Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt lacking competition in 200-meter final Saturday; preview

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Usain Bolt dropped a starting block on his foot this week, but it’s going to take plenty more than that to worry him in the 200-meter final Saturday.

Bolt, aiming for triple gold at the World Championships, won his first round and semifinal of the 200 meters in Luzhniki Stadium on Friday. The Jamaican is a huge favorite to take his third straight world title in the 200 on Saturday (12:05 p.m. Eastern Time, NBC).

“My foot is feeling better,” Bolt told Reuters. “It was sore, but we’ve been working on it for four days.”

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Bolt has been more dominant in the 200 than the 100 during his illustrious career. He hasn’t lost the event at an Olympics or worlds since taking silver behind Tyson Gay at the 2007 World Championships when he was 21 years old.

The only time a competitor at an Olympics or worlds final lost by less than three tenths of a second since came in London, where Yohan Blake won silver .12 of a second behind Bolt.

This year’s final is missing the Olympic silver medalist Blake and reigning world silver and bronze medalists Walter Dix and Christophe Lemaitre, all due to injuries. U.S. champion Tyson Gay is also absent after failing drug tests, and Justin Gatlin, the silver medalist in the 100 in Moscow, isn’t running the 200.

Bolt was given a copy of the famous lightning bolt photo from Sunday’s 100-meter final by the BBC after winning his semifinal in 20.12.

“This is my 200 meters, means the world to me, so I’m ready to go,” Bolt told NBC Sports reporter Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports.

That leaves Jamaican Warren Weir, who won bronze in London, as the silver medal favorite. Weir is the third fastest man this year behind Bolt and Gay at 19.79 seconds, though he was beaten by American Curtis Mitchell in his semifinal.

“I delivered when I needed to,” Mitchell, who ran a personal best 19.97, told Johnson on Universal Sports. “Right now I’m going to build off this and hopefully carry the U.S. in the 200 meters the next six or seven years.”

Mitchell is in the medal discussion, but it could be a Jamaican sweep with Bolt, Weir and Nickel Ashmeade. Also watch South African Anaso Jobodwana, 21, who was .01 behind Bolt in their semifinal with a personal best 20.13. Brit Adam Gemili, 19, ran back-to-back personal bests in the first round and the semifinals.

If Bolt wins a medal of any color in the 200, he will pass Michael Johnson for the second most career medals by a man at the World Championships with nine. If he wins another medal in the 4×100 relay Sunday, he will match Carl Lewis for the most. If he wins gold in both events, he will also tie Lewis for the most golds won by a man with eight.

Final Field
1. Curtis Mitchell (USA) 19.97
2. Adam Gemili (GBR) 19.98
3. Nickel Ashmeade (JAM) 20.00
4. Usain Bolt (JAM) 20.12
5. Anaso Jobodwana (RSA) 20.13
5. Churandy Martina (NED) 20.13
7. Warren Weir (JAM) 20.20
8. Jaysuma Saidy Ndure (NOR) 20.33

Video: Mary Cain, 17, impresses at worlds 

Federica Pellegrini hints at retirement after beating Katie Ledecky

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The stylish Federica Pellegrini is going out on top.

The Italian superstar said after beating Katie Ledecky in the world championships 200m freestyle that she believed it would be the last 200m free of her career at the highest level of swimming.

Pellegrini, a 28-year-old fashion lover, would leave as the greatest women’s 200m freestyler ever.

Her 200m free world record from the 2009 World Championships — where Pellegrini was the main attraction in Rome — is the longest-standing mark in women’s swimming.

Pellegrini burst onto the scene by taking Olympic silver in 2004 one week after turning 16 years old. She was dubbed the “Lioness of Verona” because she used to hang pictures of lions up in her room and watch “The Lion King.”

She remains the youngest Italian to earn an individual Olympic medal in any sport.

Pellegrini then captured gold at Beijing 2008, breaking the world record in the first round and the final and becoming Italy’s first female Olympic swimming gold medalist.

Pellegrini missed the Olympic podium in 2012 and 2016 but among her four Olympics won world 200m free medals every odd-numbered year from 2005 through 2017. No other swimmer has earned a world medal in one event seven times.

Pellegrini is so highly regarded in Italy that the nation’s daily sports newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport, honored her twice as the world female athlete of the year in 2009 and 2011. She is the only Italian athlete — male or female — to receive the global honor twice from Gazzetta, which last year bestowed a special “legend” award to her and Olympic Alpine skiing champion Alberto Tomba.

Pellegrini said as far back as 2014 that she planned to retire after the Rio Games to start a family with longtime boyfriend and swimmer Filippo Magnini. But after a post-Olympic break she was reported in Italian media this spring to say she eyed the 2020 Tokyo Games.

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Katie Ledecky beaten in 200m free at world championships (video)

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Katie Ledecky didn’t feel like herself. She didn’t look it, either, as another swimmer chased her down.

Ledecky lost an individual final at a major international meet for the first time in 14 tries, taking silver in the 200m freestyle at the world championships in Budapest on Wednesday.

Italian world-record holder Federica Pellegrini won in 1:54.73, which was .04 slower than Ledecky’s semifinal time Tuesday.

Ledecky and Australian Emma McKeon tied for silver in 1:55.18.

Ledecky had won all 13 of her individual finals at the Olympics, world championships and Pan Pacific Championships before Wednesday.

“I just didn’t feel really like myself in the middle of that race,” Ledecky said on NBCSN after going slower in an individual final than in early rounds for the first time at a major international meet. “It felt like I was scrambling a little bit at the end. That hurts a little but, but I’m going to come back stronger and be really good in that event the next couple of years.”

In other events, South African Chad le Clos went out hard and held on to win the 200m butterfly in 1:53.33. That time would have beaten rival Michael Phelps by .03 in Rio. It was Le Clos’ fastest since upsetting Phelps at the 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. mixed medley relay team lowered the world record in the preliminary heats and the final Wednesday, beating Australia by 2.65 seconds.

China’s Sun Yang failed in a bid for a fourth straight world title in the 800m free. He finished fifth, eight seconds behind Italian winner Gabriele Detti.

Brit Adam Peaty repeated as world champion in the 50m breaststroke, a non-Olympic event, after lowering his world record in the prelims and semis.

But the women’s 200m free was the showcase event Wednesday.

McKeon led Ledecky by .01 after 150 meters, but the veteran Pellegrini surged past both swimmers with the fastest final length by seven tenths of a second. Ledecky told media in Budapest that she didn’t have “that extra gear” that she normally summons.

Ledecky’s quest to match Missy Franklin‘s female record of six gold medals at a single worlds is now over. She can still win five gold medals this week.

Ledecky has the 4x200m freestyle relay Thursday, where the U.S. is a heavy favorite, and the 800m freestyle on Friday and Saturday, where she holds the 13 fastest times in history.

Ledecky has been between one and two seconds slower than her times at the Rio Olympics in three events at worlds. This doesn’t count the 1500m free, which wasn’t swum in Rio. She can get away with that in distance races, but not in her shortest individual event, the 200m free.

Ledecky saw major changes since Rio, moving from the D.C. area, enrolling at Stanford and swimming under a new coach for the first time in four years. Then she swam a full NCAA season in the fall and winter.

“Maybe I haven’t been quite on point as much as I would’ve hoped to have been this week, but I’ve still been feeling good,” Ledecky said.

Pellegrini, whose 200m free world record from 2009 is the oldest female mark still standing, became the first swimmer to earn seven world medals in a single event. Pellegrini also earned Olympic silver in 2004 at age 16 and gold in 2008, but was fifth in 2012 and fourth in 2016.

She said after the race that it would be the final 200m of her career “at this level.”

“I honestly thought the one to win the race would be Katie,” Pellegrini said, according to The Associated Press, “and it wasn’t.”

Ledecky’s biggest rival in the 200m free, Swede Sarah Sjöström, chose not to enter the event in Budapest as she focuses on the 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles.

Sjöström clocked 1:54.08 for silver in Rio (.35 behind Ledecky) and 1:54.31 leading off the 4x200m free relay at 2015 Worlds (.85 faster than Ledecky’s winning time in the 200m free final which Sjöström also skipped).

In Wednesday semifinals, Americans Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian were the second- and third-fastest qualifiers into the 100m freestyle final Thursday. France’s Mehdy Metella qualified first by .01 over Dressel.

Chase Kalisz, the Olympic 400m individual medley silver medalist, qualified fastest into Thursday’s 200m IM final.

Olympic champion Mireia Belmonte of Spain and Hungarian Katinka Hosszu were among the qualifiers into Thursday’s 200m butterfly final.

Women’s 200m Freestyle Results
Gold: Federica Pellegrini (ITA) — 1;54.73

Silver: Katie Ledecky (USA) — 1:55.18
Silver: Emma McKeon (AUS) — 1:55.18
4. Veronika Popova (RUS) — 1:55.26
5. Siobhan Haughey (HKG) — 1:55.96
6. Leah Smith (USA) — 1:56.06
7. Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 1:56.35
8. Charlotte Bonnet (FRA) — 1:56.62

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