Jul 26, 2013, 2:45 PM EST
1. Ryan Lochte’s busiest program ever. Like Missy Franklin, Lochte is going above and beyond his Olympic slate of six events. He’s planning four individual swims in Barcelona — the 200-meter backstroke, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley and a new addition, the 100 butterfly — in addition to three relays.
Also like Franklin, that sets Lochte up for a potential three-swim night on one of the finals sessions. It’s something Lochte has never attempted at a major international meet. The now-retired Michael Phelps used to drop events to avoid triples.
“My body needed to recharge (after the Olympics),” Lochte said of his post-London break in a press conference Friday. “Now I’m back in the water, and I’m excited to race.”
The busy night will be Aug. 2, the day before his 29th birthday, if Lochte sticks in every event and advances out of heats. The Aug. 2 night session in Barcelona is scheduled for noon-2:30 Eastern Time.
That night’s second event is the final of the 200 back. Lochte is the defending world champion and ranked No. 3 in the world this year (1:55.16) behind two Japanese. Top-ranked Ryosuke Irie (1:54.72), silver medalist behind Tyler Clary in London, will pose a threat here, especially if Lochte isn’t in peak shape.
Four events later, Lochte would presumably swim in the 100 butterfly semis. Phelps won this event at the last three Olympics and last three world championships, never against Lochte though.
The medal picture is fuzzier this year. German Steffen Deibler (51.19) and co-Olympic silver medalists Russian Evgeny Korotyshkin (51.53) South African Chad le Clos (51.64) own the world’s three fastest times. Lochte is ranked sixth (51.71), and he came in second at trials to Eugene Godsoe (51.66). Expect Lochte to make the final, but his chances of medaling will be very dependent on what kind of form he’s in.
The final event Aug. 2 is the 4×200 free relay, which Lochte has been a part of in winning U.S. gold at every major international meet since 2003. It will be no cakewalk without Phelps this year, especially with France and Russia improving. Even if Lochte anchors, I don’t see him being given an insurmountable lead. He’ll have to work for gold, even after potentially doing two swims in the previous two hours.
“Any other year, my expectations would be definitely medaling and winning every race,” Lochte said. “I want to do that this meet, but it’s been an off-year. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Earlier in the meet, Lochte will be a medal favorite in the 200 free (but French Olympic champion Yannick Agnel is favored for gold) and the 200 IM (where Lochte is No. 1 in the world this year).
All eyes will be on Lochte’s footwear on the pool deck. He may break out these:
2. Nathan Adrian is bigger. Is he better? Adrian added 10 pounds of muscle after taking a short break following the London Olympics, where he won the 100-meter freestyle by .01 over Australian James Magnussen.
He’s dropped down to four or five pounds heavier than he was in London, dabbling in different training techniques. He’ll find out how well that works against loaded fields in the 50 free and 100 free.
Adrian is ranked No. 1 in the world this year in the 50 (21.47), just ahead of his budding rival Magnussen (21.52). Magnussen, however, owns the top time in the 100 (47.53), ahead of Adrian in fifth (48.08). Magnussen has said that Adrian should be considered the favorite in the 100. Adrian is also shying away from expecting gold.
“He is the returning world champ,” Adrian said. “And ranked No. 1 in the world right now, right? I’ll give that one to him. No one wants that (to be called the favorite).”
3. What can we expect from Yannick Agnel? It’s been a strange few months for the 6-foot-8 Frenchman. He and his French coach reached what he called “a point of no return.” So, Agnel moved to the U.S. to train with Phelps’ former coach, Bob Bowman, who is the head U.S. men’s coach in Barcelona.
It was announced in May that Agnel would only swim relays for the French, but this week it’s come out that he will indeed enter the 200 free. As head-scratching as it’s been for Agnel, he must be considered the favorite, even over Lochte.
Remember, Agnel won the Olympic title in the 200 free by more than 1.5 seconds over Sun Yang and Park Tae-Hwan, neither of whom will contest it in Barcelona.
“For the first time in, I think, several years, we have exciting young guys,” Bowman said.
I’m looking at one in particular, rising University of Arizona junior Kevin Cordes. The 19-year-old swept the 100 and 200 breast at trials and also came in second in the 50. He’s ranked No. 4 in the world in the 100 (59.99) and No. 2 in the 200 (2:08.34), and he’s only getting better at his young age.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cordes end a six-year gold-medal drought for U.S. men in the breaststrokes at a major international meet. On the other hand, he might still be a year or two away.
5. How will the 4×100 free relay turn out? The most anticipated event of every major swim meet has become this relay. We saw Jason Lezak‘s heroics in Beijing and then the French revenge in London.
“I do think this relay will be a big challenge for us,” Bowman said Friday. “There’s a very wide-open race. Any one of four teams, I think, could be in any position on the podium.”
Those four teams are the U.S., the defending world champion Aussies, the Russians and probably the French. This event is undoubtedly most important to Australia, whose yearlong swoon seemed to begin with a fourth-place disaster at the London Olympics.
It’s on the first night of competition, Sunday, and a gold-medal beginning for the Aussies would provide the confidence, especially for Magnussen, to get over the Stilnox controversy that spread over much of the last year.
On paper, Russia looks daunting, with four of the top eight 100 free swimmers in the world this year. But the times have not been spectacular all around, which makes predictions a bit tougher. Australia has three of the top 10. The U.S. has two — Adrian and Jimmy Feigen.
I’ll take Australia, and a motivated Magnussen to fire off a spectacular leg, for gold, the Russians for silver and the U.S. for bronze. But if previous years are any indication, predictions in this event are sure to go wrong.
Dec 5, 2013, 8:17 AM EST
Lindsey Vonn is working her way back for Sochi, but it’s still unknown if Tiger Woods will be there in February. Woods was asked if he’s “making plans to be in Sochi” on Wednesday. “I think that’s just day to day,” Woods said at the Northwestern Mutual Challenge in Sherwood Oaks, Calif. “We just don’t know how her…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:20 AM EST
Mao Asada and Yuzuru Hanyu thrilled their home crowd Thursday in Fukuoka, Japan, the two Japanese skaters jumping out to healthy leads following their respective short programs at the Grand Prix Final. Hanyu, 18, delivered a world-record performance in his short, registering a score of 99.84 to build a healthy 12-point lead over Patrick Chan,…
Dec 4, 2013, 2:46 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn is one step closer to skiing competitively for the first time in 10 months. The Olympic downhill champion took an official downhill training run in near-zero-degree temperatures in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Wednesday afternoon, site of World Cup races this weekend. She completed the course in 1 minute, 59.53 seconds, the 22nd fastest of…
Dec 4, 2013, 12:57 PM EST
Burton revealed its patchwork designs for the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team on Tuesday. “We’re really proud that the 2014 uniform builds on Burton’s legacy of creating fun, unconventional designs that stray from the formal, traditional look of most uniforms,” said Greg Dacyshyn, Chief Creative Officer at Burton Snowboards, in a press release. “The vintage quilt and…
Dec 4, 2013, 12:26 PM EST
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Dec 4, 2013, 10:33 AM EST
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Dec 4, 2013, 9:45 AM EST
A likely U.S. bid for the 2024 Olympics might be rivaled north of the border, but a leading Canadian Olympic official believes a North American city would have a better chance in 2028. “The way IOC does it, the games go to Europe, the Americas and then somewhere else,” Paul Henderson, former International Olympic Committee…
Dec 3, 2013, 9:21 PM EST
The U.S. Bobsled team made one change to its three women’s bobsled pairings for the second World Cup of the season in Park City, Utah, this weekend. The top two sleds from last week’s opener in Calgary, Alberta, remain the same – Elana Meyers and Aja Evans and Jamie Greubel and Katie Eberling. The third sled will again by driven by Jazmine Fenlator,…
Dec 3, 2013, 6:50 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn‘s status for this weekend’s races will be determined Thursday. The Olympic downhill champion is expected to take an official downhill training run Wednesday in Lake Louise, Alberta, two days before the first official World Cup race there. A decision on her participation in downhills Friday and Saturday and a super-G on Sunday will…
Dec 3, 2013, 6:38 PM EST
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Dec 3, 2013, 3:16 PM EST
NBC Olympics swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines earned plenty of attention for his wild Iron Bowl finish reaction on Saturday night, but he might get a little heat from his fellow Auburn alums now. First, Gaines’ recollection of that crazy Tigers victory. His wife, Judy, was filming Gaines watching Alabama kicker Adam Griffith line up to attempt a hail-mary, 57-yard, time-expiring,…
Dec 3, 2013, 1:58 PM EST
Showers of praise keep raining on U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, but perhaps comparisons to Lindsey Vonn are not the way to go. “When they say I’m the next Lindsey Vonn, they are shooing her out the door, and I don’t think that’s fair,” Shiffrin told TODAY.com. “Imagine being her, reading that someone is the next Lindsey Vonn…
Dec 3, 2013, 11:04 AM EST
Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold was eliminated from “The Biggest Loser,” but not after she dropped 91 pounds in seven weeks. “It was a lot of hard work and not a lot of food,” Mangold, who went from 351 pounds to 260, said on “TODAY” on Tuesday. “It was extremely emotional [to be eliminated]. It’s hard. You bond…
Dec 3, 2013, 10:28 AM EST
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Dec 3, 2013, 10:01 AM EST
Back comes Yuna Kim to figure skating this coming weekend. The reigning Olympic gold medalist will not be joining her peers at the Grand Prix Final in Japan, instead setting down her blades on competitive ice for the first time in nearly nine months at a lower-level Senior B event, Golden Spin, in Zagreb, Croatia.…
Dec 3, 2013, 9:56 AM EST
Thirteen members of the Miracle on Ice team, including captain Mike Eruzione, won’t be anywhere near Sochi during the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7. They’ll be in Glendale, Ariz., to see the Chicago Blackhawks faces the Phoenix Coyotes. Eruzione and his 1980 U.S. Olympic champion teammates will be honored in an Olympic send-off event and ceremonial…
Dec 2, 2013, 3:52 PM EST
Rowdy Gaines has made some memorable calls of close swimming finishes (Jason Lezak, anyone?). The Auburn alum added a college football nail-biter to his résumé Saturday. The video above is courtesy of his wife, Judy. Gaines, an NBC Olympics swimming analyst, paced back and forth and buried his head in his hands as Alabama kicker Adam Griffith lined…
Dec 2, 2013, 3:28 PM EST
As promised, Ron Burgundy rocked the curling world Sunday. The anchorman took a break from the KVWN Channel 4 News team to join TSN’s coverage of Roar of the Rings, which are Canada’s Olympic Curling Trials. Before taking the mic, he received a curling lesson from world champion Glenn Howard and held a news conference. “The limo ride from…
Dec 2, 2013, 2:40 PM EST
The U.S. Ski Team rookie haircut tradition took a stars-and-stripes turn last weekend. Bryce Bennett, 21, made his World Cup debut in Lake Louise, Alberta, finishing 64th in a super-G. He also showed off a brand-new haircut, courtesy of teammate Jared Goldberg. Compare Bennett’s new look to that of Kieffer Christianson and Nick Daniels in recent rookie trimmings. Perhaps…
Dec 2, 2013, 1:19 PM EST
The late sprinter Ronnie Ray Smith received a memorial service befitting his Olympic champion status. The service for Smith, a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. 4x100m relay team at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, will be featured on TLC’s “Best Funeral Ever” on Monday night Here’s why: A casket was rolled over a finish line and…
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