Katie Ledecky breaks world record, Michael Phelps wins at Pan Pacs

Katie Ledecky
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Katie Ledecky broke a world record for the fourth time this year, and Michael Phelps won his first international race since the London Olympics on Saturday.

Ledecky clocked 3 minutes, 58.37 seconds to win the 400m freestyle at the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. The 17-year-old rising high school senior broke her world record of 3:58.86 set at the U.S. Championships on Aug. 9.

Ledecky has broken world records in the 400m free, 800m free and 1500m free this year. She won her fourth gold medal of the meet Saturday, adding to her 200m and 800m free titles and with the 4x200m free relay.

And she’s not satisfied yet.

“I have some long-term goals,” Ledecky told reporters in Gold Coast, smiling. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’ll get there.”

Phelps, who hasn’t broken a world record since 2009, notched his biggest victory Saturday since coming out of competitive retirement in April.

He won the 100m butterfly in 51.29 seconds, relegating Ryan Lochte to second place in 51.67. Phelps is the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champion and owns the fastest 100m fly time in the world this year, 51.17 from the U.S. Championships two weeks ago.

“It definitely feels good to see the one next to your name, not second or losing by this or losing by that,” said Phelps, who finished fourth in the 100m free and won gold with the 4x200m free relay team earlier in the meet. “I think I’ll be able to sleep a little easier.”

Phelps and Lochte also swam in the 4x100m free relay Saturday. The U.S. took second behind Australia.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have Pan Pacs coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.

Pan Pacs are not only the biggest meet for U.S. and Australian swimmers this year, but times from Pan Pacs and the U.S. Championships will also determine the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Lochte failed to make the World Championships team in the 100m fly. As it stands, there is only one potential head to head between Phelps and Lochte slated for Worlds next year, the 200m individual medley if both come through in that event at Pan Pacs on Sunday.

In other events Saturday, Missy Franklin finished fourth in the 200m backstroke, 1.33 behind Australian winner Belinda Hocking. Franklin, the Olympic and World champion and world record holder in the event, is swimming through a bad back at Pan Pacs.

Franklin came back to swim the second leg of the 4x100m free relay as the U.S. took silver behind Australia. The Aussies, with three of the four women who broke the relay world record July 24, clocked 3:32.46. The U.S. swam 3:34.23.

Olympic champion Tyler Clary won the men’s 200m back in 1:54.91. The World champion Lochte opted not to swim it in prelims earlier, knowing he was already busy with the 100m fly and 4x100m free finals Saturday.

Beijing Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan won the men’s 400m free in 3:43.15 over Japanese star Kosuke Hagino and American Connor Jaeger. Park’s time was the fastest in the world this year.

Australian Alicia Coutts won the women’s 100m fly in 57.64. American Kendyl Stewart took bronze, her first major international medal.

Women’s 400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky (USA) 3:58.37 WR
2. Cierra Runge (USA) 4:04.55
3. Lauren Boyle (NZL) 4:05.33

Men’s 400m Freestyle
1. Park Tae-hwan (KOR) 3:43.15
2. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 3:44.56
3. Connor Jaeger (USA) 3:45.31

Women’s 100m Butterfly
1. Alicia Coutts (AUS) 57.64
2. Lu Ying (CHN) 57.76
3. Kendyl Stewart (USA) 57.82

Men’s 100m Butterfly
1. Michael Phelps (USA) 51.29
2. Ryan Lochte (USA) 51.67
3. Hirofumi Ikebata (JPN) 52.50

Women’s 200m Backstroke
1. Belinda Hocking (AUS) 2:07.49
2. Emily Seebohm (AUS) 2:07.61
3. Elizabeth Beisel (USA) 2:08.33
4. Missy Franklin (USA) 2:08.82

Men’s 200m Backstroke
1. Tyler Clary (USA) 1:54.91
2. Ryosuke Irie (JPN) 1:55.14
3. Mitchell Larkin (AUS) 1:55.27

Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
1. Australia 3:32.46
2. U.S. 3:34.23
3. Japan 3:39.06

Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
1. Australia 3:12.80
2. U.S. 3:13.36
3. Brazil 3:13.59

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Luz Long’s Olympic silver medal for sale from Jesse Owens long jump duel

Jesse Owens, Luz Long
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One of the most consequential Olympic medals ever awarded is on the auction block — the silver medal captured in 1936 by Germany’s Luz Long, the long jumper who walked arm in arm through the stadium with Jesse Owens to celebrate their triumphs while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands.

Long’s family has decided to auction the medal and other collectibles from the German jumper’s career. Long was killed in World War II in 1943.

The auction house selling the medal has labeled Long’s collection “The Beacon of Hope.”

“The story of Jesse Owens never seems to end,” said Long’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, in a phone interview from her house in Munich. “My grandfather has always been inspirational and influential in the way I choose to see the world, and this is something I think the world outside needs. Now more than ever. It gives us hope.”

Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures.

There’s also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn’t foul on his last try. Owens took that advice and went on to win the title — one of four he captured in Berlin — with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches).

Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.

The camaraderie between Owens and Long, and the relationship that ensued between the men and their families, are often held up as the prime example of what the Olympics are supposed to be about — a peaceful coming together of people from different countries and cultures who set their differences aside in the spirit of competition.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me,” Owens said, years later. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

The decision to sell came shortly after Luz’s son (and Julia’s father), Kai, died at age 80. Kellner-Long said the great responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s memorabilia should be passed onto an individual, or museum, that has the time and resources to do so. The family also wanted to use the sale to rekindle the story of Long and Owens.

“Even 86 years later, shining a beacon of hope is an important and realistic value, especially in a time of increasing racism, increasing exclusion and hatred,” Kellner-Long said.

The auction house started the bidding for Long’s medal at $50,000, and estimated the value at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. The bidding runs through Oct. 15. The value of Olympic medals on the open market varies widely. One of Owens’ four gold medals from 1936 fetched $1.46 million. Bill Russell’s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics recently sold for $587,500.

David Kohler of SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, said the medal is about Long, but also “the story of the courageousness and the athlete and what he did there.”

Long didn’t live long enough to see his legacy play out. He was killed in 1943 in the battle of St. Pietro on the Italian island of Sardinia. Shortly before that, he wrote a letter to Owens, one he predicted would be “the last letter I shall ever write.”

In it, Long asked Owens to go to Germany after the war and find his son.

“Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war,” Long wrote. “I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

Owens and Kai Long met several times over the years, including at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1966. Owens later was a best man at Kai’s wedding.

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Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
Puma
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Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

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