Lilly King, Ryan Murphy add new titles to gold collections at swimming worlds

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BUDAPEST — Lilly King has now won gold in every breaststroke event in her world swimming championships career. Ryan Murphy is now an individual world champion for the first time.

The U.S. added a third gold Thursday in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay, a year after placing fourth in Tokyo, the first time the U.S. failed to make a relay podium in Olympic history.

King won her first 200m breast title, clocking 2 minutes, 22.41 seconds at the Duna Arena. The 2016 Olympic champion and world record holder in the 100m breast prevailed by .63 of a second over Australian Jenna Strauch. American Kate Douglass took bronze, a year after bagging Olympic 200m individual medley bronze.

“I guess I’m a distance swimmer now, which kind of stinks for me,” joked King, who came back from fifth place at the 150-meter mark. “Welcoming this new chapter of my career. … I think this was my coach’s master plan all along.”

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster

King followed her breakthrough 2016 Olympic gold with world titles in the 50m and 100m breast events in 2017 and 2019. In Tokyo, she earned bronze in the 100m and silver in the 200m.

South African Tatjana Schoenmaker, who lowered the world record to 2:18.95 to win the Olympic 200m breast in Tokyo, skipped worlds to prioritize the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

King, fourth in the 100m earlier this week, was competing at 80 percent, said her coach in Indiana, Ray Looze, according to reports.

“She’s doing the best she can,” Looze said Tuesday after the 100m breast, according to the Indianapolis Star. “It doesn’t take a genius to kind of know what’s going on, given the world around us.”

King said after Wednesday’s semifinals that she was feeling better and expected that to continue for the rest of the meet.

“Any time I have a bad swim, I feel like I’ve got a lot of haters out there,” King said of the 100m breast. “Just to be able to prove them wrong.”

She has one individual event left, the 50m breast, a non-Olympic event where she holds the world record. She can become the first woman to win a world championships breaststroke event three consecutive times.

Murphy captured his biggest individual title since sweeping the backstrokes at the 2016 Olympics, taking the 200m back in 1:54.52, topping Brit Luke Greenbank by .64. American Shaine Casas earned bronze in his first long-course world championships.

After checking off that box, Murphy said what’s left to accomplish is to lower his personal bests from 2016 and 2018.

“I’ve had an interesting career,” said Murphy, who just missed the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Championships teams while in high school, had the meet of his life at the 2016 Olympics and six years later is back on top. “Being able to come into something that I have a talent for, try to be the best in the world, that never gets old.”

Murphy previously won four individual silver or bronze medals, plus four gold medals in relays, among the last four world championships.

Earlier at these worlds, he clocked his fastest 100m back in four years to earn silver behind Italian Thomas Ceccon, who broke Murphy’s world record.

Russian Yevgeny Rylov, who swept the backstrokes at the Tokyo Olympics (including an Olympic record 1:53.27 in the 200m), isn’t at worlds due to the nation’s ban for the war in Ukraine.

In Thursday’s last final, Drew KiblerCarson FosterTrenton Julian and Kieran Smith combined to win the 4x200m free by a comfortable 3.26 seconds over Australia. All four men won their first world title. Their time would have earned silver in Tokyo.

“Kieran and I were actually just looking at a photo taken right after we touched fourth at the Olympics last year, and it’s a pretty defeating photo,” Kibler said. “We were looking at it just before we came here, like, ‘We’re not going to experience that again.'”

Also Thursday, Australian Mollie O’Callaghan surged past American Torri Huske to win the women’s 100m free. Huske took bronze, her fourth medal this week, behind Swede Sarah Sjostrom, who earned her 17th career individual worlds medal, solo second all time behind Michael Phelps (20).

Australian Zac Stubblety-Cook added a world title to his Olympic title and world record in the men’s 200m breast.

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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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