Ariarne Titmus breaks Katie Ledecky world record as coach Dean Boxall erupts again

Ariarne Titmus
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Ariarne Titmus broke Katie Ledecky‘s world record in the 400m freestyle at the Australian swimming trials on Sunday, becoming the first swimmer other than Ledecky to break a Ledecky world record.

Titmus, the 21-year-old who won the Olympic 200m and 400m frees over Ledecky, clocked 3:56.40 to take six hundredths off Ledecky’s world record from the 2016 Olympics.

“I never thought that at this meet post-Olympics I’d be swimming faster than at Olympic trials and the Olympic Games,” Titmus said on Amazon Prime. “So, I guess, you keep surprising yourself, and it keeps the sport interesting.”

Just like last year, fiery coach Dean Boxall cheered Titmus on with his trademark intensity (watch at bottom of post to the end).

“Yeah, I saw him,” Titmus said. “He’s been a bit subdued [earlier in the meet]. It’s nice he probably saved his energy for the big one.”

Titmus has said she will not swim at the world championships next month, instead putting her focus on the Commonwealth Games in July. That means she will not face Ledecky at a championship meet until 2023 at the earliest.

“Biggest thing since the Olympics, Dean said to me I have this freedom, pressure’s off your back,” Titmus said. “Coming here with no pressure, other than the pressure that I put on myself, which is still pretty high, it’s fun to come here and swim like that.”

Titmus said that people can stop asking her when she’s going to break a world record, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I believe that Katie is the greatest female swimmer of all time,” Titmus said, according to the report. “I can’t put myself up next to her with what she has done in swimming, it has been insane. She has been at this level for 10 years. To even be in the conversation, I feel completely honored.”

Later Sunday, the Australian teams for worlds and Commonwealths were named.

Notably, 2016 Olympic 100m free champion Kyle Chalmers reversed his stance from a month ago and will swim at worlds in Budapest in June. That decision, announced after Chalmers finished second in the 100m butterfly and first in the 50m fly at trials, meant that singer Cody Simpson, who was third in the 100m fly, did not make the world team (max. two swimmers per individual event).

Simpson said on Friday that he and Chalmers chatted, “cleared the air” and that “it was all good.”

“He changed his mind, which he has every right to do,” Simpson said on Amazon Prime. “I respect his decision either way.”

Simpson did make the team for Commonwealths, where the maximum is three swimmers per individual event.

“Hopefully this is the first of a few [teams] that I can get on,” Simpson, a talented junior swimmer who returned from a decade break in 2020, said on Amazon Prime. His goal at the start of his comeback was to make the 2024 Olympic team.

Chalmers skipped the team naming ceremony, citing mental health in a social media post.

“The past few days have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally and it’s taken a massive toll on me,” he posted. “I need to look after my mental health and get myself right as I prepare for a massive year in the pool. The negative media attention surrounding my decision to compete at worlds and the made up story lines surrounding my personal life have been more than I can handle. After giving my all to the sport and being so welcoming to the media all my career, it’s a shame to see them publish storyline’s questioning my integrity all for the sake of extra clicks and money.”

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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