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The 5 best swimming performances of the Tokyo Olympics

(Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

With the Tokyo Olympics officially concluded, a new clock starts, counting down the minutes until Paris 2024. That doesn’t mean we can’t look back at some of our favorite moments from the past few weeks.

This year’s Olympics had no shortage of memorable events, from Naomi Osaka lighting the cauldron on Day 1 to Canada winning their first gold medal in soccer on the final weekend. Here are five that stood out to us from the pool.

17-year-old Lydia Jacoby wins gold in the 100-meter breaststroke

Five years after Lilly King rose to stardom with her 100-meter breaststroke win in Rio, U.S. teammate Lydia Jacoby was relatively unknown heading into these Games. She was a surprise qualifier in Omaha, becoming the first Alaskan Olympian in swimming.

Then, in Tokyo, Jacoby shocked the world. King wasn’t considered a lock to defend her Olympic title in the 100m breaststroke. Most were looking to South African Tatjana Schoenmaker as her main competition after she’d won both the preliminary and semifinal rounds. In the final, Schoenmaker took the lead early and held onto it with 15 meters to go. Jacoby turned it on from there, using a late kick to overtake both King and Schoenmaker and win gold.

Bonus: Jacoby’s high school classmates and parents back in Alaska also had gold-medal reactions to her race.

Katie Ledecky anchors the U.S. to silver in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay

Ledecky had no shortage of memorable swims at these Olympics, but the most exciting may very well have been the one that earned her a silver medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

All three medal-winning teams finished under the world record in this race. China beat out both the United States and Australia, the gold-medal favorites, to claim gold. Meanwhile, Ledecky swam a 1:53.7 split as Team USA’s anchor — a time that would have won silver in the individual race — to overcome Australia and help the U.S. place second.

Bonus: Ledecky’s week was one for the history books. She became the first woman to win gold in the inaugural 1500-meter freestyle at the Olympics and she won her third-straight gold in the 800-meter freestyle.

Ariarne Titmus’ rise to mid-distance stardom

There were rumblings back in 2019 that Titmus could be the next star in mid-distance freestyle after she dethroned Ledecky in the 400-meter freestyle at the World Championships. Many had marked that win with an asterisk, however, because Ledecky had been dealing with an illness at the time.

This time, there was no asterisk. Titmus defeated Ledecky on the world’s biggest stage, swimming the second-fastest 400m freestyle (just behind Ledecky’s world record) and becoming the first swimmer to defeat the American in an individual Olympic event. Later on in the week, Titmus also won gold in the 200-meter freestyle, adding to her heroics in Tokyo.

Bonus: Titmus’ coach, Dean Boxall, had one of the greatest celebrations of the Games after she won gold.

Emma McKeon makes Olympic history

What an Olympics it was for Team Australia, with Emma McKeon’s performance standing out above the rest.

McKeon won four gold medals and three bronze medals in Tokyo, making her the first female swimmer to earn seven medals in a single Olympics. The feat also tied her with Soviet gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya for the most medals earned by a woman at a single Olympics. McKeon is now the most decorated Australian Olympian of all time, having surpassed Ian Thorpe.

Her record-breaking moment came on the final day of competition, with McKeon winning gold in the 50-meter freestyle and then setting up Australia to win gold in the 4×100-meter medley relay.

Tatjana Schoenmaker breaks the Olympics’ first individual world record in swimming

After placing second in the 100-meter breaststroke, Schoenmaker was not done. The South African then dominated the 200-meter breaststroke, winning gold and breaking the world record with a time of 2:18.95. It was the first time a woman has ever gone under 2:19 in the event.

Not bad for someone who swam the same race in 2:27 five years ago and failed to qualify for Rio. Schoenmaker’s reaction was also one of the best of the Games. Her opponents, including Americans Annie Lazor and Lilly King, celebrated the achievement with her.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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