Michael Weiss

U.S. men stunned in Worlds relay as streaks snapped

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The U.S. won three silver medals at the World Swimming Championships on Friday but saw its two longest gold-medal streaks in major international meets snapped in Kazan, Russia.

Great Britain’s James Guy overcame a 1.63-second deficit on Michael Weiss on the 4x200m freestyle relay anchor leg to win by .42. The U.S. had won the event at 11 straight major international meets dating to Ryan Lochte‘s first Olympic medal in the Athens 2004 relay.

Lochte led off the relay Friday and gave the U.S. a .54 lead. Conor Dwyer extended it to .85 and Reed Malone to 1.38 over Russia, but Weiss couldn’t hold off Guy, the individual 200m freestyle World champion. Had the U.S. had Michael Phelps, it might have been a different result.

“I know that we were missing some guys; I think everyone from each team is missing some guys,” Lochte told media in Kazan. “We came up short, but we’re going to definitely remember this and hopefully train our butts off all next year and hopefully not let that happen again.”

Australian Mitch Larkin ended a 20-year American run atop the men’s 200m backstroke, sweeping the 100m and 200m back golds in Kazan. Larkin clocked 1:53.58, followed by Poland’s Radoslaw Kawecki (1:54.55) and Russia’s Yevgeny Rylov (1:54.60).

Americans Ryan Murphy and Olympic champion Tyler Clary were fifth and seventh, respectively. The U.S. had won the 200m back at 20 straight major international meets (Olympics/Worlds/Pan Pacific Championships), the last loss coming at the 1994 World Championships.

The U.S. owns 14 medals through six of eight days at the World Championships, leading the medal standings over Australia and China, which both have 11. The U.S.’ fewest medals won at a Worlds or Olympics in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 World Championships.

World Swimming Championships: Friday results | Broadcast schedule

In the 100m freestyle, Australian sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell took gold and bronze, respectively, to become the first siblings to share a Worlds individual podium.

Bronte, 21, clocked 52.52 for the victory. Swede Sarah Sjostrom took silver at 52.70. Cate, 23 and the 2013 World champion, touched in 52.82.

Americans Simone Manuel and Missy Franklin finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Franklin finished fifth in the 100m free at the 2012 Olympics and fourth at the 2013 Worlds, both in faster times than Friday. A U.S. woman has not won a Worlds 100m free medal since 2005 (Natalie Coughlin) and a gold medal since 1998 (Jenny Thompson).

Franklin came back 16 minutes later to win her 200m backstroke semifinal, qualifying third overall into Saturday’s final behind Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Australian 100m backstroke champion Emily Seebohm.

American Kevin Cordes earned silver in the 200m breaststroke, .29 behind German Marco Koch. Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta took bronze in a bid to become the third swimmer to earn four straight World titles in one event. Cordes, 21, won bronze in the non-Olympic 50m breast earlier at Worlds.

Cordes has rebounded well from a disastrous Worlds debut in 2013, when he disqualified the U.S. men’s medley relay team by taking off .01 too early in the final. Cordes also was disqualified from the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships 100m breast final after trying to take off his goggles during the race because they filled with water.

In the women’s 200m breast, Japan’s Kanako Watanabe overtook Danish world-record holder Rikke Moller Pedersen in the final 50 meters, winning in 2:21.15. American Micah Lawrence earned silver, 1.29 seconds behind. Lawrence was the bronze medalist in 2013.

Pedersen, China’s Shi Jinglin and Spain’s Jessica Vall tied for bronze Friday. It’s the first time five swimmers won medals in an individual swimming event at an Olympics or World Championships.

In semifinals Friday, Nathan Adrian broke Cullen Jones‘ American 50m freestyle record to lead all qualifiers into Saturday’s eight-man final. Adrian, the Olympic 100m free champion, finished a disappointing seventh in the 100m free Thursday.

Tom Shields was the No. 2 qualifier into Saturday’s 100m butterfly final, behind Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and in front of defending World champion Chad le Clos of South Africa.

Earlier Friday, Katie Ledecky clocked the fastest qualifying time into Saturday’s 800m freestyle final. If she wins gold, she will become the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a Worlds. She will also become the third swimmer to win four individual golds at a single Worlds, joining Lochte and Phelps.

10-year-old girl swims at World Championships

Women’s 100m Freestyle
Gold: Bronte Campbell (AUS) — 52.52
Silver: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 52.70
Bronze: Cate Campbell (AUS) — 52.82
4. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) — 53.17
5. Femke Heemskerk (NED) — 53.58
6. Simone Manuel (USA) — 53.93
7. Missy Franklin (USA) — 54.00
8. Shen Duo (CHN) — 54.76

Men’s 200m Backstroke
Gold: Mitch Larkin (AUS) — 1:53.58
Silver: Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) — 1:54.55
Bronze: Yevgeny Rylov (RUS) — 1:54.60
4. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) — 1:54.81
5. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 1:55.00
6. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 1:55.20
7. Tyler Clary (USA) — 1:56.26
8. Li Guangyuan (CHN) — 1:56.79

Women’s 200m Breaststroke
Gold: Kanako Watanabe (JPN) — 2:21.15
Silver: Micah Lawrence (USA) — 2:22.44
Bronze: Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN) — 2:22.76
Bronze: Shi Jinglin (CHN) — 2:22.76
Bronze: Jessica Vall (ESP) — 2:22.76
6. Rie Kaneto (JPN) — 2:23.19
7. Vitalina Simonova (RUS) — 2:23.59
8. Kierra Smith (CAN) — 2:23.61

Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Gold: Marco Koch (GER) — 2:07.76
Silver: Kevin Cordes (USA) — 2:08.05
Bronze: Daniel Gyurta (HUN) — 2:08.10
4. Andrew Stephen Willis (GBR) — 2:08.52
5. Yasuhiro Koseki (JPN) — 2:09.12
6. Dmitriy Balandin (KAZ) — 2:09.58
7. Anton Chupkov (RUS) — 2:09.96
8. Mao Feilian (CHN) — 2:10.02

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Gold: Great Britain — 7:04.33
Silver: U.S. — 7:04.75
Bronze: Australia — 7:05.34
4. Russia — 7:06.89
5. Germany — 7:09.01
6. Belgium — 7:09.64
7. Netherlands — 7:09.75
8. Poland — 7:10.34

Figure skaters recall odd gifts from fans

Figure skating gifts
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Michelle Kwan still has bags of stuffed animals, and she doesn’t know what to do with them.

The toys are mostly at least 10 years old, thrown on the ice by fans after her figure skating performances. Kwan believes the bags are collecting dust in the attic of her parents’ home.

“I think it’s a little too late to give stuffed animals [away to children] because they’re so old now,” Kwan said at a Figure Skating in Harlem gala in New York last week. “The kids will be like, ‘They make these still?’ … I don’t think kids would want to play with them anymore.”

Ardent figure skating fans go to competitions toting presents they heave on the ice after their favorite skaters perform. Whether the skater lands quadruple jumps or falls on a simple spin, they will receive lovely parting gifts.

Usually, children called “sweepers” gather the teddy bears, fake flowers, even candy for the skaters, who will sometimes pick up one or two items themselves on their way to the kiss-and-cry area.

It’s one of the sport’s unique traditions that grew more visible this past season, if one looked closely.

In January, U.S. Olympian Gracie Gold received a small stuffed sea creature at the U.S. Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Her coach, 76-year-old Frank Carroll, appeared to try to take a bite out of it while Gold waited for her scores.

In February, Gold carried a stuffed white bear about half her size to the kiss-and-cry area at the Four Continents Championship in Seoul. The bear wore a pink backpack, Gold opened it and pulled out a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups while waiting for her judges’ scores.

The world’s most popular skater, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, is known to have a Winnie-the-Pooh tissue box with him at competitions.

In March, gold and red Pooh bears rained on the ice at the World Championships in Shanghai, China, following Hanyu’s short program. At least 10 sweepers required minutes to clean the surface.

Hanyu’s friendly rival, Spain’s Javier Fernandez, was scheduled to skate after Hanyu in the next day’s long program.

“I’m going to skate around [the bears] and try not to kill myself,” Fernandez reportedly said then.

Active and retired U.S. skaters agreed that Japanese fans are on their own level.

“There’s adoration, and then there’s that,” 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie said. “It’s like worship almost. I think that would be overwhelming for a skater. That is pressure.”

Wylie competed in the pre-sweepers era.

“You would go around, and you would take probably two to three minutes and then greet anyone who was giving you a rose or something like that,” he said. “People wouldn’t throw them. They would stand at the edge of the barrier, and then the skater would come by and have this meet and greet. Based on that, it was taking too long.”

Wylie’s account conjures this Coca-Cola commercial from the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics:

“Back in the ’90s, it was popular to do flowers, which I don’t think they allow anymore because of the debris,” 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi said.

In 2001, U.S. Figure Skating banned flowers “in part because of safety concerns related to the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent anthrax scares,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Sept. 11 made the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. move up a decision it was already going to make,” said Larry Kriwanek, chair of the Los Angeles 2002 U.S. Figure Championships organizing committee, according to the report. “Flowers were going to be eliminated. It was just a question of when.”

That did little to quell fans’ creativity.

“We sometimes will get stuffed animals made in custom costumes to match what we’re wearing,” Sochi Olympic ice dance champion Meryl Davis said, referring to partner Charlie White and herself.

Davis remembered as a child watching Kwan skate, and seeing the stream of stuffed animals being thrown by people sitting around her. But she said she’s never thrown a gift on the ice for another skater.

There’s difficulty in deciding which items to squeeze into luggage for the flight home. The others usually go to children’s hospitals.

“It’s tough to leave stuff behind, because you know that people are going out of their way to give it to you,” Davis said. “Usually in Japan, you get the most.”

Sasha Cohen, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist, received marriage proposals and, once in Paris, a bunch of Cashmere sweaters. She made sure to find room for them on her return flight.

“I may have worn them back,” she said.

The 1988 Olympic bronze medalist Debi Thomas once received a box of Domino’s Pizza. Canadian Olympic silver medalists Elvis Stojko and Patrick Chan have both said they received lingerie.

“The panties came out on the ice after my short program,” Stojko said in 2010, according to ESPN.com, “and the top came out the next night after the long program, with a phone number and name attached.”

Kwan, a nine-time U.S. champion, still has a buttoned, navy blue figure skating outfit with a skirt tossed by a fan.

“And it actually fit,” she said. “When I was a kid, I was 13 [years old] at Nationals, I used to keep every single toy. The next year, I got the same amount of stuffed animals, if not more, and I said, ‘What am I going to do with them?'”

Kwan said that, as a young spectator, she once threw a stuffed rabbit on the ice for Tisha Walker, a late 1980s and early 1990s U.S. skater.

Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic champion, said he’s received a bobblehead of himself, among stranger things.

“I got a self-sufficient ecosystem with a statue of me in the middle, so if the earth ever like came to an end, you could open this up, and the earth would regrow again from the center of this ecosystem with a statue of me,” he said.

Wylie remembered a famous fan story from the late 1980s, when he skated on a tour that visited Milan.

The star of the show was East German Katarina Witt, the 1984 and 1988 Olympic champion. Wylie noticed a famous spectator, Italian Alpine skier Alberto Tomba.

“Tomba was kind of after her, you know,” Wylie said of the man-about-town, five-time Olympic medalist. “He came into the boys locker room and noticed that there was this mound of flowers that we had sort of set there because they were going to go to the hospital or whatever. He kind of second-hand picked up the flower and gave it to Katarina.”

Was the gift well-received?

“She kind of liked him, I think,” Wylie said, smiling. “I think it worked.”

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