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Adrian, Schmitt dole out heartache to Aussies

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Adrian, Schmitt dole out heartache to Aussies

By Paul Newberry
AP National Writer

LONDON (AP) -- Nathan Adrian took out the Missile by a fingertip. Then Allison Schmitt dealt more heartache to the team from Down Under.

Adrian, a 23-year-old largely overshadowed by American stars such as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, made a name for himself by winning the 100-meter Olympic freestyle Wednesday. He lunged to the wall to edge James "The Missile" Magnussen by one-hundredth of a second -- the slightest margin possible -- and again deny Australia its first individual swimming gold of the London Games.

Adrian pounded the water, then put his hands over his eyes while dangling over the lane rope, as if he couldn't believe the "1" beside his name. Magnussen hung at the end of the pool, staring straight ahead at the wall in disbelief, the wall he got to just a fraction of a second too late.

"It's not who swims the fastest time this year," said Adrian, a not-so-subtle dig at Magnussen posting the best time ever in a textile suit back in March. "It's who can get their hands on the wall first here tonight."

The Aussies took another bitter defeat in the final event of the evening, again to their American rivals as Schmitt chased down Alicia Coutts for gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay.
Schmitt dived in the water about a half-second behind but passed Coutts on their first return lap and won going away in 7 minutes, 42.92 seconds. The Australians settled for another silver in 7:44.41, while France took the bronze.

Schmitt is turning into one of the biggest American stars of the games, picking up her second gold to go along with a silver and a bronze. Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin also claimed her second gold swimming the leadoff leg, and Dana Vollmer now has two golds in London. Shannon Vreeland rounded out the gold medal-winning quartet.

"Allison is a fighter and she can push through anything," Franklin said. "We had total faith in her."

Like the Aussies, the record book also took quite a beating.

Daniel Gyurta and Rebecca Soni both set world records in the 200 breaststroke. The Hungarian won gold, while Soni set her mark in a semifinal heat, further proof that it's still possible to go fast -- really fast -- even without the now-banned bodysuits. Five records have fallen over the first five days at the Olympic Aquatics Centre, defying those who felt it would take years, maybe even decades, to take down some of the marks set with technological assistance.

"If I feel good, I don't want to hold back. I shouldn't," Soni said. "I just went for the last 50 and I started to hear the crowd halfway through and just kept going with it.

"It's been four years since I swam close to that fast, so it's great to be back on top like that."

Adrian was on top of the world after touching in 47.52, giving the U.S. its first title in swimming's signature event since Matt Biondi at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Canada's Brent Hayden took bronze in 47.80, his country's first medal ever in the furious down-and-back sprint.

"We were in the ready room and we watched it and just went nuts," Lochte said. "We were screaming and everything. That was one of the greatest finishes. We're so happy for him."
Adrian watched Soni's record on television while chatting with reporters in the mixed zone.
"Whoa, Rebecca just set a world record," he said. "I'm overshadowed by Rebecca setting a world record."
He should be used to that by now, swimming for a team that includes Phelps and Lochte. But Adrian gave a glimpse of his potential in the 4x100 free relay, going faster than Magnussen on the opening leg, a shocker given that the Missile had looked unbeatable at last year's worlds and went a stunning 47.10 at his country's national trials.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, Magnussen hasn't been at his best when it really mattered, and these Olympics are turning into a downright bummer for the swimmers from Down Under.

"I just felt pretty much bulletproof coming into this Olympics," Magnussen said. "It is very humbling."

Australia, which normally battles with the Americans for pool supremacy, has eight medals but its only gold came in the women's 4x100 free relay. The Americans are pulling away in the medal table with eight golds and 18 medals overall.

"I have a lot more respect for guys like Michael Phelps who can come to the Olympics and back it up under that pressure," Magnussen said. "It is a pretty tough time to learn you are human."

The Americans are feeling good about themselves, producing more of a team effort after Phelps dominated the last two Olympics.

"We've had a great week so far," Phelps said. "We are just starting to pick up more and more steam, so hopefully we can finish it."

The relay swimmers danced on deck to a Rihanna song before the session, then took that relaxed demeanor into the race. When the Americans fell behind, they didn't panic.

"I had confidence in them," Schmitt said, "and I just wanted to bring it home for them."

Gyurta needed every bit of speed in his race to finish off Michael Jamieson, who made a furious bid for Britain's first gold at the pool. The Hungarian touched in 2:07.28, shaving 0.03 off the previous mark set by Christian Sprenger of Australia at the 2009 world championships in a suit that is no longer allowed.

Soni showed plenty of speed, too, and it wasn't even for a medal. She touched in 2:20.00 to break yet another of the bodysuit records, a time of 2:20.12 set by Canada's Annamay Pierse at the '09 worlds.

Jiao Liuyang of China set an Olympic record to win the women's 200 butterfly. She was second at the final turn but sprinted into the lead to touch in 2:04.06 seconds, 0.12 quicker than countrywoman Liu Zige's time at the 2008 Beijing Games. Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain took silver in 2:05.25 and Natsumi Hoshi of Japan finished in 2:05.48 to take bronze.

Gyurta trailed two-time defending Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima midway through the men's breaststroke, but seized control on the third leg as the Japanese star began to fade. Making the final turn, Gyurta seemed to be in control.

Then, as he popped up and down in the water, heading for home, Gyurta suddenly felt Jamieson surging up on his right shoulder. The Aquatics Centre was in a frenzy as the two approached the wall, but Gyurta got there first.

Jamieson nearly broke the old mark, as well, settling for silver in 2:07.43. Ryo Tateishi of Japan took bronze in 2:08.29.

"I've received so many messages of support and I was desperate to get on the podium to thank everyone," Jamieson said.

Kitajima was edged for a spot on the podium by six-hundredths of a second. His countryman Tateishi slapped the water when he saw his third-place position, while Kitajima was again denied in his bid to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual race in three straight Olympics.

"I have no regrets," Kitajima said.

Back to you, Mr. Phelps.

While the American has missed on his first two tries at an unprecedented threepeat, finishing fourth in the 400 individual medley and second in the 200 butterfly, he's got two more chances to pull it off: the 200 IM and the 100 fly.

Kitajima is done.

One night after becoming the most decorated Olympian ever with his 19th medal, Phelps had a relatively light day, swimming the prelims and semifinals of the 200 IM. Lochte also competed in the medley, as well as the two rounds of the 200 backstroke -- one of his toughest days in London.

Lochte posted the second-fastest time in the backstroke semis, his time of 1:55.40 trailing only fellow American Tyler Clary's 1:54.71. Then, in the IM, he was fastest in 1:56.13, ahead of Hungary's Laszlo Cseh (1:56.74) and Phelps (1:57.11), whose mind might have been on other things.

On the way to the pool, Phelps got a call from President Barack Obama, congratulating him on becoming the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands set an Olympic record to lead the women's 100 freestyle semifinals, while defending champion Britta Steffen of Germany failed to advance. Kromowidjojo was timed in 53.05, seven-hundredths faster than Steffen's swim at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Melanie Schlanger of Australia qualified second in 53.38, while Franklin was third in 53.59. Steffen was a dismal 12th.

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First quarter grades: 20 games into the season, how do the Caps look?

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USA TODAY Sports

First quarter grades: 20 games into the season, how do the Caps look?

The Capitals have hit the quarter mark of their season with 20 games under their belts. The last two games put a sour taste on the first quarter, but overall how have they looked?

Let's harken back to our school days when the first quarter of the year brought about the first report card and hand out some grades.

(Note: I don't grade coaching. How a team performs in every area is a reflection of the coaching so all of these grades can be considered "coaching" grades)

Offense: C

By the numbers: Washington ranks 21st in the NHL with 2.80 goals per game (one spot ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins interestingly enough)

Consistency is the biggest problem for the Caps offensively. First, they were too top heavy with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie carrying the load by themselves with no secondary scoring. Since then, the top players have struggled to produce, especially Backstrom. Backstrom is being utilized more as a shutdown forward, but the Capitals need him to produce as well in order to be successful, especially when he is playing on a line with Oshie. The Caps need consistent scoring from their top players and consistent secondary production. The good news is that Ovechkin looks as good as ever with 13 goals already. After scoring 33 last season, many wondered if his days of being a top scoring threat were over. That does not appear to be the case. 

I would be remiss if I did not include one note on Kuznetsov: Please, please shoot the puck.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS LOST TO COLORADO

Defense: C

By the numbers: Washington ranks 24th in the NHL with 3.25 goals against per game

I can already hear your bewildered screams and angry questions. "How does a team that ranks 24th in the NHL get a C grade?" Let's take a step back and look at the players who have been playing. This is not the same defense from last season. Matt Niskanen, the team's best all-around defenseman, missed 13 games. The 37-year-old Brooks Orpik, who was a third-pair defenseman last season, is third on the team in average time on ice with 22:17 per game. Rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey have played 16 and 14 games respectively. With all of that in mind, it's no surprise that the defense has struggled. All things considered, the defense has not been good, but it has not been terrible either. You cannot allow 3.25 goals per game all season and hope to be a contender which is why they get a C, but with continued improvement from the rookies and Niskanen's return, the blue line should certainly improve throughout the season.

Goaltending: A-

By the numbers:
Braden Holtby:  .918 save percentage, 2.68 GAA ,10-4-0
Philipp Grubauer .876 save percentage, 3.86 GAA, 0-5-1

Holtby has been phenomenal and there is no question that he has stolen a good number of those 10 wins with this performance. He gets high marks for that. Grubauer's numbers are not good, but for anyone who has been watching this team, it is hard to fault him for any of those losses. He is not getting much support from his teammates when he steps into the crease. Starting goalies, however, need to be able to steal some wins. Grubauer wants to be a starter, so the fact that he has been unable to steal a win knocks the grade down to an A-, but overall, you cannot convince me goaltending has been an issue for the Caps this season.

Special Teams: C-

By the numbers:
Power play: Washington ranks 15th in the NHL at 19.4-percent
Penalty kill: Washington ranks 27th in the NHL at 77.8-percent

Let's start with the penalty kill. The bottom line is that it has not been good enough this season. The silver lining is that while the numbers are bad, they play much better in critical moments when the game is on the line. We saw that in the third period of the team's wins over the Islanders and the Coyotes. Overall, the PK has not been good enough, but when it really matters they step up which means there is some hope for improvement. The power play numbers are average, but here are the players who have scored on the power play this season: Oshie, Ovechkin, Carlson, Backstrom, Kuznetsov. See a pattern? They are all top-unit players. Barry Trotz has not been using his top unit for 1:30-1:45 as we've seen in previous years. He is giving much more time to his second unit. If you do that, they have to produce and they just have not been up to the task this season.

First Quarter Team MVP

1. Braden Holtby

As mentioned above, Holtby has 10 wins and he was the team's best player in most of those games. The fact that Washington does not have a single win without him shows just how important he is. He gives the team a measure of confidence that they do not have with Grubauer. Not only has he played great, but the entire team also seems to play better around him.

2. John Carlson

This team asked a lot of Carlson this season when Niskanen went on LTIR and Carlson delivered. He is second in the entire NHL in time on ice with 27:07 per game, just two seconds from the leader Rasmus Ristolainen. His play has not suffered as a result of the increased minutes. In fact, he has gotten better and better and the season progressed.

3. Alex Ovechkin

Whether Ovechkin is declining is a question we seem to ask every year. We should know better by now. The man is inhuman. His 13 goals may not lead the league, but it still puts him among the elite scorers of the NHL. Yes, I am not blind to the fact that he scored seven of those goals in two games and has only six in the last 18, but, call me crazy, I still consider seven goals in two games to be a pretty darn good sign of his scoring abilities.

MORE CAPITALS: LISTEN TO THE CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE LOSS TO COLORADO

Overall grade: B-

Let's remember who is under the microscope here. This is not a grade for Washington's 2016-17 roster. If it was, it would be closer to a D or F. That roster was too talented to struggle the way this team has, but that was last year. If I were to tell you before the season that this team with its current roster would be 10-9-1 and in playoff position through 20 games with Niskanen missing 13 games, Andre Burakovsky missing 11, Brett Connolly missing seven and Tom Wilson suspended for four, are you telling me you would not have taken that? I would have. The last two losses are a concern for sure and you could argue that the team is trending downward, but overall they have done well to get to where they are now. They must improve in a number of areas over the course of the next 20 games, but 10-9-1 with the injuries they have faced is not too bad at all.

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NBA 2K18 has Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s famous dab celebration and it's amazing

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NBA 2K18

NBA 2K18 has Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s famous dab celebration and it's amazing

What separates 2K Sports from its competitors is their attention to detail. Year after year, they get right things that other video game companies don't even consider.

The level of detail in 2K sports games allows for some Easter eggs, if you will, for gamers to find and one Wizards fan found an amazing one involving Kelly Oubre, Jr.

[PODCAST: HOW GOOD CAN THE WIZARDS' DEFENSE BE?]

Before every game Oubre dabs his way to the court extremely aggressively, to the point where he jumps in the air:

Now Oubre does it in video game form:

That's just great and of course Wizards fans are loving it on social media. Bravo, 2K Sports.

[RELATED: WHO IS FOR REAL IN THE EAST AND WHO'S FAKE?]