Laszlo Cseh

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14 Olympic silver medalists with best chances for gold in Rio

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The difference between winning and losing can be minuscule. Olympic gold could have easily been silver if not for an inch here or another second there.

While some athletes can seemingly win gold every time they step into competition, other Olympians are left collecting silver. They’re still remarkable athletes, but gold eludes them.

Some of the world’s best have another shot (for some, their last) at claiming the cherished Olympic gold medal over the next few weeks in Rio. Here are 14 such athletes to watch, in no particular order:

Tony Azevedo, United States, water polo
He’ll become the first five-time Olympian in U.S. water polo history, and he was born in and resides in Rio. It’d be a great place for Azevedo to win his first Olympic gold medal. The U.S. won silver in 2008 before a disappointing eighth-place result four years ago. The American men aren’t favored for gold like their female counterparts, but after taking second in the 2016 FINA World League, they’ve got a shot. Maybe Azevedo’s last shot.

Jordan Larson, United States, volleyball
The third-leading scorer for the U.S. women in 2012 as they fell to Brazil in the second consecutive Olympic gold-medal match, Larson will be just one of four women in Rio from that silver-medal squad. They’re favored to win the first Olympic gold for U.S. women’s indoor volleyball, being the top-ranked team in the world and reigning world champions. But to get that gold, Larson and the U.S. will likely need to take down Brazil in front of their raucous home crowd.

April Ross, United States, beach volleyball
She took silver at the London Games with partner Jen Kessy, losing to compatriots Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings in the final. But Ross is now teamed up with Walsh Jennings, who’s looking for her fourth straight Olympic gold medal. They’ll be the No. 3 seed in Rio –behind two Brazilian teams who, again, will have a boisterous crowd on their side.

Sarah Hammer, United States, cycling
She left London four years ago with two silver medals, but heads to Rio with two chances to grab gold. Hammer placed second the omnium and was on the women’s team pursuit unit that placed runner-up to Great Britain. But Hammer and three new teammates are the reigning team pursuit world champions. She also took bronze at the 2016 Worlds in omnium, so gold in that event in Rio wouldn’t be out of the question either.

Neymar, Brazil, soccer
He was supposed to get his gold in London, but the star-studded Brazilian side was shocked by Mexico, 2-1, in the final. So Neymar is back, competing as one of his team’s three over-23 players, seeking Brazil’s first Olympic gold in soccer (men or women). He was second on the squad with three goals in London; more in Rio would help his nation end the drought.

Marta, Brazil, soccer
A five-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Marta is a two-time Olympic silver medalist. She helped Brazil to runner-up status in 2004 and ’08, before struggling to sixth in 2012. The U.S. won each of those gold medals, as well as the 2015 World Cup (where Brazil was eliminated in the round of 16), leaving it as the decided favorite for Rio. But Brazil seeks its first Olympic soccer gold medal, playing the country’s most popular sport in front of the world’s most passionate fans, so Marta and Brazil certainly have a shot.

Alison Cerutti, Brazil, beach volleyball
He nearly had gold in London with beach legend Emmanuel Rego, but the Brazilians fell in the third set in the final to a German pair. Now, Alison has Bruno Oscar Schmidt by his side and the reigning world champions will be the No. 1 men’s seed on home sand at Copacabana Beach.

Yohan Blake, Jamaica, track and field
The runner-up to compatriot Usain Bolt in both the 100m and 200m four years ago, Blake did win a gold medal with Bolt on his team in the 4x100m relay. But he’s never won individual Olympic gold. He owns world championship gold, as Blake took the 100m at the 2011 Worlds after Bolt was disqualified for a false start. But Bolt may be at his most vulnerable in his Olympic career, so Blake, three years younger, hopes to capitalize.

Anita Włodarczyk, Poland, track and field
She’s the world record holder in hammer throw and favored for gold as the reigning world champion, especially considering the defending Olympic champion is Russian and won’t be present in Rio. Tatyana Lysenko won gold in London after defeating Wlodarczyk by .58 of a meter, but her country’s doping scandal will keep her home.

Caster Semenya, South Africa, track and field
Known for a gender-testing controversy that has followed her since 2009, Semenya is the favorite in the women’s 800m, and she could race the 400m too. She took silver in the 800m at the London Games, finishing behind Russian Mariya Savinova and ahead of Russian Ekaterina Poistogova. Neither of those women will be in Rio due to Russia’s doping scandal. Semenya owns three of the four fastest 800m times this year.

Laszlo Cseh, Hungary, swimming
Were it not for a guy named Michael Phelps, Cseh would’ve won three gold medals at the 2008 Games. Instead, he owns five career Olympic medals (three silver, two bronze) all in races won by Phelps. But Phelps enters his final Olympics not nearly as intense as in years past. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, but Cseh has a shot at knocking off Phelps in the 100m and 200m butterfly. Phelps holds the best time in the 100m since 2013 (50.45) while Cseh is third (50.86); Cseh owns the best time in the 200m since 2013 (1:52.91) while Phelps is second (1:52.94).

Qiu Bo, China, diving
Of the eight diving events at the Olympics, China won gold in six at the 2012 Games and claimed silver in the other two. Qiu Bo was one of the two to take second, as he was edged by American David Boudia in the 10m platform. Qiu has since earned gold at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds, relegating Boudia to silver both times. The two should do battle again in Rio.

Pau Gasol, Spain, basketball
Gasol’s chances of obtaining gold are slim considering the U.S. men’s dominance in international hoops, but Spain’s chances of cracking Team USA are better than anyone else’s. Spain has met the U.S. in the past two Olympic finals and actually stayed with the Americans until the fourth quarter both times. The 2016 U.S. team is thought to be its weakest since 2004, though it’s still heavily favored.

Lee Chong Wei, Malaysia, badminton
Lee owns two silver medals after losing in the 2008 and ’12 Olympic finals. He also holds three silver medals from world championships, falling in the final at the past three such competitions (2011, ’13 and ’15). Lee was knocked off by China’s Lin Dan in four of those events, including both Olympics, and by China’s Chen Long at the 2015 Worlds. But his hope for Olympic breakthrough comes from these rivals’ most recent meeting at the 2016 Asian Championships – Lee took out Lin in the semis and defeated Chen in the final. Lee will be the No. 1 seed in Rio.

MORE: Rio Olympics schedule highlights, daily events to watch

Chad le Clos says Michael Phelps ‘can keep quiet now’ amid butterfly trash talk

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Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos, once so friendly that they reportedly agreed to go swimming with sharks together (though there aren’t reports it actually happened), don’t appear to be on the best of terms at the moment.

It all started May 15.

Michael Phelps, who had sworn off swimming the 200m butterfly in his comeback in 2014, had started to warm to re-adding his signature event. Even though it’s among the more grueling of the five individual events he swam in his prime in 2004 and 2008.

“It’s interesting watching the world in this event,” Phelps told media at a meet in Charlotte, N.C., on May 15. “If you look at what [Tom] Malchow won in 2000 [his time at the Sydney Olympics], still what everybody’s going nowadays. It’s still not that fast an event.”

Malchow won gold in 2000 in 1:55.35, when a 15-year-old Phelps debuted at the Olympics and placed fifth.

When Phelps made those comments May 15, two men worldwide had broken 1:55 since the London Olympics, while top times in most other events had dropped more significantly in the same 15-year period.

Well, the man who beat Phelps in the 200m butterfly at the London Olympics did not take kindly to Phelps’ comments.

“He’s been talking a lot of smack in the media about how slow the butterfly is, so I just can’t wait until I race him,” South African Chad le Clos said Wednesday at the World Championships, according to The Associated Press.

World Swimming Championships: Katie Ledecky’s unprecedented sweep

On Friday, Phelps clocked the fastest 200m butterfly in the world for the year, a 1:52.94 at the U.S. Championships. The time would have won the 2015 World title by .54 of a second, over longtime Hungarian rival Laszlo Cseh and le Clos. It would have won the 2012 Olympic title by .02 over le Clos.

It was Phelps’ fastest time in the event since his world record of 1:51.51 set at the 2009 World Championships while wearing a now-outlawed fast body suit.

On Saturday, le Clos repeated as 100m butterfly World champion, clocking an African record 50.56.

“I just did a [100m butterfly] time that [Phelps] hasn’t done in four years, so he can keep quiet now,” le Clos said on Eurosport. Six years, actually. Phelps hasn’t clocked 50.56 or better in the 100m butterfly since 2009, when he set the world record of 49.82.

Le Clos went on in speaking to more media in Kazan on Saturday.

“I’m just very happy that he’s back to his good form, so he can’t come out and say, ‘Oh, I haven’t been training’ or all that rubbish that he’s been talking,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “Next year [at Rio] is going to be Muhammad AliJoe Frazier.

“Look, I don’t want to say it’s easy to swim by yourself [against lesser competition at the U.S. Championships than at Worlds], but it’s a lot harder when you know Chad le Clos is coming back at you the last 50 meters. That’s what he’s got to think about really.”

Phelps, the three-time Olympic 100m fly champ who is swimming the 100m fly at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio on Saturday, had a best 100m butterfly time in 2014 of 51.17.

Also Saturday, Cseh said that he was aware of Phelps’ 200m butterfly time from the night before.

“It’s quite good, but it doesn’t matter because I won the World Championship,” Cseh, whose five Olympic medals over three Games all came in events won by Phelps, said on Eurosport.

Ten-year-old girl competes at World Swimming Championships

Katie Ledecky completes unprecedented World Championships sweep

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On Aug. 8, 2011, a high school freshman named Katie Ledecky won the U.S. Junior Championship in the 800m freestyle in 8:36.05, knocking 7.45 seconds off her personal best.

Ledecky, then 14, would rank No. 55 in the world in the 800m free for 2011. The time was very impressive, but she was not on the radar for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team just yet.

She made the U.S. Olympic team 11 months later. Then, on Aug. 3, 2012, Ledecky swam in the Olympic 800m free final and clocked the fastest time in the world for the year, an 8:14.63 to beat British champion Rebecca Adlington for gold in London.

On Aug. 8, 2015, the great Ledecky finished another perfect World Championships with an 800m freestyle title, becoming the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a single Worlds in Kazan, Russia, on Saturday.

She did so in her usual fashion, by breaking one of her world records. Ledecky clocked 8:07.39 to win by 10.26 seconds. She chopped 3.61 seconds off her 800m free world record from 2014 of 8:11.00.

“I kind of figured the next step would be under 8:10, kind of thought it would be 8:08,” Ledecky told media in Kazan. “So to see the 8:07 was great. It’s August 8th, I was swimming the 800 and, believe it or not, it would’ve been my grandpa’s 88th birthday.”

Ledecky’s reaction was to slam her right arm into the pool twice while other swimmers were still stroking into the finishing wall.

Why so excited?

“Just a combination of things, being done, swimming so well and finishing on a good note,” Ledecky said. “Couldn’t be happier with how that swim went or how this whole week went.”

Ledecky, coming off a high school graduation and without a driver’s license, also became the third swimmer to win four individual gold medals at a single Worlds. She joined Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in that category.

“I didn’t realize how fast Katie was going, 8:07 is absolutely incredible,” said Jaz Carlin, the British bronze medalist 10.76 seconds behind Ledecky and six years older than Ledecky, on Eurosport. “She’s getting faster every time she races. She’s younger than me. She’s quite a bit younger. So, obviously, yeah, it’s tough. But I think it’s definitely given us girls something to aim for. And it’s really moving the distance events along. And obviously she’s won the 200 now as well, so we all need to work on our speed as well.”

Ledecky has entered 10 Olympic and World Championships events over 2012, 2013 and 2015 and won gold in all of them.

Olympic sports are measured in four-year cycles. It’s hard to come up with strong enough descriptors of Ledecky’s rise in that time.

“It gives you a headache as a coach,” French coach Romain Barnier said on Eurosport before Saturday’s races. “World record in the morning without training [in the 1500m freestyle Monday]. … She doesn’t seem to plateau, and she’s pushing the barriers again and again. … She’s special. She’s the breed of Michael Phelps.”

Ledecky is finished swimming in Kazan. She goes into the Olympic year hoping for four gold medals in Rio de Janeiro, possibly more if she adds the 100m freestyle, and just may be the biggest star of U.S. swimming.

Phelps and Lochte are in their 30s, though both are still arguably the best in the world in one event each. Missy Franklin, who won zero individual gold medals in Kazan, is not quite in the form that saw her take six overall golds at the 2013 Worlds.

“I set very high goals a couple years ago,” Ledecky said. “I’ve a little bit of a ways to go still. I’m chipping away at those goals.”

Also Saturday, Franklin and Nathan Adrian earned silver medals in the 200m backstroke and 50m freestyle, respectively. Franklin won 2011 and 2013 World titles and the 2012 Olympics in the 200m back, along with holding the world record.

The U.S. has 18 medals with one day left in the eight-day meet. Its fewest medals won at a Worlds or Olympics in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 World Championships.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage of the World Swimming Championships on Saturday from 3-4 p.m. ET.

World Swimming Championships: Saturday results | Broadcast schedule

Franklin took silver behind Australian Emily Seebohm in the 200m backstroke, failing to win a third straight World title in her trademark event. Franklin led Seebohm by 1.31 seconds after 150 meters, but Seebohm ended up prevailing by .53 with the fastest final 50 meters in the field by 1.45 seconds. Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu placed third.

“I put up a fight, and I’m proud of that,” Franklin said on Eurosport. “That’s all that matters.”

Franklin, after winning three individual golds and six overall at the 2013 Worlds, will go into the Rio Olympics without a major international meet individual title since 2013.

She took one individual medal (bronze in the 100m back) at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships after suffering back spasms two days before the competition.

Franklin earned silver, bronze (200m freestyle), fifth (100m back) and seventh (100m free) in her four individual events in Kazan. All of her finals times were at least a half-second slower than in 2013.

“Trying to come back from that [back injury], gaining confidence again in my swimming and really getting back to the shape I want to be in,” Franklin said. “This meet, even though the results weren’t where I wanted them to be, they’re exactly where I need them to be right now. I’m going to be much better when I come back next summer.”

Australia swept the men’s and women’s 100m and 200m backstrokes with Seebohm and Mitch Larkin. The U.S. had swept the backstrokes at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds.

In the 50m free, French Olympic champion Florent Manaudou took back the title of world’s fastest swimmer in 21.19 seconds. U.S. Olympic 100m free champion Adrian was .33 behind for silver, followed by Brazil’s Bruno Fratus for bronze.

South African Chad le Clos repeated as 100m butterfly World champion, clocking an African record 50.56. Phelps, the three-time Olympic 100m fly champ who is swimming the 100m fly at the U.S. Championships in San Antonio on Saturday, had a best time in 2014 of 51.17.

Earlier this week, le Clos said Phelps has been “talking a lot of smack about how slow the butterfly is,” around the world. Phelps said this spring he was open to re-adding the 200m butterfly to his schedule because the world’s best times were not that much more impressive than 15 years ago.

On Saturday, le Clos again mentioned Phelps.

“I just did a time that [Phelps] hasn’t done in four years, so he can keep quiet now,” le Clos said on Eurosport, incorrectly, actually, since Phelps hasn’t clocked 50.56 or better in the 100m butterfly since 2009, when he set the world record of 49.82.

Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, who upset le Clos for 200m fly gold, took silver in the 100m behind the South African. He was followed by Joseph Schooling of Singapore, a nation whose four Olympic medals are in table tennis and weightlifting. American Tom Shields was fourth.

On Friday, Phelps clocked a 200m butterfly time at the U.S. Championships that would have beaten Cseh’s 200m butterfly winning time at Worlds by .54.

“I saw his time,” Cseh said on Eurosport. “It’s quite good, but it doesn’t matter because I won the World Championship.”

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the 50m butterfly, which is not an Olympic event, in 24.96. Sjostrom also won the 100m butterfly and took silver in the 100m freestyle at Worlds.

Sjostrom skipped the 200m freestyle, but her time leading off the 4x200m free relay was faster than Ledecky’s gold medal-winning time in the individual 200m free. Sjostrom said she will most likely swim the 200m free at the Rio Olympics, which could pose the biggest competition for Ledecky in the American’s four individual events.

Sjostrom came back for the 50m freestyle semifinals an hour after the 50m fly final in Kazan and qualified third into Sunday’s final along with 100m free champion Bronte Campbell, 2013 World 100m free champion Cate Campbell and defending World champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo. American Simone Manuel qualified sixth into the 50m free final.

U.S. Olympic 100m back champion Matt Grevers was the No. 2 qualifier into Sunday’s 50m back final. The 50m back is not on the Olympic program. Grevers took bronze in the 100m back earlier in the meet.

Lochte, Franklin, Adrian and Manuel combined to win the first-ever World Championships 4x100m freestyle mixed relay to cap the night.

Ten-year-old girl competes at World Swimming Championships

Men’s 50m Freestyle
Gold: Florent Manaudou (FRA) — 21.19
Silver: Nathan Adrian (USA) — 21.52
Bronze: Bruno Fratus (BRA) — 21.55
4. Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 21.56
5. Andrii Govorov (UKR) — 21.86
5. Marco Orsi (ITA) — 21.86
7. Kristian Gkolomeev (GRE) — 21.98
8. Ben Proud (GBR) — 22.04

Women’s 200m Backstroke
Gold: Emily Seebohm (AUS) — 2:05.81
Silver: Missy Franklin (USA) — 2:06.34
Bronze: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 2:06.84
4. Daria Ustinova (RUS) — 2:07.64
5. Jenny Mensing (GER) — 2:08.49
6. Dominique Bouchard (CAN) — 2:08.51
7. Hilary Caldwell (CAN) — 2:08.66
8. Eyglo Osk Gustafsdottir (ISL) — 2:09.53

Men’s 100m Butterfly
Gold: Chad le Clos (RSA) — 50.56
Silver: Laszlo Cseh (HUN) — 50.87
Bronze: Joseph Schooling (SIN) — 50.96
4. Tom Shields (USA) — 51.06
5. Mehdy Metella (FRA) — 51.24
6. Konrad Czerniak (POL) — 51.28
7. Pawel Korzeniowski (POL) — 51.46
8. Li Zhuhao (CHN) — 51.66

Women’s 800m Freestyle
Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA) — 8:07.39 WR
Silver: Lauren Boyle (NZL) — 8:17.65
Bronze: Jaz Carlin (GBR) — 8:18.15
4. Jessica Ashwood (AUS) — 8:18.41
5. Lotte Friis (DEN) — 8:21.36
6. Boglarka Kapas (HUN) — 8:22.93
7. Sarah Kohler (GER) — 8:23.67
8. Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) — 8:24.12