Katie Ledecky nearly breaks 800m freestyle world record in Austin (video)

Leave a comment

Katie Ledecky just about started the new year with a world record in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.

Ledecky clocked 8:11.21 in an 800m freestyle at the Arena Pro Swim Series meet, just missing her world record of 8:11.00 set last year. Ledecky settled for the second-fastest time ever in the event in which she won her 2012 Olympic gold medal.

Ledecky was under world-record pace for most of the race, including at the 600-meter mark. (full meet results here)

“I could really tell the crowd was getting into it about halfway through,” Ledecky told Universal Sports. “I just wanted to give it my all. It really wasn’t hurting at the point where it usually hurts when I’m having a bad swim. So I knew it was a pretty good swim.

“I really didn’t have an awful feeling this time,” she said, smiling. “Shoot, I should’ve gone 22 one hundredths faster.”

Ledecky, a Maryland high school senior committed to Stanford, won the race by 28.54 seconds over Elizabeth Beisel, the Olympic silver medalist in the 400m individual medley. She said she would have been happy with anything under 8:20.

In Austin, Ledecky won the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles over the three-day meet. She will now go back to Bethesda, Md., to finish her high school swimming career. The biggest international meet this year is the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in the summer.

“I’m light years ahead of where I was at this meet last year,” Ledecky told media in Austin.

In other races Saturday, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin was out-touched by Canadian Dominique Bouchard in the 100m backstroke. That Coughlin lost is not the story.

The interesting note is that Coughlin swam the 100m back in competition for the first time since the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, when she failed to make the Olympic team in the event, which she won at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Coughlin turned into a freestyle sprinter after the London Games but failed to make the 2015 World Championships team in the 50m and 100m freestyles.

Coughlin, 32, said she’s been doing more backstroke training to complement her freestyle. But her focus is still on freestyle.

Coughlin’s time Saturday was 1:00.7, which was faster than any of her 100m backstroke times in Grand Prix events leading up to the 2012 Olympic trials. She was faster than 1:00.7 at the Olympic trials. Her 100m back time Saturday would’ve ranked fourth among U.S. women last year.

Then there’s Michael Andrew, the 15-year-old phenom who turned professional two years ago. Andrew rewrote 13- and 14-year-old national age group record books.

Andrew notched his first senior-level USA Swimming series win Saturday, taking the 100m breaststroke in 1:01.67. Andrew shaved nearly two seconds off his personal best in the event on Saturday.

“I knew I had the capability to do it,” Andrew told Universal Sports. “It’s pretty cool to be able to come to a stage like this and really give it my everything and to finally be in a point where I know, I feel the power.”

His time would’ve ranked fifth among U.S. men last year. Breaststroke is historically the U.S. men’s weakest stroke, but it will likely take a sub-1:00 to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. No male swimmer as young as Andrew will be in 2016 has made the U.S. Olympic team since Michael Phelps and Aaron Peirsol in 2000.

Ryan Lochte and the 400m IM

U.S. Olympic women’s tennis qualifying already looks intense

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Serena Williams is in strong early position to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. For everyone else, including older sister Venus Williams, every set of ranking points could be crucial over the next 10 months, including at the upcoming U.S. Open.

The U.S. has seven women in the world top 36 — not including 52nd-ranked Venus — but only four singles players can go to an Olympics from any one country come the rankings cutoff next June.

Serena Williams leads the way for Americans in second place overall in Olympic qualifying — which counts WTA rankings points starting after the 2019 French Open and running through the 2020 French Open. She has 1,885 points despite playing just two events the last two months, taking runner-up at Wimbledon and the Canadian Open.

Only Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who has already been named Romania’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer, has more Olympic qualifying points (2,395).

After Serena, three more U.S. women are in the top 10 in Olympic qualifying — Sonya Kenin (No. 5), Madison Keys (No. 8) and Alison Riske (No. 10).

Keys, a quarterfinalist or better at all four Grand Slams in her career, jumped from outside the top 20 among Americans to the No. 3 American by notching her biggest title in Ohio last week.

Notables who must improve their ranking start with Venus Williams, who moved from 18th on the U.S. list to eighth by reaching the Cincinnati quarterfinals. She turns 40 before the Tokyo Games and could become the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988. She already owns the modern-era record of five Olympic tennis medals from her five previous Games and could still get to the Olympics in doubles if she doesn’t qualify in singles.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 12th in U.S. Olympic qualifying, winning a total of three matches among four tournaments in the window.

The veterans Williams sisters, Keys and Stephens, who made up the 2016 U.S. Olympic singles team, must fend off an emerging class.

Kenin, 20, backed up her French Open upset of Serena Williams by winning a lower-level event in June and then beating the world Nos. 1 and 2 the last two weeks.

Riske is playing some of the best tennis of her career at age 29. She beat world then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make her first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon, a week before her wedding.

Then there are two of the phenoms of the year. Coco Gauff, 15, is ninth in U.S. Olympic qualifying after a run to the Wimbledon fourth round. Gauff was granted a wild card into the U.S. Open, after which she can’t play in more than five senior tournaments (and possibly no more than three) until her 16th birthday in March due to WTA age restrictions to keep young teens from burnout.

Amanda Anisimova, 17, is 13th in U.S. Olympic qualifying. Her best results this year — French Open semifinal, Australian Open fourth round — came before the Olympic qualifying window.

It’s looking like the toughest U.S. Olympic women’s singles team to make outright since 2004. Back then, the U.S. had Nos. 4 (Lindsay Davenport), 7 (Jennifer Capriati), 8 (Venus Williams), 11 (Serena Williams) and 18 (Chanda Rubin). Davenport, Capriati and Serena didn’t play at the Athens Games, opening the door for Lisa Raymond to play singles and doubles in Athens.

In 2000, Serena Williams didn’t make the Olympic singles field despite being ranked eighth in the world. A max of three players per nation were taken to Sydney, and the U.S. had Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Davenport, Venus Williams and Monica Seles.

An Olympic rule mandating a minimum of Fed Cup appearances could affect Tokyo 2020 eligibility. However, the fine print allows for that to be bypassed in discretionary exceptional circumstances.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master competition schedule

U.S. Olympic Women’s Singles Qualifying Standings (Max. 4 can qualify)
1. Serena Williams — 1,885 points
2. Sonya Kenin — 1,081
3. Madison Keys — 972
4. Alison Riske — 802
5. Jennifer Brady — 356
6. Jessica Pegula — 348
7. Madison Brengle — 344
8. Venus Williams — 302
9. Coco Cauff — 298
10. Bernarda Pera — 280
11. Lauren Davis — 245
12. Sloane Stephens — 238
13. Amanda Anisimova — 230

U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Olympic team roster for the 2020 Tokyo Games will eventually reach more than 500 athletes. It is currently at seven.

Qualifying competitions and Olympic Trials events dot the schedule from now into early summer 2020.

Athletes qualified so far:

Modern Pentathlon
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Sport Climbing
Brooke Raboutou

Swimming
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Triathlon
Summer Rappaport

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master competition schedule