U.S. finishes swimming worlds with most medals in history


BUDAPEST — The U.S. shattered the record for world swimming championships medals, winning eight more on the final day to finish with 45.

It held the previous record of 38 from 2017.

The U.S. closed out competition Saturday with gold in the men’s 50m backstroke (Justin Ress, who was disqualified, then had it overturned on appeal) and the women’s 4x100m medley relay.

“We have crushed it this whole week,” said Regan Smith, who led off the relay and also won the individual 100m back earlier in the meet. “We’ve had such good energy. This team is really special. It’s like no other team I’ve ever been on.”

Hunter Armstrong added silver in the 50m back, and the men’s medley relay also got silver.

Katie Grimes and Emma Weyant went silver-bronze in the 400m individual medley won by 15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh.

Bobby Finke earned silver in the 1500m free (in an American record time) behind Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who posted the second-fastest time in history.

Erika Brown tied for bronze in the 50m free for her first individual medal at a global championships after nine relay medals. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the splash and dash for her 19th career individual world champs medal, one shy of Michael Phelps‘ record.

Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte won her first world title in nine years, taking the 50m breast. Meilutyte was the shock 2012 Olympic 100m breast champion at age 15, then briefly retired in 2019.


The Americans, who topped the total medal standings at every Olympics and worlds since the end of the dubious East German reign in 1988, were expected to dominate this week.

Russians were banned due to the war in Ukraine. Some top swimmers from Australia, Canada and South Africa sat out or limited their schedules ahead of their quadrennial Commonwealth Games later this summer. Other stars missed out due to injury or COVID.

The Americans were led once again by Katie Ledecky, who swept her four events (in the absence of Australian rival Ariarne Titmus) and finished on Friday. Caeleb Dressel won two golds, then withdrew from the meet due to unspecified medical reasons.

Past champions returned to the top of the podium, such as Lilly King, Ryan Murphy and Regan Smith. Young talent climbed, such as Torri Huske, Alex Walsh, Grimes, Carson Foster, Michael Andrew, Phoebe Bacon and Leah Hayes.

The biggest breakouts were international.

Léon Marchand, a 20-year-old Frenchman who competes for Arizona State under Michael Phelps‘ longtime coach Bob Bowman, swept the men’s individual medleys. David Popovici, a 17-year-old Romanian, swept the 100m and 200m frees.

McIntosh, who had a pair of fourth-place Tokyo Olympic finishes at age 14, won the 200m fly and 400m IM and took second to Ledecky in the 400m free this week.

Hungarian Kristof Milak was the face of the meet, breaking his 200m butterfly world record and adding the 100m fly title in the absence of Dressel, the Olympic gold medalist and world record holder. Between Popovici and Milak, Dressel has major challengers in two of his three individual Olympic title events.

The most anticipated showdowns in the sport — Ledecky vs. Titmus, Dressel vs. Milak and Popovici, even Huske against Australian Emma McKeon in the 100m fly — did not take place here.

They must wait until, likely, next July’s world championships in Fukuoka, Japan, which will determine the early favorites for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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