butterfly final) and owns the American record of 21.04. Michael Andrew, one of the most impressive swimmers of the meet who won the 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley, went 21.55. Adrian, who went 21.78 in semis, hasn’t gone 21.55 or faster since getting bronze at the Rio Olympics.

Women’s 50m Freestyle FINAL — 8:26
Like Adrian, Manuel came in third in semis behind two swimmers who already won events this past week in Weitzeil and Huske. In 2019 alone, Manuel went faster than Huske’s second-place semi time on a total of seven occasions. There’s reason to believe that Huske (and Weitzeil) will go faster in the final, but Manuel certainly can, too. She was hopeful after the semifinals that she can make improvements on her semifinal swim. She will likely need to.

Men’s 1500m Freestyle FINAL — 8:34
Bobby Finke, who won the 800m free, qualified fastest into the final by 3.27 seconds. If Finke wins, and Dressel wins the 50m, then all six men’s freestyles will have been won by current or former University of Florida swimmers. Michael Brinegar, who also made the team in the 800m, was second in the prelims. Jordan Wilimovsky, who made the team in the open-water 10km, was third. The U.S. put no men into the world championships 1500m finals in 2017 and 2019.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier win U.S. figure skating pairs’ title in possible final nationals

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier haven’t decided if they’ll compete beyond this season, so Saturday may have been their farewell to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

If so, they went out as dominant winners, the first pair in their 30s to win nationals in more than 50 years.

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, took their second U.S. title together, totaling 227.97 points to prevail by 31.11 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe. They led by a gaping 15.1 points after Thursday’s short.

Knierim and Frazier were solid after errors on their opening jumping combination in Saturday’s free skate. They broke their own pairs’ margin of victory record from the 2021 U.S. Championships under a scoring system implemented in 2006. Knierim appeared to wipe away tears backstage.

“As I get older, the longer I’m in this sport, the more gratitude I have for it,” Knierim, the oldest woman to win a U.S. figure skating title since 1995 (Renée Roca), said on USA Network. “After that music ended, I’m just thankful that Brandon’s by my side and I’m able to do what I love.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea bagged bronze to likely round out the three-pair team for March’s world championships.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Knierim and Frazier considered retiring after last season, after they missed nationals due to Frazier’s COVID-19, petitioned onto the Olympic team and posted the best Olympic finish for a U.S. pair (sixth) in 20 years.

They then became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, beating a field that didn’t include any of the top five from the Olympics.

They returned in part to compete as world champions and rank second in the world this season (during which the top Olympic pairs also haven’t competed). They will likely go into March’s worlds in Japan as underdogs to Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who won their lone head-to-head this past fall at the Grand Prix Final.

Back in October, Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“This U.S. Championships for us was extra special because you’re just reflecting on the journey, and you know that there’s a good chance that this will be your last one,” Frazier said.

Knierim won her fifth U.S. title, tying the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka InaTai BabiloniaRandy GardnerKarol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Silver medalists Chan and Howe continued their recent surge. After placing fourth at last season’s nationals, they rank sixth in the world this season. That’s despite summer injuries that left them unable to practice lifts (his shoulder) and throws (her foot) for a while.

Kam, 18, and O’Shea, 31, made the podium four months after becoming a pair and less than two months after a car Kim was riding in was hit by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The car was totaled, but Kim and O’Shea still competed days later in Croatia.

O’Shea won the 2016 U.S. title with Tarah Kayne, retired after they split in late 2020, then came back in 2021 with Chelsea Liu. They ranked sixth in the U.S. going into 2022 Nationals, but withdrew beforehand due to concussions both suffered in a November competition fall, according to Figure Skaters Online.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Women
Gold: Isabeau Levito — 223.33
Silver: Bradie Tennell — 213.12
Bronze: Amber Glenn — 207.44
4. Starr Andrews — 188.24
5. Josephine Lee — 187.68
6. Lindsay Thorngren — 187.19
7. Clare Seo — 175.60
8. Gracie Gold — 173.98
9. Ava Ziegler — 167.70
10. Sonja Hilmer — 166.49
11. Gabriella Izzo — 166.40
12. Ting Cui — 161.27
13. Audrey Shin — 161.12
14. Lindsay Wang — 154.91
15. Michelle Lee — 145.28
16. Elsa Cheng — 138.13
17. Alexa Gasparotto — 129.41
WD. Hanna Harrell

Men’s Short Program
1. Ilia Malinin — 110.36
2. Jason Brown — 100.25
3. Tomoki Hiwatashi — 85.43
4. Liam Kapeikis — 82.27
5. Andrew Torgashev — 78.78
6. Maxim Naumov — 77.71
7. Jimmy Ma — 73.88
8. Goku Endo — 73.45
9. Samuel Mindra — 71.36
10. Yaroslav Paniot — 70.87
11. Camden Pulkinen — 69.47
12. Matthew Nielsen — 67.98
13. Joonsoo Kim — 67.45
14. Daniel Martynov — 64.04
15. Will Annis — 63.46
16. Dinh Tran — 60.63
17. Mitchell Friess — 59.14
18. Joseph Klein — 58.38

Pairs
Gold: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 227.97
Silver: Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 196.86

Bronze: Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea — 184.01
4. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 179.08
5. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 176.34
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 172.74
7. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 148.84
8. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 137.98
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 135.30
10. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 132.07
11. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 129.80

Ice Dance
Gold: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 229.75
Silver: Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 207.46
Bronze: Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 198.45
4. Emilea Zingas/Vadym Kolesnik — 198.13
5. Emily Bratti/Ian Somerville — 189.84
6. Lorraine McNamara/Anton Spiridonov — 189.15
7. Katarina Wolfkostin/Jeffrey Chen — 183.05
8. Eva Pate/Logan Bye — 182.61
9. Oona Brown/Gage Brown — 181.89
10. Isabella Flores/Ivan Desyatov — 177.31
11. Angela Ling/Caleb Wein — 167.87
12. Leah Krauskopf/YuanShi Jin — 133.93
13. Cara Murphy/Joshua Levitt — 129.85
14. Caroline Depietri/TJ Carey — 123.40
WD. Raffaella Koncius/Alexey Shchepetov

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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