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

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Katie Ledecky not only lowered another one of her American records on Thursday, but the 19-year-old also went faster in the 500-yard freestyle than Ryan Lochte ever did before the age of 22.

Ledecky, a Stanford freshman, clocked 4:25.15 at the Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Wash., cutting a chunk off her previous mark of 4:26.46 from October. She won by 14.54 seconds. Full results are here.

“I felt coming in that I could do something like that,” Ledecky, who owns the 10 fastest times in history in the event, according to Swimswam.com, said on the Pac-12 Network. “It felt like practice. Really relaxed.”

The 500-yard free is not an Olympic event, so it is not swum on the major international level. Lochte’s best time in the event in his teens was 4:25.54 from the 2001 Florida State Championships, when he was a 17-year-old senior at Port Orange Spruce Creek High. Lochte easily won that race and reportedly slowed in his final strokes.

Lochte didn’t swim the event in 2003 or 2004, when he made his first Olympic team at age 19, but came back in 2005 to clock 4:21.07, according to USA Swimming.

The 500-yard free was not one of Lochte’s best events, either.

When Ledecky broke the women’s 1500m freestyle world record for the third time at the August 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, her 15:28.36 was .01 faster than Lochte’s 1500m free time at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials (one of the rare instances Lochte swam a 1500m free).

Ledecky has since re-broken the women’s 1500m free world record twice more, bringing it down to 15:25.48.

“She swims like a guy,” Lochte said after training with Ledecky in Colorado Springs last March, according to Sports Illustrated. “I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. … Her times are becoming good for a guy. She’s beating me now, and I’m like, What’s going on?

Ledecky’s 500-yard free time of 4:25.15 is still nowhere near Michael Phelps, who registered a 4:12.33 at age 18 in March 2004. Phelps was perhaps motivated at that meet by the U.S. Olympic Committee earlier that week awarding its Sportsman of the Year honor to Lance Armstrong in a close vote.

Ledecky’s time on Thursday would have won the men’s 500-yard free at the NCAA Championships as recently as 1974 (when John Naber clocked 4:26.855). Mark Spitz won in 1969 in 4:33.88.

The Pac-12 Championships continue Friday, with Ledecky expected to swim the 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard freestyle, two events where she does not own NCAA or American records.

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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