For Katie Ledecky, starting college means riding a bike

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Katie Ledecky returned home from Rio and got on her bike.

Stanford prohibits freshmen from having cars on campus. Ledecky, now a five-time Olympic champion, still doesn’t have a driver’s license anyway.

So the college-bound swimmer took her three weeks between the Olympics and move-in to acquaint with life on land on two wheels.

Ledecky spent two years volunteering for Bikes for the World in high school, assembling bikes, but her riding was apparently not as smooth as her freestyle stroke.

In late August, Ledecky could often be seen wheeling at a park down the street from her family’s house in Bethesda, Md.

“I was practicing,” Ledecky said, “because I had no reason to bike back home.”

Stanford is nearly 13 square miles, one of the 10 largest colleges or universities in the country.

In September, Ledecky spent that first week in Palo Alto studying a campus map on her phone before setting out to bike to her destinations.

The first days of freshman year are flooded with introductions. To roommates (Ledecky shares a space with three women who recognized her at first sight at move-in). To teammates. To coaches and staff.

The who’s who proved the biggest challenge of Ledecky’s transition.

“I would always feel really embarrassed when I couldn’t remember their [names], and they could remember mine,” she said Monday at the Golden Goggle awards in Times Square.

Stanford fifth-year coach Greg Meehan said a goal was for Ledecky to settle into “a little anonymity on campus.” That has happened.

“On a day-to-day basis, like no selfies, no autographs, nothing that you guys probably expect,” Ledecky told media on a red carpet Monday night. “Everybody at Stanford is special.”

But nobody quite like Ledecky in the pool.

She has barely dragged in competition, easily breaking NCAA records in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyles in her first four meets.

On Saturday, Ledecky lost a freestyle final longer than 100 meters for the first time in nearly three years (to close friend, Stanford teammate and fellow Olympic champion Simone Manuel).

The next day, Ledecky won a 1,650-yard race by one minute, snapping her own American record by 10 seconds.

“She’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime athletes,” Meehan said. “You just never know what she’s going to do.”

Meehan recruited Ledecky, who committed to Stanford back in May 2014, but even he wasn’t privy to Ledecky’s closely guarded goal times for the Rio Olympics that she set back in 2013.

“I kind of had an idea, but she never actually shared them,” Meehan said. “I respect that and appreciate that.”

He started to get to know her on a personal level when she joined the team for a preseason training trip to Hawaii in September.

“She lets you in, little by little,” Meehan said. “The more she does, the more it kind of helps me coach her.”

Ledecky said she and Meehan have “an ever-evolving conversation” about her short- and long-term goals. She wouldn’t reveal much, except that the short-term goals are for the NCAA season and, internationally, her focus remains on freestyle events. For now.

On the team, freshmen have chores like carrying towels at practice. Ledecky is handling her shifts well.

“I definitely give her some mess, every now and then, bug with her,” said Manuel, a redshirt sophomore.

Manuel isn’t alone.

“We joke about the fact that she can’t really put her cap on straight,” Meehan said.

MORE: Phelps makes retirement official

Katie Ledecky beaten by Simone Manuel, still sets two personal bests in 25 minutes

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09:  Gold medalist Katie Ledecky of the United States poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 200m Freestyle Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The legend of Katie Ledecky grows, even with a defeat.

In one of the greatest short-course-yards doubles in history, Ledecky broke the American record in the 400-yard individual medley and then lowered her personal best in the 200-yard free by a half-second in a 25-minute span at the Pac-12 Championships on Friday.

Ledecky won the Pac-12 title in the 400-yard IM by chopping three seconds off her personal best, clocking 3:57.68 in Federal Way, Wash.

About 25 minutes later, the Stanford freshman nearly came back to beat co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel in the 200-yard free final. Manuel had to cut .58 off her 200-yard free personal best to edge Ledecky by .13. Full results are here.

Manuel led by .99 after the first 50 yards, but Ledecky closed 1.2 seconds faster than Manuel in the final 50 yards. It marked Ledecky’s second defeat in a freestyle final longer than 100 meters since Jan. 18, 2014. Manuel also beat Ledecky in a 200-yard free in November.

Still, Ledecky chopped .54 off her 200-yard free personal best, touching the wall in 1:40.50.

Their anticipated rematch in the NCAA Championships in three weeks should be the event of that meet.

But the 400 IM may be more intriguing come the summer. Ledecky’s last 100 yards of freestyle in Friday’s final were 4.06 seconds faster than runner-up Ella Eastin.

The NCAA 400 IM is in a 25-yard pool. Internationally, the 400 IM is in a 50-meter pool.

Ledecky has never raced the 400m IM at a major international meet and scratched out of the event on the eve of the Olympic Trials eight months ago. She ranked fifth in the U.S. in the event in 2016 but never raced it fully tapered.

Her time on Friday was faster than the 400-yard IM personal best of Maya DiRado, who took Olympic 400m IM silver in Rio and then retired.

Ledecky could conceivably try and race the 400m IM this summer. At nationals in June, the 400m IM final is on a night where Ledecky would have no other finals. At worlds in July, the 400m IM comes on the final day of the meet (as opposed to the first day at the Olympics), also on a night where Ledecky would have no other individual events.

Earlier at Pac-12s, Ledecky lowered her American record in the 500-yard free by 1.31 seconds on Thursday, swimming faster than Ryan Lochte‘s personal best at the same age.

The Pac-12 Championships conclude Saturday.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Chad le Clos still has nightmares of losing to Phelps

Michael Phelps ‘would probably do’ another Olympics if not for injury risk

Leave a comment

Michael Phelps said he would probably swim another Olympic cycle if it wasn’t for the possibility of injury, particularly with his shoulders.

“If you could guarantee me that I would never get injured in four years, and I would never have any problems with my shoulders or anything like that in four years, I’d probably do it again because I had more fun this time around,” Phelps said in a social media video Friday. “But I don’t want to risk that and not be able to spend time with Booms [son Boomer] when he grows up and watch him and be a part of every single part of his life when he gets older and older. So I think that’s something, for me, that I will never put my body through. I won’t take that chance. I think my body is way more important and my family is way more important than going another four years to swim in one more Olympics.”

Phelps’ right shoulder was a particular issue in his comeback for the Rio Olympics. He received two cortisone shots in the months before the Games, leading coach Bob Bowman to say that Phelps was “75 percent” of what he was at the 2008 Beijing Games, according to Sports Illustrated.

(Phelps has said he didn’t compete at 100 percent in Beijing, given an October 2007 broken wrist that interrupted training.)

Phelps reiterated, repeatedly as usual, during the 70-minute video that he would not return to competitive swimming. He still swims recreationally “for peace of mind” and “meditation.”

What about retirement saddens him?

“Not having the chance to represent my country anymore is something bums me out,” Phelps said, particularly hearing the national anthem atop the medal stand.

Phelps has plenty to keep him busy. The most pressing is testifying at a congressional hearing looking at improving the flawed anti-doping system in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

“I have a lot to say,” Phelps said. “To have that opportunity to speak out about my true feelings. I’ve never really, truly been able to do it.”

He began outlining those words Friday and said he had until Sunday to finish a page or a page and a half to present to the subcommittee.

“There are too many people who are cheating, that’s the easiest way to say it,” Phelps said. “Look what happened at the [Rio] Olympics, all the athletes that tested positive that were still allowed to compete. I think that’s wrong, and I think it’s unfair. I think that’s something that needs to clean.”

In Rio, Phelps praised teammate Lilly King‘s criticisms of athletes competing who had previously served doping punishments (such as King’s breaststroke rival, Russian Yuliya Yefimova). Phelps doubts he has ever competed in a clean race.

“I think you’re going to probably see a lot of people speaking out more,” Phelps said in Rio, according to The Associated Press. “I think [King] is right, I think something needs to be done. It’s kind of sad today in sports in general, not just in swimming, there are people who are testing positive who are allowed back in the sport and multiple times. It kind of breaks what sport is meant to be and that’s what pisses me off.”

Phelps said Friday that he hopes to help “clean the sports up so we can get back to why we play sports.”

“I don’t think any athlete should ever have that feeling that somebody else is at an advantage of using a performance-enhancing drug to help them,” he said. “I had these massive dreams and goals of things I wanted to accomplish and achieve, and never were they because I thought I could take an easy way by cheating. I basically just worked as hard as I could and made sure that my body was as prepared as I could possibly make it for every single meet. So I was able to accomplish the goals and dreams that I had. That’s something that I’m going to Congress to talk about.”

Phelps also added in Friday’s video that he hopes another swimmer will come along and break his records, that he was recently knocked out of a poker tournament by his wife and he will be in Budapest for the world championships in July.

Just not as a competitor.

MORE: Ledecky’s latest American record faster than Ryan Lochte at same age