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

Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 07:  A general view of the Christ The Redeemer statue atop the Corcovado on July 7, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
AP
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The world’s best known Olympic historian said Friday it will take something more destructive than the Zika virus to cancel the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“Historically, the only times the Games have been cancelled is in war — World War I and World War II,” David Wallechinsky told the Associated Press. “Other than that, nothing has done it.”

Brazil is the epicenter of the rapidly spreading mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is also generating rumors that South America’s first Games may be called off instead of opening on Aug. 5.

Researchers have linked the virus to a birth defect that can leave newborns with long-lasting health and developmental problems.

Brazil’s Sports Minister George Hilton issued a statement saying that canceling the Games “is not in discussion,” and Rio organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly shot down the notion it’s even being considered.

Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, said the only similar case was the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, when three athletes from west Africa were banned from competing over fears they had contracted the Ebola virus and the subsequent possibility of it spreading.

“That’s the only time that disease has ever entered into it,” he said.

The 1916 Olympics were called off during World War I, and four Games — two summer and two winter — were cancelled between 1940 and 1944. Two Summer Olympics were hit by partial boycotts in 1980 and 1984.

Wallechinsky said it was too late to move the games from Rio.

“A lot of money has been put into this; the athletes, the infrastructure,” he said. “It’s pretty late to move the Games so I think they’ll go forward.”

Brazil is spending at least $10 billion to prepare for the Games. Add to that, billions spent on television rights, and maybe just as much on sponsorship, advertising across 28 sport federations, and the more than 200 nations that participate.

“There would be a lot of lawsuits,” Wallechinsky said. “It would be a dream event for lawyers.”

The Zika virus adds to other problems with South America’s first Olympics, including water pollution in Rio’s venues for sailing, rowing, canoeing, triathlon and open-water swimming , and deep cuts of almost 30 percent to keep a $2 billion operating budget in balance.

Only about half of the domestic tickets for the game have been sold, and organizers fear the Zika outbreak could scare off foreign tourists — particularly Americans.

Janice Forsyth, an Olympic historian at Western University in Canada, predicted the Zika threat “is going to blow over.”

“But if it really catches on, then we’ve got a global concern that’s not just about the Olympics,” she said. “But it would have to be really extraordinary for the game to be cancelled. Even with threats of terrorism, the games still don’t get cancelled.”

Forsyth said the virus might even have beneficial impact on Rio’s preparations, distracting from other problems.

“In a sad way, maybe it’s a positive diversion from what is actually going on with the games,” she said. “A twist for games that seem to be constantly struggling.”

VIDEO: Rio Olympic venues timelapse

‘Race’ film clip of 1936 Olympic long jump (video)

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“Race,” a film about 1936 Olympic legend Jesse Owens‘ triumphs in the face of Nazi Germany, hits theaters Feb. 19.

In the above clip, Owens competes in long jump qualifying after receiving a tip from fellow jumper German Luz Long to avoid fouling on his last attempt to advance to the final.

Owens would then beat Long in the final, though the pair forged a friendship.

In other clips, Owens, played by Stephan James, speaks with his Ohio State coach, Larry Snyder, played by Jason Sudeikis. Watch that here.

Also, Owens discusses taking part in the Olympics amid racial prejudice in the U.S. Watch that here.

MORE: James discusses playing Owens in ‘Race’ | VIDEO: ‘Race’ trailer