Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky smashes another world record at Pan Pacs

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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.

Usain Bolt wins 100m in Warsaw after Humvee entrance

Michael Phelps to participate in Shark Week

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NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic champ Michael Phelps is participating in Discovery network’s Shark Week this summer, although he won’t be asked to outswim one.

It’s not immediately clear what Phelps will be doing, although Discovery President Rich Ross said Tuesday he’s intrigued about seeing the fastest human swimmer interact with nature’s fastest. Perhaps Phelps can be encouraged to go underwater in a shark cage, he said.

The week of shark-themed programming in mid-summer is annually Discovery’s biggest event. Now that it is approaching its 29th year, programmers are on the lookout for a new wrinkle.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic swimming medals, 23 of them gold.

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World Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview

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Alex Shibutani says he and sister Maia have made a statement the past two years.

“With our ability to perform when the stakes are highest,” he said.

The stakes don’t get much higher than this week.

The Shibutani siblings, breakout world silver medalists a year ago, lead three U.S. couples who finished in the top six at the 2016 World Championships into this year’s worlds in Helsinki.

It is the strongest ice dance field since the Sochi Olympics. The PyeongChang Winter Games medal contenders will be confirmed this week.

The clear favorites are Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions competing this season for the first time since taking silver in Sochi. Virtue and Moir returned from their two-year break to post the three highest total scores of all time in their last three international competitions.

“This is probably the most prepared we’ve been for a world championships,” Moir said, while adding, “this was a warm-up season.”

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The Shibutanis finished second (with a personal-best score) to Virtue and Moir at the most recent event, the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea in February. The margin separating the two couples — 5.1 points — was considerable.

“We’re sort of in a way in a race against ourselves to try and see how good we can get and how good we can become,” Alex Shibutani said. “Each competition along the way is another step to that eventual goal [the Olympics].”

At worlds, the Shibutanis are in the medal mix with France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won the last two world titles.

The French, already the youngest world champs in 40 years, are trying for the first ice dance three-peat in 20 years.

But they have not progressed this season, unable to match or better their winning score from the 2016 World Championships.

Papadakis and Cizeron train in Montreal with Virtue and Moir, but they struggled (held against their own standard) in both competitions outside of French borders this season. And in different areas — step sequences, twizzles, lifts.

Conversely, it looks like the Shibutanis’ biggest obstacles are well behind them. They went from a world bronze medal in their first senior season together in 2011 to four straight years off the podium.

The Shibutanis hit a nadir at the Sochi Olympics with a ninth-place finish, worst of the three U.S. couples. Maia’s tights snagged on Alex’s sequined jacket during a lift.

The devoted vloggers countered doubts after Sochi by stressing their youth — Alex was 22 then; Maia was 19. They talked about weathering the journey and sticking to a meticulous creative process.

It paid off with their first U.S. title last year, followed by that world silver medal in Boston.

“Last year’s results at the world championships were very energizing for us,” Alex Shibutani said. “People are aware of the career trajectory that we have had. We’ve set ambitious goals because we were so motivated following that result and that exciting string of competitions that we had last season.”

The Shibutanis were actually outscored by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the U.S. Championships free dance in January. They stormed back with that personal best at Four Continents, though, erasing any doubt that they are the U.S. couple expected to make the podium in Helsinki.

The U.S. has earned 12 ice dance medals at the last 12 World Championships. In that same span, the U.S. brought home eight medals combined from men’s, women’s and pairs.

The Shibutanis feel confident they will extend recent American success in their discipline.

They would also create more history for sibling skaters. They’re already the most accomplished brother-sister duo since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won three straight world medals followed by Olympic silver in Albertville.

“We really elevated the way that we compete and perform,” at Four Continents last month, Alex Shibutani said. “Our skating has reached another level.”

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