Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon among Australia swim stars to miss world champs

Ariarne Titmus, Katie Ledecky

Australian stars Ariarne TitmusEmma McKeon and Kyle Chalmers are skipping this year’s world swimming championships.

Swimming Australia confirmed Friday that the three individual Olympic gold medalists, plus relay gold medalist Cate Campbell, will not compete at worlds in Budapest in June.

Titmus, McKeon and Chalmers are focused on Commonwealths in Birmingham, Great Britain, in July and August, according to News Corp on Friday.

This is the first year since 1998 that a world championships will be held in the same year as a Commonwealth Games, which forces Aussies to either peak for two major international meets in a seven-week span or choose one over the other.

Though Aussies have traditionally had two major international meets in an even, non-Olympic year. Usually the Pan Pacific Championships, a meet for non-European nations, is also held but will not be this year with the pandemic altering schedules over the last two years.

Australians had extra incentive to do Pan Pacs when they were held in Australia in 2014 and at the Olympic host city of Tokyo in 2018.

This likely means that Titmus will not race against American rival Katie Ledecky until the 2023 World Championships. They last met at the Tokyo Games, where Titmus won the 400m and 200m freestyles and Ledecky won the 800m free, plus the 1500m free without Titmus in that field.

Also in Tokyo, McKeon became the second woman to win seven medals in any sport at a single Games, a haul that included 50m and 100m free golds.

Chalmers won the men’s Olympic 100m free in 2016, then took silver behind Caeleb Dressel in the prized event last year.

Campbell’s agent said that she will not swim at worlds or Commonwealths but plans to return in 2023.

Three Australian swimmers who won individual medals in Tokyo are still considering bidding for worlds, according to News Corp: Kaylee McKeown, who swept the women’s backstroke golds, plus men’s 200m breaststroke gold medalist Zac Stubblety-Cook and 400m individual medley bronze medalist Brendon Smith.

The U.S. team for worlds will be determined at trials in two weeks in Greensboro, N.C.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

Mikaela Shiffrin

Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen

Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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