Michael Phelps jokingly challenges Katie Ledecky to race

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Katie Ledecky was getting her headset adjusted for a post-race, pool-deck interview with Universal Sports broadcasters when a voice that belonged to neither play-by-play man Ted Robinson nor analyst Rowdy Gaines filtered into her ears.

“Katie, can we have a match race?” a man’s voice said Friday night. That was Michael Phelps.

Ledecky’s eyes widened. She grinned.

“Sure,” she said, not missing a beat.

“We need to have a match race, since we tied this morning, I think a match race would be pretty fun,” Phelps said, referring to the 400m freestyle preliminary heats at the Pro Swim Series at Mesa, Ariz.

Earlier Friday, Ledecky swam a 400m freestyle heat in 4:02.67, well off her world record of 3:58.37, but still 9.2 seconds faster than any other woman.

About a half-hour later, Phelps swam in the men’s 400m freestyle heats and clocked 4:02.67, the exact same time as Ledecky. He placed 17th overall for the men in an event he had not swum since 2009.

Phelps skipped Friday night’s consolation final at his first meet since August. Ledecky did enter the pool in her 400m free final and won in 4:01.95, by 8.39 seconds.

Phelps provided commentary during the race on Universal Sports and was eager to ask Ledecky to a head-to-head race in the post-race interview.

“Sure, want to go in an hour?” Ledecky asked.

“No, I want to go right now, ’cause you’re tired,” Phelps responded without a pronounced laugh but surely in jest.

Check out the back-and-forth at the 5:22 mark in this video.

Phelps also spoke about Ledecky during her race as a broadcast analyst.

“She steps on the gas so hard,” Phelps said. “She has a body-length lead at the 50 [meter mark] here in the 400m free. … I’ve watched her stroke so much, really, over the last couple of years. Really, she swims almost like a guy. Her long, loping stroke … stronger and stronger throughout the race. I think her stroke is so different from all the other females that she swims against.”

Phelps said he and coach Bob Bowman talked about Ledecky’s 400m free world record earlier Friday.

“When Janet [Evans] went 4:03, that record stood forever,” Phelps said, of Evans’ mark set in 1988 that lasted to 2006. “Every time Katie gets in the water, oh yeah, 4:02, no big deal. Just a casual 4:02. And then, hey, we’ll just give the world record a shot tonight. Why not?

“It doesn’t even look like she’s breathing hard,” Phelps said after Ledecky’s victory Friday night. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Phelps has experience racing against women. He was in the pool with Australian Libby Trickett at the 2007 Duel in the Pool for a mixed relay. Phelps clocked 48.72 in a 100m free leadoff leg there, while Trickett swam 52.99, the fastest 100m ever by a woman. It was not ratified as a world record because it came in a race with men.

Interestingly enough, mixed relays will be part of the World Championships program for the first time this year. Phelps and Ledecky don’t appear to be headed to swim in the same relay, though, because Phelps is not on the U.S. roster for Worlds following his DUI arrest in September.

Video: Debbie Phelps texted Michael Phelps about Rio 2016 years ago

Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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