Jul 26, 2013, 10:42 AM EST
1. Eight events for Missy Franklin. The quadruple 2012 Olympic champion is in line to attempt what Michael Phelps never did — swim three events in one semifinals/finals session at a major international meet.
Franklin, 18, qualified for five individual events at nationals in June — the 50, 100 and 200 back and the 100 and 200 free. Via her wins in the two freestyles, she qualified to swim in all three relays in Barcelona as well.
“It’s definitely a lot,” Franklin said at a press conference in Barcelona on Friday. “But those are some of my favorite races.”
No woman has won more than six medals at a single world championships.
Franklin swam five events at 2011 worlds, her breakout meet, and then did seven at the 2012 Olympics. At neither of those competitions did she swim three events in one night.
Here, the schedule on Aug. 1 calls for the 100 free semis, 50 back final and the 4×200 free relay final from noon to 2:10 p.m. ET. FINA’s site has the 100 free semis listed first and the relay listed last in its order of events, with the 50 back separated from the relay by only the men’s 200 back semis.
Could Franklin podium in every event and join Phelps in the eight-for-eight club? Undoubtedly. She’s ranked second in the world this year in both the 100 and 200 free, two events she failed to medal in at London. She leads the world in both the 100 and 200 back, her specialty stroke.
That leaves the 50 back, a non-Olympic event, that could give her problems. Fifty-meter swims are always tough to predict because the eight finalists should finish within one second of each other. Franklin is ranked ninth in the world in the 50 back, but she’s only three tenths of a second out of third. She could very well medal — as she did in 2011, taking bronze — or she may not make the final.
Then there are the three relays. The U.S. should podium in each one, as it did at 2011 worlds and the 2012 Olympics, with Franklin playing key roles on all three.
2. The return of Ye Shiwen. You may remember Ye from the 2012 Olympics, where she swept the individual medleys at 16 years old. She even swam the final 50 meters of the 400 IM faster than men’s champion Ryan Lochte, completing a world record that prompted heavy scrutiny.
Ye enters these championships with the second-best time in the world this year in both events, but it’s hard not to deem her the favorite given her dominating performances in London.
In the 200 IM, she trails Australian Alicia Coutts, who won silver behind Ye in London. Brit Hannah Miley (fifth in London) has the fastest time in the 400 IM. Americans Caitlin Leverenz (200 IM) and Maya DiRado (400 IM) and Elizabeth Beisel (200, 400 IM) are also medal threats.
Ye’s also a dark horse in the 200 back. She’s the Chinese national champion in the event and ranked ninth in the world this year. How exciting would it be to see Ye and Franklin in close proximity on the final 50 in that final?
3. Natalie Coughlin like we’ve never seen her. Coughlin, 30, is the most decorated female world championships swimmer of all time with 18 medals. After skipping the 2009 worlds during a post-Beijing break, she came back in 2011 to win three medals — gold in the medley relay, silver in the 4×100 free relay and bronze in the 100 back.
Coughlin failed to make the 2012 Olympic team in an individual event, taking third at trials in the 100 back, but still won her 12th career Olympic medal as a preliminary swimmer on the 4×100 free relay team.
She’s taking a different mindset after her third Olympics, choosing to focus on the splash-and-dash 50 free. It’s a wise move given the rising U.S. depth in the 100 back and a shallow pool of talent in the short sprint. She won the 50 free at trials in June and qualified for the 4×100 free relay again.
She should win worlds medal No. 19 on that relay, but a podium placement in the 50 free will be difficult. She’s ranked No. 11 in the world this year in the event, more than a half-second behind favorites Australian Cate Campbell and Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
4. Is Dana Vollmer still lord of the fly? The American was unstoppable in the 100 butterfly in London, breaking the Olympic record in the prelims, going a half-second faster than everyone in the semis and then dipping under the world record in the final, which she won by nearly a second.
A new year has brought new competition. Vollmer won nationals in 57.53, good for No. 3 in the world. The Australian Coutts, who took Olympic bronze, just might be the favorite with her world-leading 57.18. Another American, Claire Donahue, actually led Vollmer off the turn at trials.
No woman has ever won the world title in the 100 fly a year after winning the Olympic title. It looks like Vollmer has her work cut out for her to make that history.
5. Which nation is No. 1? The U.S. women broke away from rivals Australia and China at the last world championships and Olympics following the post-Beijing lull.
Here’s the breakdown:
2008 Beijing: 1. U.S. (15). 2 Australia (14). 3. China (5).
2009 Rome: 1. Australia (11). 2. U.S. (8). 3. China (7).
2011 Shanghai: 1. U.S. (15). 2. China (9). 3. Australia (8).
2012 London: 1. U.S. (14). 2. Australia (7). 3. China (6).
Can the Americans keep the momentum they’ve built, or will the post-Olympics worlds again see other nations catch up and perhaps pass them?
I still see the U.S. leading the medal count, but Australia should be closer than in 2011 or 2012. The Aussies — both men and women — put up times to start this year that look like the whole nation is on a mission after a forgettable Olympics. (though Aussie early-year times are strong given the change in seasons)
Australia arguably has the world’s best sprint freestyler (Campbell) and butterflier (Coutts) as well as medal threats in the middle-distance freestyles (Bronte Barratt) and the backstroke (Emily Seebohm).
In the relays, the Aussies could be called favorites in the 4×100 and 4×200 free. The Campbell sisters (Cate and Bronte) are a one-two punch no other nation can match in the 4×100. Australia is even more dominant in the 4×200 with four of the top 10 swimmers in the world this year.
The U.S. still owns the medley relay, however, given Australia hasn’t found a strong replacement for Leisel Jones in the breaststroke.
Dec 11, 2013, 4:09 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn plans to compete in Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 21 as her comeback from major knee surgery continues. The Olympic downhill champion will skip this weekend’s World Cup stop in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The World Cup stops for a slalom in between St. Moritz and Val d’Isere, but Vonn said in October she didn’t…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:14 PM EST
2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter‘s bid to make a third U.S. Olympic Team is off to an inauspicious start. Teter, 26, was the biggest name not to qualify for the women’s snowboard halfpipe final at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, Colo., on Wednesday. She took 16th in qualifying, where the top eight advance to…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:02 AM EST
Moscow-based TV journalist Vladimir Pozner will be a correspondent for NBC Olympics’ late-night show with Bob Costas during the Sochi Games. “With his deep Russian roots and American upbringing, Vladimir Pozner is uniquely qualified to provide a Russian outlook to our audience during the Sochi Olympics,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics. “At yet another significant moment in…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:10 AM EST
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Dec 11, 2013, 9:37 AM EST
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Dec 10, 2013, 5:46 PM EST
U.S. Olympic qualification for snowboarding and freeskiing will be among the toughest of all sports. It begins in Breckenridge, Colo., this week. The Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships, which run Wednesday through Sunday, are the first of five stops in this trials process. The others are on the U.S. Grand Prix schedule — Copper Mountain, Colo.,…
Dec 10, 2013, 2:08 PM EST
Dreaming of NFL players in the Olympics? While any possibility is far, far away, the International Olympic Committee provisionally recognized football’s international sports federation Tuesday. “On behalf of the IOC, we are delighted to welcome the IFAF [International Federation of American Football] into the Olympic Family,” said IOC sports director Christophe Dubi, according to a press release.…
Dec 10, 2013, 1:43 PM EST
Specific areas for protests or demonstrations have been set aside for the Sochi Olympics by Russian Games organizers, the International Olympic Committee said Tuesday. “People who want to express their opinions or want to demonstrate for or against something,” IOC president Thomas Bach said, according to The Associated Press. “This is a measure we welcome so that…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:05 PM EST
An outpouring of social media support followed Evan Lysacek‘s announcement that he would not defend his Olympic figure skating title. They came from fellow figure skaters, of course, but also the U.S. Olympic community. The widespread well wishes showed the level of admiration and respect for Lysacek across the Olympic landscape. Here’s a selection of posts:…
Dec 10, 2013, 9:53 AM EST
Call him Sir Bradley Wiggins. The 2012 Olympic and Tour de France champion was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. “I can’t remember what she said or what I said,” Wiggins said, according to Sky Sports. “It’s probably more nervous going up there and doing something like that being in an Olympic…
Dec 10, 2013, 9:35 AM EST
Rosa Khutor, a Sochi Olympic mountain cluster venue, is set to officially open for ski season Saturday. But four days before that, and less than two months before the Olympics, an avalanche warning was issued for the mountains near the Russian Olympic host city. “Avalanches could cause blackouts, disruption of communications, housing services and transportation,”…
Dec 10, 2013, 8:22 AM EST
Evan Lysacek will not defend his Olympic figure skating title. Lysacek, 28, was unable to recover fast enough from a torn labrum in his left hip to qualify for the Sochi Olympics, he said on TODAY on Tuesday morning. The Chicago Tribune first reported the news overnight, saying Lysacek would not compete at all this season.…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:04 PM EST
The International Olympic Committee is set to send a letter to national Olympic committees reminding athletes of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which prohibits any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” during the Games. “We will give the background of the Rule 50, explaining the interpretation of the Rule 50 to make the…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:23 AM EST
The U.S. could win its first medal at the Sochi Olympics in the new figure skating team event, but the competition for gold will be tight if qualification is any indication. The International Skating Union published its list of the 10 qualified nations into the event Tuesday. The U.S. had the third highest qualification score,…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:35 AM EST
David Remnick, a Pulitzer Prize winner and editor of The New Yorker, will contribute to NBC’s coverage of the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony and offer commentary for NBC News. Remnick, 55, is the former Moscow Bureau Chief for The Washington Post and won his Pulitzer for his book, “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire.” “I…
Dec 8, 2013, 3:39 PM EST
Ted Ligety dominated as usual. Bode Miller looked like the Miller of old. The Americans went one-two in a World Cup giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday. It marked the first time the U.S. put two men on a World Cup podium since Jan. 17, 2009. The world champion Ligety won in a two-run time of 2…
Dec 8, 2013, 1:52 PM EST
Lindsey Vonn improved for the second straight day in her first races in 10 months. The Olympic downhill champion placed fifth in a World Cup super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Sunday. Vonn skied the course in 1 minute, 23.71 seconds. Winner Lara Gut of Switzerland was .85 of a second faster. Vonn, in her first races since blowing…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:51 PM EST
American Heather Richardson and her fiance both won races on the final day of the World Cup speed skating stop in Berlin on Sunday. Richardson, the world sprint champion, won the 1000m in 1 minute, 14.51 seconds, .91 better than U.S. teammate Brittany Bowe. Russian Olga Fatkulina was third. Berlin marked the final World Cup before the Olympics, meaning it’s…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:15 PM EST
Erin Hamlin finished fifth in a World Cup luge race to secure her third Olympic berth on Saturday night. Hamlin, 27, of Remsen, N.Y., is the second USA Luger to clinch a spot in Sochi, joining now two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer. Hamlin is now a three-time Olympian. The 2009 world champion finished 12th in Torino and 16th…
Dec 8, 2013, 12:08 PM EST
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