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Ledecky wrapping up freshman year at Stanford, worlds next

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ATLANTA (AP) — Katie Ledecky’s life has changed so much over the past year.

She’s living on her own for the first time, on the opposite side of the country from her tight-knit family. She’s got a new coach and new teammates. She’s a full-fledged college student now – stimulated by her studies, excited about meeting different people, fully embracing the idea of being all grown up.

“The year’s gone by fast,” Ledecky said.

She’s used to going fast in the pool.

Nothing’s changed there.

After leading Stanford to its first NCAA women’s national title since 1998, capturing three individual events and taking a turn on two winning relays, Ledecky has turned her attention to this summer’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

“There have kind of been phases throughout the year, different things to look forward to, that I’ve kind of kept my eye on, which has kept me very motivated,” the 20-year-old Ledecky said during a recent interview in Atlanta, where she won three events at a grand prix meet.

MORE: Katie Ledecky wins at Atlanta Arena Pro Series

Now that Michael Phelps has retired again, Ryan Lochte is serving a suspension for his antics in Rio de Janeiro and Missy Franklin faces the daunting challenge of bouncing back from a disappointing Olympics, Ledecky is the undisputed star of the mighty U.S. program.

She doesn’t seem the least bit burdened by the prospect of having the swimming spotlight all to herself heading into the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“I don’t really think of it in those terms at all,” Ledecky said. “Just taking things step by step, focusing on my own goals, and not letting anything else get to me has always been what I’ve done a good job of and what I need to continue to do moving forward.”

College life certainly agrees with her.

Ledecky has just a few weeks left in her freshman year at Stanford, a move that took her away from her home in the Washington suburbs.

She hasn’t decided on a major, signing up for classes ranging from psychology (“How Beliefs Create Reality,” which seems especially relevant in today’s world) to Greek art history to a course on sleep and dreams taught by renowned researcher William Dement.

“I’ve loved it,” Ledecky said. “I’ve had a great first year, taken some really great classes, met some pretty amazing people, and it’s been a great environment in the pool, in my dorm and in school.”

After a stellar performance at the Rio Olympics last summer, where she won four gold medals and a silver while obliterating a pair of world records, Ledecky was home for about three weeks.

Then she headed off to college.

The timing of the move worked out perfectly, according to Stanford coach Greg Meehan.

“Oftentimes after the games, there will be a lull for these athletes coming out of the Olympics,” he explained. “Sometimes, during that down time, they can have that post-Olympic depression. But I think moving into a new environment, being excited about some new challenges, that really helped with the transition. That kept things moving, kept things fresh and exciting.”

NCAA: Katie Ledecky wins first individual NCAA title with American record 

For many athletes, a coaching change can be rather jarring.

Not so for Ledecky, who’d already been through it once before. After Ledecky won a surprising gold at the 2012 London Games, her coach, Yuri Suguiyama, left for a job on the West Coast. Ledecky switched the Bruce Gemmell and soared to even greater heights in Rio.

From all indications, the transition to Meehan has gone just as smoothly.

He’s worked to tweak a few things in her technique, training and race strategy, but there’s certainly no need for a major overhaul.

“She’s already achieved levels in this sport that, outside of Michael, no one else has gotten to,” Meehan said. “Michael was more dominant in the spread of events he could cover. He’s the most amazing swimmer I’ve ever seen. But I think Katie is much more dominant in her (freestyle) events. So there is a little bit of a sense of what’s next, if she’s already doing the things she’s doing?”

This new partnership has required them both to be open-minded.

“This is only year one,” Meehan said. “We’re continuing to learn each other and push the envelope in some ways. We’ll get through this year and next year, then we’ll start looking at big-picture goals.”

The freestyle will certainly remain her focus, with an eye toward getting faster in the 100 meters. Ledecky isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to compete for an individual gold in that event, but she wants to remain a part of the 4x100m relay team that took the silver in Rio with her swimming the anchor leg.

While Ledecky must still go through the formality of qualifying for the world championship team next month in Indianapolis, she will surely be a favorite to repeat her victories in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m free, in addition to competing on a pair of relay teams.

“I don’t focus on outdoing myself,” Ledecky said. “I’ve just got to focus on what I want to achieve and not let anything else stand in my way.”

Seems her approach to swimming hasn’t changed a bit.

Something else sounds familiar, too.

Ledecky still doesn’t have a driver’s license.

“Maybe this summer,” she said with a smile, not sounding all that persuasive.

MORE: Katie Ledecky swims fastest 800m free of 2017

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Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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VIDEO: Italian curlers go nuts after clutch shot qualifies for Olympics

Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong, Ryan Pivirotto earn last three spots on U.S. Olympic short track team

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong and Ryan Pivirotto grabbed the last three spots on the U.S. Olympic short track team on Sunday as competition wrapped up at the Olympic Trials.

Kooreman survived a fall in the last women’s race of the Trials, the 1000m #2 A Final, to finish second overall in the 1000m and earn a spot on the team that will race on Olympic ice in PyeongChang.

Kooreman, a 2014 Olympian, joined Lana Gehring, a 2010 Olympian and Maame Biney, a 17-year-old who will make her Olympic debut in 2018, on the U.S. Olympic women’s short track team.

At 34 years old, Kooreman will be the veteran of the team. Four years ago, she swept all three events at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials and then finished fourth in the 1000m at the Sochi Winter Games.

She struggled to breakthrough to the top spots at this Trials; she finished third overall in both the 1500m on Friday and 500m on Saturday.

Left off the team is Katherine-Reutter Adamek, a two-time Olympic medalist from Vancouver who retired in 2013 due to injuries before coming back in 2016 in hopes of making another Olympic team. Reutter is the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 1000m, but her Olympic aspirations ended when she didn’t qualify for the 1000m #2 A Final today.

Hong, a native of South Korea who moved to the U.S. at 4 years old, finished fourth in the men’s 1000m #2 A Final, and fourth overall. Pivirotto didn’t qualify for that A Final, and had to watch from the sidelines as his Olympic fate was decided. Pivirotto clinched the fifth and final spot by finishing fifth overall across all distances.

The overall winner on the men’s side was John-Henry Krueger, who was nearly undefeated over the three days of racing and won four of six A Finals: both 1000m finals today, the 500m #2 final yesterday and the 1500m #2 final on Friday. 22-year-old Krueger was expected to make the Olympic team four years ago, but had to withdraw from some races at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials when he was diagnosed with swine flu.

J.R. Celski, the only member of the team with prior Olympic experience, had an uncharacteristically rough Trials with four falls in three days. However his results when he did stay on his skates were good enough to put him into second-place overall. The third overall men’s skater was Aaron Tran, who also make the Olympic team.

The U.S. Olympic short track team:

Lana Gehring
Maame Biney
Jessica Kooreman
John-Henry Krueger
J.R. Celski
Aaron Tran
Thomas Hong
Ryan Pivirotto

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MORE: J.R. Celski, Maame Biney join U.S. Olympic short track team