Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky smashes another world record at Pan Pacs


Katie Ledecky broke her 1500m freestyle world record by six seconds on the final night of the Pan Pacific Championships on Sunday.

“Six seconds was a little surprising,” said Ledecky, who grimaced after winning in 15 minutes, 28.36 seconds, “It was painful, but it pays off in the end.”

The reigning Female World Swimmer of the Year has broken five world records in the last nine weeks, including the 400m free on Saturday and the 1500m free twice. Women do not contest the 1500m free at the Olympics.

She became the first woman to win four individual gold medals at a single Pan Pacific Championships, sweeping the 200m through 1500m frees at a meet contested among the world’s top swim nations outside Europe. She won five golds in six races overall, including the 4x200m free relay.

In the 1500m free, Ledecky was 27 seconds faster than the silver medalist, New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle. She lapped three of the eight finalists, meaning she finished her 1500m before they finished 1400m.

Ledecky’s time was .01 faster than Ryan Lochte‘s 1500m free at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, where her time would have placed fifth in the final.

“I knew it was my last race of the meet, and last race of the season,” Ledecky said. “I wanted to finish on a good note. I didn’t want to walk away from the meet with a little bit of, like, ‘Uh, that was just OK.’ I just dug in deep the last 50.”

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Pan Pacs coverage on Sunday from 1-2 p.m. ET.

In other events Sunday, Michael Phelps took second to Japan’s Kosuke Hagino in the 200m individual medley. Hagino won in 1:56.02, followed by Phelps in 1:56.04. Lochte won the consolation final in the same time as Hagino won the top final.

Phelps finished his first international meet since the London Olympics with gold in the 100m butterfly, silver in the 200m IM and fourth in the 100m free. He also won two relay gold medals and one relay silver. He swam the butterfly leg on the victorious U.S. 4x100m medley relay that closed the meet Sunday.

Lochte finished Pan Pacs with one individual medal, silver in the 100m fly.

Missy Franklin won a silver medal as part of the U.S. 4x100m medley relay. Australia won by 1.92 seconds. Franklin, slowed by back spasms Tuesday, finished the meet with one gold and two silvers in relays and one bronze individually.

American Maya DiRado won her first major international individual gold medal, taking the women’s 200m IM in 2:09.93.

Australian Cate Campbell added 50m free gold to her 100m free title, matching the fastest textile suit time ever in 23.96.

Brazil’s Bruno Fratus took the men’s 50m free in 21.44. Anthony Ervin, 33 and the oldest U.S. swimmer at the meet, took silver in 21.73 and qualified for the 2015 World Championships. Ervin tied for gold in the 50m free at the Olympics 14 years ago.

Japan swept the 200m breaststrokes with Yasuhiro Koseki (2:08.57) and Kanako Watanabe (2:21.41).

Canadian Ryan Cochrane prevailed in the 800m free in 7:45.39, repeating as Pan Pacs champion.

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Ashley Wagner eyes history at Grand Prix Final after ‘disaster’ in Japan

Ashley Wagner
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Ashley Wagner can next week become the first U.S. singles skater to make four straight Grand Prix Final podiums, but not if she performs like she did last weekend at NHK Trophy in Japan.

“NHK was a disaster,” the three-time U.S. champion said Tuesday, “but that was kind of a one-time deal.”

Wagner backed into the Grand Prix Final as the sixth and final women’s qualifier by finishing fourth at NHK Trophy on Saturday, snapping her streak of 10 straight podium finishes in Grand Prix events. She had won Skate Canada four weeks earlier.

The Grand Prix Final is the most prestigious annual figure skating competition outside of the World Championships and an event that Wagner calls a preview for Worlds (in Boston in late March/early April).

In Japan, Wagner had trouble cleanly landing and fully rotating jumps in both programs, and though she didn’t fall, her mental state was clearly shaken even before the free skate Saturday.

Japanese legend Mao Asada (one of three women to make four straight Grand Prix Final podiums, along with Irina Slutskaya and Michelle Kwan) skated immediately before Wagner.

The home crowd was at its loudest after Asada rebounded from her own poor short to move into the lead (temporarily, Asada finished third).

“I didn’t know how Mao had skated,” said Wagner, who was in third after the short program. “I figured I needed to at least get on the podium [to definitely make the Grand Prix Final], and I knew that I could probably afford a fourth place [to still make the Final]. I think that is where I went wrong. I should have just put my head down, started fresh and gone into that long program not focusing on, OK, well, I can get as low as this and I’ll make it to the [Grand Prix] Final. I think that didn’t really get me into the fighting spirit that I’m so used to competing with. When I focus on the results and not how I’m going to get there, it usually doesn’t go so well for me. It was a rookie mistake.

“I think I was playing it safe and trying to avoid making a mistake, and of course that’s exactly what I ended up doing.”

Wagner placed fifth in the free skate and fourth overall. She actually could have finished sixth overall and still made the Barcelona Grand Prix Final.

So she goes into next weekend’s competition as an underdog to Russians Yevgenia Medvedeva and Yelena Radionova, the last two World Junior champions. Plus countrywoman Gracie Gold and Asada.

Wagner’s confidence that the NHK hiccup won’t repeat could be bolstered by last season, when she was also the last qualifier into the Grand Prix Final (before Gold withdrew), was in last place after the Final short program but starred in the free skate to grab bronze.

“I like it when I have something not go so well,” she said. “When things are too perfect for too long, in a way it kind of freaks me out a little bit.”

Wagner called the women’s field in Barcelona “wide open.” It may be, given six different women won the six qualifying events, the first time nobody doubled up since 2006.

However, Wagner tapped Asada when asked to name her biggest competition. Wagner, 24, and Asada, 25, are the only women’s Grand Prix Final qualifiers older than 20.

“When she’s on, [Asada] has the whole package,” Wagner said of the three-time World champion who took last season off from competition. “She knows how to put on a performance. The audience loves her. Technically, she’s very strong. I think that If I had to pinpoint someone, Mao Asada on one of her good days, is definitely going to be one of the top girls.”

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Travis Ganong on the rise, leads U.S. men into Beaver Creek

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Before checking into his Colorado hotel, Travis Ganong made a quick pit stop with his doctor to get the stitches removed from his surgically repaired right thumb.

The digit remains extremely swollen even two weeks after a training crash. So much so that he can barely push out of the starting gate.

Not that anyone could tell in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, when Ganong finished third in a downhill race and came within a wisp of another podium spot in the super-G.

Stitches removed and confidence soaring, Ganong’s eager to take on the demanding course in Beaver Creek over the weekend. This is a place where last February he earned a breakthrough silver medal in the downhill at World Championships (video here).

”It’s really nice to have these solid results so early in the season. It takes the edge off,” Ganong said. ”Before you have the first result, you’re always questioning yourself. Now I can relax and that’s when the really good skiing comes.”

The 27-year-old from Squaw Valley, California, has been a rising force on the U.S. speed team since a fifth-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Games.

In such a fast sport, though, he’s taken a gradual approach to his development – never racing outside his comfort zone until he was good and ready. That was all part of his calculated plan, which came to fruition last season as he won his first World Cup downhill race in Italy and earned his first medal at Worlds.

”I was always building, building, building, getting better and better incrementally,” Ganong said. ”Last year I was like, ‘OK, my time is now. I need to try something new.’

”Bam, I won a race. But then I would have a horrible race. … Now this year it’s all about bringing that consistency back to the top, top level.”

Growing up in Squaw Valley, Ganong could always be found somewhere on the mountain, whether it was skiing powder in the back-country with his father, cross-country skiing (he was good, too), snowboarding (yep, he tried that), going over moguls or training with his team.

”We had this two- or three-inch rule where if it snowed that much, we didn’t worry about setting up gates. We’d go freeskiing and chase each other around the mountain,” Ganong said. ”That’s the No. 1 reason why so many good skiers come out of there.”

Like longtime U.S. skiing great Daron Rahlves, one of Ganong’s idols as a kid. The two talk all the time about ways Ganong can uncover more speed.

”I really excel on the steeper, more gnarly courses,” Ganong said. ”I need to try to figure out a way to bring that same intensity to the easier hills that are a little flatter and not my strong suit. Daron and I, that’s all we talk about when we talk about ski racing.”

Ganong broke through last weekend in Lake Louise, which is more of a glider’s course.

Not bad considering his recent wipeout. He tumbled during an early morning training session in Vail when he didn’t pick up a roll in the terrain. He needed surgery to fix a torn tendon and ligaments. He also bruised his left knee.

So he didn’t have all that high of expectations going into Lake Louise.

”For me to have that kind of speed on that kind of hill, yeah, that was a little surprising,” Ganong said. ”I skied really relaxed and just kind of within myself.”

No one could catch Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, though, who came away with wins on both days as he returns to the World Cup circuit after tearing his Achilles tendon last season while juggling a soccer ball.

”Aksel just knows how to let the skis go,” Ganong said. ”But Beaver Creek? It’s a different hill.”

Ganong’s kind of hill.

”Beaver Creek is way more my style of skiing and my style of hill,” said Ganong, who was fifth last December in a World Cup downhill at Birds of Prey. ”I’m trying to not think too much about it, just keep working hard, and keep thinking I’m an underdog and have something to prove.

”Hopefully, that’s a good mentality to keep me fired up.”

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