Australians defeat U.S. freestyle sprinters, relay at Pan Pacs

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The U.S. has dominated swimming since the heyday of its rivalry with Australia more than a decade ago, but the Aussies had one of their biggest recent gold-medal sweeps at the expense of the Americans on Friday.

Cate Campbell and Kyle Chalmers won the 100m freestyles at the Pan Pacific Championships, the biggest international meet for U.S. swimmers this year, in Tokyo.

The Aussies also beat the U.S. in the 4x200m free relay, with Madeline Groves holding off Katie Ledecky on anchor.

Groves was given a 2.88-second lead and edged Ledecky by .25, marking the American women’s first loss in a major international meet since 2009 Worlds.

Ledecky had the fastest split of the relay — 1:53.84 — which was .28 faster than Canadian Taylor Ruck, who won the individual 200m free over Ledecky on Thursday.

U.S. leadoff Allison Schmitt had the slowest leg of the 16 total swimmers — 1:58.62 — the slowest by an American woman in a 4x200m free final at a major meet since 2010, though leadoff legs are slowed by reaction time.

The U.S. men held off Australia in the 4x200m free, with Townley Haas touching .24 ahead of Jack Cartwright.

PAN PACS: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Campbell clocked the second-fastest time ever — 52.03 seconds — to hand Simone Manuel her first loss in a major international 100m free in three years. Manuel, a distant runner-up in 52.66, shared the 2016 Olympic title with Canadian Penny Oleksiak and took the 2017 World title outright.

“I definitely was disappointed with losing, but I think I’m more disappointed with my time,” said Manuel, who was .12 faster at nationals two weeks ago.

Campbell entered the Rio Games as the world-record holder but was a disappointing sixth in Brazil, later saying she swam with a hernia. The 26-year-old skipped the 2017 Worlds but stormed back this year, clocking 52.37 in March, good for No. 2 in the world going into Pan Pacs.

“I can put to bed all the nightmares and thoughts that come creeping in when you’re lying awake, stewing over past performances,” Campbell said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I swam a personal best. These don’t come around very often at my age. I couldn’t be happier.”

Chalmers, the surprise Rio Olympic 100m free champion, pulled off another upset to take the Pan Pacs title. He touched in 48.00, beating world champion Caeleb Dressel and fellow Aussie Cartwright by .22.

Chalmers, 20, entered the final with the fifth-fastest time this year among the eight racers. He missed the 2017 Worlds after undergoing heart surgery and was third at the Commonwealth Games on April 8.

“I was beginning to doubt myself that little bit in the 100m,” Chalmers said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “I haven’t done a whole lot of 100m work, but I’m a competitor.”

Australia bagged as many gold medals Friday at Pan Pacs — a meet without European nations and top stars from China and South Africa — as it did in all swim events at the Rio Olympics. The Aussies won a single gold at the 2017 Worlds.

Dressel dominated the 100m free at 2017 Worlds, winning in an American record 47.17 seconds as one of his Michael Phelps-record-tying seven gold medals at the meet.

He was sixth at the U.S. Championships two weeks ago in what coach Gregg Troy said was the worst thing that’s happened to him in the pool in four years since matriculating at the University of Florida.

“Pretty far off my best,” Dressel said Friday. “It’s been a little bit of a hectic year [Dressel finished his college career and turned pro in the last six months]. It was a learning year. Pan Pacs is a little more low key than worlds and Olympics. It’s just been a little crazy. That’s all right for right now.”

Dressel managed a different kind of victory Friday, grabbing one of two spots on the U.S. team in the 100m free for the 2019 World Championships, along with U.S. champion Blake Pieroni.

That means Nathan Adrian will not contest a 100m free at a major international meet for the first time since he was a prelim relay swimmer at the 2008 Olympics.

Also Friday, Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy won the 100m backstroke in 51.94, just .09 off his world record. The race lacked world champion Xu Jiayu as China is saving its best swimmers for the Asian Games later this month.

World champion Kylie Masse of Canada captured the women’s 100m back in 58.61, .11 ahead of 2015 World champion Emily Seebohm of Australia. American Kathleen Baker, who at nationals broke Masse’s world record, earned bronze.

U.S. Olympian Hali Flickinger won the 200m butterfly in 2:07.35. Flickinger ranks second in the world this year with her 2:05.87 from nationals.

Japan’s Daiya Seto took the men’s 200m fly in 1:54.34, ranking him fifth in the world this year. The top American was Zach Harting in third in 1:55.05.

Pan Pacs continue Saturday, highlighted by Ledecky in the 400m freestyle (full broadcast schedule here).

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Usain Bolt to train indefinitely with Australian soccer club

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Usain Bolt will train indefinitely with Australian soccer club Central Coast Mariners starting later this month but is not guaranteed a contract, according to the club.

“I am very excited about coming to Australia and would like to thank the owner and management of the Central Coast Mariners for giving me this opportunity,” Bolt said in a press release. “It has been my dream to play professional football, and I know that it will involve a lot of hard work and training to get to the level required to play and make an impact in the A-League.

“When I spoke to the head coach Mike Mulvey on the phone he outlined the ambitions of the club and his plans for the upcoming season. I hope I can make a positive contribution to the club and look forward to meeting the other players, staff and fans in the coming weeks.”

It was first reported last month that Bolt agreed in principle to join the Central Coast Mariners, a team in Australia’s top division. Nothing was finalized then, and reports later surfaced that a United Soccer League team in Austin, Texas, was in talks with Bolt, too, and a USL team in Las Vegas was interested.

Now that Bolt is committed to the Australian team, it’s worth repeating that the Australian sports agent who first reported the deal last month said Bolt was set for a six-week trial.

“It is important that we don’t get too caught up in the hype of possibilities, but the reality is that Usain Bolt has placed his faith in the Central Coast Mariners to accelerate his football journey,” Central Coast Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp said in Tuesday’s press release. “Whilst we all know this must be tempered with the reality that there is a job to do and hard work ahead, we are committed to building a team that will win matches and instil belief, hopefully Usain can help us on this mission.”

The Central Coast Mariners, based in Gosford in New South Wales, won four matches and lost 15 last season, finishing 10th in the 10-team A-League. There is no relegation in Australian soccer.

The 2018-19 regular season starts in October.

The eight-time Olympic champion Bolt has long harbored dreams of playing pro soccer.

Since retiring last summer, the 31-year-old Jamaican has trained alongside club teams in South Africa, Jamaica and Norway, plus had a much-publicized visit with Borussia Dortmund in March. Bolt and Dortmund share an apparel sponsor in Puma.

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FIBA bans players, coaches for Australia-Philippines basketball brawl

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Thirteen basketball players and two coaches were suspended and fined Thursday, and sanctions were imposed on the national federations of the Philippines and Australia after a brawl during an Asian qualifier for the sport’s World Cup.

Video of the brawl on July 2 was widely played around the world, with punches thrown, chairs tossed at players from the crowd, and security needed to restore order.

Ten Philippines players were suspended: Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright (one game each); Terence Romeo, Jayson Castro William, Andray Blatche and Jeth Rosario (three games each); Roger Pogoy, Carl Cruz and Jio Jalalon (five games each); Calvin Abueva (six games, because of prior unsportsmanlike behavior in a FIBA competition).

FIBA, the sport’s governing body, said Philippines assistant coach Joseph Uichico was suspended for three games for unsportsmanlike behavior. Head coach Vincent “Chot” Reyes was suspended for one game and fined for unsportsmanlike behavior, as was the national federation.

Philippines federation president Al Panlilio said later Thursday in Manila that “it could have been worse.”

“FIBA was quite fair in the process,” he said, adding he wasn’t sure if the federation would appeal.

Australian player Daniel Kickert was given a five-match ban for unsportsmanlike behavior. Basketball Australia said Milwaukee Bucks forward Thon Maker received a three-game ban and Chris Goulding a one-game suspension. Basketball Australia was also fined $110,000 for removing floor decals a day before the game.

Kickert was seen elbowing a Philippines player in response to a foul on Goulding before the brawl erupted.

Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore said it was unlikely the organization would appeal the bans.

“As we stated at the outset, Basketball Australia sincerely regrets the incident,” Moore said.

“We acknowledge the sanctions handed down against Australian players and acknowledge the sanctions imposed against Philippines players and officials involved in the incident. We are seeking further clarification from FIBA about possible sanctions against other officials and fans involved in the incident.”

MORE: U.S. men’s basketball team suffers rare loss in World Cup qualifying

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