Ryan Murphy extends backstroke streak at U.S. swimming trials

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U.S. backstroke king Ryan Murphy was challenged, but not conquered at the world championships trials.

Murphy, a four-time Olympic champion, beat emerging rival Shaine Casas by .45 of a second as the two men clocked the world’s two best 200m back times this year. Murphy’s last loss to an American in a backstroke was in 2019. He has won every 200m back at trials meets dating to 2015.

“I’m seeing all these young kids coming up, so I think back to my first world trials in 2013 and how intimidated I was,” the 26-year-old Murphy said. “You never want to take it for granted trying to make these teams.”

U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Murphy, after sweeping the Olympic backstroke titles in 2016, took silver and bronze last year behind Russians who won’t be at June’s worlds in Budapest due to the nation’s ban.

“The field is going to be competitive, no matter what,” at worlds, he said.

Casas, 22, made his first long-course world team. He continued a stretch of fulfilling promise after missing the Olympic team by one spot.

After his biggest swimming failure, he became the first U.S. male swimmer to turn pro during an NCAA career since fellow backstroke star Aaron Peirsol in 2004. He won individual gold and silver at December’s world short course championships, a meet lacking many global stars.

He entered trials ranked No. 1 or 2 in the nation this year in five different events across three strokes and the individual medley, meaning he could just be starting to make a splash in Greensboro, N.C.

In other events, Katie Ledecky won her shortest race, the 200m freestyle, after taking the 800m free on Tuesday. Claire Weinstein, 15, was second, 1.93 seconds back, and will become the youngest U.S. swimmer to race individually at an Olympics or world championships since Elizabeth Beisel in 2007.

Ledecky is on an eight-year win streak domestically in freestyle events of at least 200 meters but hasn’t won a major international title in the 200m free since the Rio Olympics.

She was fifth in the 200m free in Tokyo. Her best time since — 1:54.66 — is tied for the fastest in the world in 2022 with Olympic gold medalist Ariarne Titmus. Titmus is among the Australians who will skip the world championships to prepare for the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

Phoebe Bacon, Ledecky’s Little Flower buddy, won the women’s 200m back in 2:05.08, the fastest time ever in a U.S. pool. She’s joined on the team by Rhyan White in a reversal of their Olympic Trials one-two. Bacon and White then went four-five in Tokyo. Regan Smith, the world record holder, finished third to miss the team by one spot, just as she did at Olympic Trials.

Lilly King, Kate Douglass and Annie Lazor posted the world’s three fastest times this year in the 200m breaststroke, with the Olympic bronze medalist Lazor squeezed out of a worlds spot by .48.

King, the Olympic silver medalist, and Douglass, the Olympic 200m IM bronze medalist, will be medal favorites at worlds given Tokyo gold medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa, plus the fourth-place finisher from Russia, will not be there.

Nic Fink and Charlie Swanson tied for the men’s 200m breast title in 2:08.84.

Kieran Smith matched his University of Florida training partner Ledecky by winning the men’s 200m free, edging Drew Kibler by .07.

Claire Curzan and Caeleb Dressel won the 50m butterflies, which are contested at worlds but not at the Olympics.

Trials continue Thursday, featuring the men’s and women’s 100m butterflies (Dressel, Curzan, Torri Huske) and 400m IMs (Chase KaliszJay LitherlandEmma WeyantHali Flickinger).

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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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
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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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