Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky breaks 1500m freestyle world record

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Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin will own swimming headlines this weekend, but Katie Ledecky wanted to break a world record first.

Ledecky beat her own mark in a 1500m freestyle race at a meet in Shenandoah, Texas, on Thursday, clocking 15 minutes, 34.23 seconds, according to reports.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” Ledecky told the Washington Post. “I had that feeling where I thought I could go really fast, but I really didn’t think I was going to go anywhere close to the world record.”

That took 2.3 seconds off her world record in the non-Olympic event from the 2013 World Championships, which is remarkable given she’s surely training to peak two months from now for the summer’s biggest meets.

“The mile is such a long race, if you’re going to swim it, you might as well drop a lot of time,” Ledecky joked to the newspaper.

Ledecky’s split at 800m, reportedly 8:16.18, was .04 faster than Janet Evans‘ personal best over that distance, which was a world record until 2008.

How much better is Ledecky than the rest of the world? The woman who finished second to Ledecky in the 1500m free at the 2013 World Championships, Lotte Friis, won a 1500m free in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday evening 26 seconds slower than what Ledecky posted in Texas.

Ledecky, 17, is the reigning female World Swimmer of the Year, the American record holder in the 400m free, 800m free and 1500m free and world record holder in the latter two. She won the 2012 Olympic 800m free and, in 2013, won four Worlds golds (400m free, 800m free, 1500m free and 4x200m free relay).

She has competed in the 200m free this year, beating Olympic champion Allison Schmitt in Mesa, Ariz., in April. She will undoubtedly go head to head with the World champion Franklin in the 200m free if she continues to race the distance, setting up an intriguing duel as the Rio 2016 Olympics near.

Franklin beat Ledecky by 2.07 seconds in the 200m free at last year’s National Championships. This year’s Nationals are in Irvine, Calif., from Aug. 6-10.

Ledecky, a rising high school senior in Bethesda, Md., has committed to Stanford, where Evans once swam.

*Correction: The article previously stated that Ledecky’s 800m split was .04 slower than Evans’ personal best at 800m.

Phelps, Franklin set to share competition pool for first time since Olympics

Russia track and field boss: ’50-60 percent’ chance of Olympics

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Russia’s new track and field federation president said he thinks his nation’s track and field athletes have “between 50 and 60 percent” of a chance of competing in the Rio Olympics, according to Reuters.

The IAAF is expected to rule June 17 whether Russia’s ban from international track and field competition will be lifted before the Rio Olympics.

Russia’s track and field athletes were banned indefinitely in November by the IAAF, after an independent World Anti-Doping Agency report alleged widespread doping issues.

Russia was given criteria to earn reinstatement, and Dmitry Shlyakhtin, elected new Russian track and field chief in January, believes the situation has improved.

“A mouse would not be able to slip past us now!” Shlyakhtin said, according to Reuters.

Russia has recently come under more scrutiny following reports of widespread winter sports doping leading up to the Sochi Olympics and cheating during those Winter Games to avoid positive drug tests.

MORE: Yelena Isinbayeva to sue if barred from Rio Olympics

Yelena Isinbayeva to sue if barred from Rio Olympics

Yelena Isinbayeva
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MOSCOW (AP) — Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva plans to file suit if Russia’s ban from global track and field competition remains in place and she is barred from competing at the games in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a direct violation of human rights, discrimination,” Isinbayeva said.

Russia’s athletics federation was suspended by the IAAF in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency commission report detailed systematic, state-sponsored doping. The IAAF is due to rule next month on whether to reinstate Russia ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.

“In the case of a negative ruling for us, I will personally go to an international court regarding human rights,” Isinbayeva said. “And I’m confident that I’ll win.”

Speaking from her home city of Volgograd in a Skype interview arranged by Russian track officials, Isinbayeva held up four forms documenting recent drug tests she had passed — proof enough, she said, that she should be allowed to compete in Rio.

“Of course I’m angry because of this helplessness. All I can do now is train,” she said, adding that young Russian athletes’ careers could be destroyed if they have to wait until 2020 to go to the Olympics. “Four years, it’s a long time. Many of them can be, how can you say, broken.”

Isinbayeva’s comments came as a key adviser to Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that Russia’s government supports making doping a criminal offense.

Adviser Nataliya Zhelanova told reporters at the ministry that the government hopes to get the law on the statute books for 2017, targeting coaches and officials who encourage or coerce athletes to dope. Fines or prison sentences were possible, she said, though this could change during the legislative process.

“It’s quite a long procedure but now everyone understood that we are in crisis and we have to do quick steps to fix the situation,” Zhelanova said.

In December, the IAAF asked the Russian track federation to consider lobbying for distribution and trafficking of doping substances to be made a criminal offense.

The new head of the Russian track federation maintained Russia was on track to meet IAAF conditions for reinstatement, but admitted to The Associated Press that a notorious training center was still part of the country’s track and field system.

The IAAF last year demanded the federation “immediately suspend all cooperation” with race-walking coach Viktor Chegin‘s state-funded center in the city of Saransk, which has been linked to more than 25 doping cases.

While Chegin was later banned for life, several of his top athletes are still competing and would be Olympic medal contenders if Russia is reinstated.

“I don’t rule out that (athletes are) living and training there,” Russian track and field president Dmitry Shlyakhtin said in an interview with the AP, adding that dozens of coaches who were part of Chegin’s hierarchy remained part of the federation’s system.

“If we shut down the Chegin center as a key point, we can’t stop and we won’t stop 75 coaches who are clean and transparent,” Shlyakhtin said.

Shlyakhtin said those coaches were working with children, but documents from this year’s national championships show top Russian walkers continuing to work with coaches from the main Chegin center. Officially, the athletes now represent local clubs and sports schools in and around the city.

Former Olympic gold medalist Olga Kaniskina, who lost her 2012 Olympic silver medal because of a doping ban, won the Russian 20-kilometer title in February in the fastest time recorded in the world this season. Federation documents list her as being coached by three trainers from the Chegin center and officially representing a children’s sports school, even though she is 31 years old.

“Kaniskina has finished her ban. She’s completely rehabilitated,” Shlyakhtin said. “Western people who are caught doping are not outcasts (either).”

Sergei Kirdyapkin, who lost his Olympic gold medal from 2012 due to a doping ban, is listed as being coached by Chegin center coaches, as is national champion Sergei Bakulin, who was stripped of his 2011 world championship gold. Both recently returned from doping bans.

Ahead of next month’s IAAF vote, Shlyakhtin said he was confident that Russia had made a significant effort to reform.

He said “90 percent” of the conditions for reinstatement had been fulfilled, including extra testing for Russia’s national track team in recent months and a shakeup of senior management.

Shlyakhtin suggested political interference, rather than a lack of reforms, could keep Russia out of the Rio Games, saying that countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, India and “especially China” deserved similar scrutiny on doping. He hinted that international officials turned a blind eye to some violations.

“The brakes are put on a lot of issues and they go away. Let’s all play fair according to one set of rules,” he said.

MORE: Russia’s top swimmer has meldonium ban lifted