Three takeaways from USA Swimming Nationals

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Three thoughts following the USA Swimming National Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, heading into the world championships in three weeks … 

1. Katie Ledecky will have her best medal output ever at worlds

Here’s another adjective for Katie Ledecky: Consistent. Her times at the 2016 Olympic Trials and 2017 World Championships Trials:

100m Freestyle
2016: 53.99
2017: 54.35

200m Freestyle
2016: 1:54.88
2017: 1:54.84

400m Freestyle
2016: 3:58.98
2017: 3:58.44

800m Freestyle
2016: 8:10.32
2017: 8:11.50

Total
2016: 14:58.17
2017: 14:59.13

In four finals covering 1,500 meters, Ledecky swam within one second of her pool time at the Olympic Trials. Some key differences from year to year:

  • The Olympic Trials was an eight-day meet. The World Championships Trials was five days.
  • The Olympic Trials ended five weeks before the Olympics. The World Championships Trials ended three weeks before the world championships. This could have impacted Ledecky’s tapering schedule. She said last week she was less tapered for world trials than she was for Olympic Trials, which makes swimming nearly identical times all the more impressive.
  • Ledecky is coming off her freshman year at Stanford.

Ledecky will contest the exact same individual events in Budapest as she did at the 2015 Worlds — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees — and she is No. 1 in the world this year in each event, comfortably. She is expected to swim one more relay than in 2015, adding the 4x100m free to her 4x200m free.

Her path to a potential six gold medals (tying Missy Franklin‘s female worlds record) is boosted by two swimmers whom she will not be racing.

Swede Sarah Sjöström, who came the closest of anyone to beating Ledecky in Rio, is skipping what would have been a showdown with Ledecky in the 200m free in Budapest to focus on 50m and 100m events.

Australian Cate Campbell, the 100m freestyle world-record holder, is skipping worlds altogether. This is key, given Campbell anchored Australia to 4x100m free relay gold over the U.S. at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics.

Australia loses more than one second without Campbell in its relay quartet. Counting times from each nation’s nationals, Australia (without Campbell) would beat the U.S. (with Ledecky) by one tenth of a second in an on-paper 4x100m free.

MORE: Full U.S. roster for worlds

2. Caeleb Dressel joins Phelps, Lochte

In the last 15 years, only two U.S. men have raced in four individual events at a single Olympics or world championships — Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

Well, Caeleb Dressel can join that club in Budapest. The 20-year-old rising Florida senior qualified for the 50m and 100m butterfly and freestyles. He’s also eligible for five relays, meaning he must choose from nine total events at the eight-day Budapest meet.

No way he swims them all. For one, the 50m freestyle prelims and semis, 100m butterfly prelims and semis and 4x200m free relay prelims and final are all on the same day. (Dressel squeaked into the 4x200m free relay pool by placing sixth at nationals.)

Dressel has been the next big phenom in U.S. sprint freestyles since he was a high schooler, swimming for the same club team as Rio gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Joseph Schooling. He almost quit the sport entirely three years ago as the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

But he may be better in the butterfly. Dressel clocked the fastest time in the world in the 100m fly by .42 at nationals, lowering his personal best by 1.35 seconds. Only Phelps and Ian Crocker have swum faster among Americans all time.

Medals in Dressel’s other three individual events will be harder to come by. He ranks Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in the world in the 50m free, 100m free and 50m fly.

3. Lilly King, Yulia Efimova times three

The most memorable head-to-head in Rio was between American Lilly King and Yulia Efimova in the 100m breaststroke. King memorably finger-wagged an image of the Russian and then said she disagreed with Efimova being allowed to compete in Rio due to her previous doping ban.

King would beat Efimova in the 100m breast, but less remembered is that King flamed out in the 200m breast semifinals. Efimova made that final and finished second.

Well, King has improved drastically in the 200m breast. In sweeping the breaststrokes last week, she lowered her 200m personal best by 2.2 seconds.

Now, King and Efimova are right next to each other in the 2017 world rankings in every breaststroke, which should make for plenty more headlines in Budapest:

50m Breast
1. King — 29.66
2. Efimova — 29.88

100m Breast
1. Efimova — 1:04.82
2. King — 1:04.95

200m Breast
1. Efimova — 2:19.83
2. King — 2:21.83

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Two-time Olympian becomes first woman to lead U.S. national swim team

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Two-time Olympian Lindsay Mintenko has been picked to lead the U.S. national swimming team. She is the first woman to hold the title.

USA Swimming made the announcement Wednesday.

Mintenko replaces Frank Busch, who retired Oct. 1 as managing director. She has been a member of the national team staff since 2006.

During her swimming career, Mintenko won gold medals as a U.S. team captain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics 800m freestyle relay and added a silver in 2004 on the 400m freestyle relay.

USA Swimming also announced an organizational restructuring that will place all technical divisions, including the national team, under the oversight of chief operating officer Mike Unger.

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Grand Prix figure skating: 10 female skaters to watch

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Ten women to watch this fall as the Grand Prix figure skating season starts this week …

Yevgenia Medvedeva
Russia
Two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Undefeated in nearly two years and arguably on the most dominant run since Katarina Witt in the 1980s. Medvedeva rarely misses jumps and has feather-light elegance on the ice. Off of it, she enjoys Japanese anime and K-pop. She quickly surpassed older skaters after turning senior in 2015, but now younger teens are giving chase.

Kaetlyn Osmond
Canada
2017 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, France

Osmond won a Grand Prix at age 16 in 2012, but injuries dogged her the next few years. Most of all, a broken leg suffered in September 2014. She came back and was the breakout woman last season, making her first Grand Prix Final and then grabbing second at worlds behind Medvedeva.

Gabrielle Daleman
Canada
2017 World bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: China, U.S.

Like Osmond, would not have been picked for a world medal at the start of last season. Daleman was 17th at the Sochi Olympics, with a foot injury and one month after turning 16. She was 13th, 21st and ninth in three worlds appearances before last year. She was fourth at each of her Grand Prix starts in 2016, failing to make the six-skater Grand Prix Final, but picked up her first top-level senior international medals at Four Continents in February and worlds in March.

Grand Prix Capsules: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance | TV Schedule

Satoko Miyahara
Japan
2015 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Japan, U.S.

Miyahara’s hip injury last winter could not have come at a worse time for the Japanese federation. She missed worlds, and Japan ended up qualifying two rather than three spots for PyeongChang. Before that, Miyahara took second behind Medvedeva at the Grand Prix Final and was ranked No. 2 in the world. Now the Japanese Olympic picture is crowded with fellow teens Marin HondaMai Mihara and Wakaba Higuchi.

Karen Chen
U.S.
Fourth at 2017 Worlds
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, U.S.

Went from eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships to winning the 2017 U.S. title and placing fourth at worlds. Chen’s clutch effort ensured the U.S. earned three women’s spots at the Olympics. The 18-year-old from the Bay Area has largely struggled in other international competitions. A best of fifth in four Grand Prix starts. Twelfth at a pair of Four Continents Championships. Already this season at two international events, she finished behind Mirai Nagasu, who was fourth at nationals.

Ashley Wagner
U.S.
2016 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, U.S.

Wagner just missed the 2010 Olympic team, then made Sochi despite placing fourth at nationals. She has undoubtedly been the most consistent U.S. woman in this Olympic cycle. The 26-year-old ended a decade-long U.S. medal drought with the skate of her life at worlds in 2016. Her follow-up last season was not so memorable — her least successful campaign in six years. Still a favorite to become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928.

Alina Zagitova
Russia
2017 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Medvedeva’s training partner, in her first senior season, might be the skater with the best chance of dethroning her. Zagitova, born three months after the 2002 Olympics, has the highest free skate score in the world this season (.45 better than Medvedeva). Their duel(s) in December at Russian Nationals and possibly the Grand Prix Final should be appointment viewing.

Marin Honda
Japan
2016 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, China

Honda is the other first-year senior turning heads. She beat a field at the U.S. Classic last month that included three of the top four from last season’s U.S. Championships. Figure skating is the Winter Olympics’ marquee sport. The women’s event is its headliner. And nowhere is skating more popular than Japan. With Mao Asada‘s retirement, the spotlight will be on Honda, who already has 236,000 Instagram followers.

Carolina Kostner
Italy
2014 Olympic bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

The second-oldest Olympic women’s singles medalist since 1928 is the only one from the top six in Sochi who is competing this Grand Prix season. Kostner, now 30, took a break after the 2014 season, then served a backdated 21-month suspension for helping ex-boyfriend and Olympic race-walking champion Alex Schwazer evade drug testers in 2012. She finally returned in December and was sixth at worlds.

Mirai Nagasu
U.S.
Fourth at 2010 Olympics
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Nagasu, left off the Olympic team in favor of Wagner in 2014, is arguably the best U.S. skater at the moment after topping Chen at both of her early season outings. She added the triple Axel this season, which could prime her to win her second national title, a full decade after her first at age 14. It could be an incredible comeback story, returning to the Olympics after finishing fourth in Vancouver in 2010.

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