Katie Ledecky

World Swimming Championships women’s preview

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It’s Katie Ledecky‘s turn to headline a World Swimming Championships.

In 2009, Michael Phelps won a meet-leading five gold medals at the World Championships in Rome.

In 2011, Ryan Lochte won a meet-leading five gold medals at the World Championships in Shanghai.

In 2013, Missy Franklin won a meet-leading six gold medals at the World Championships in Barcelona.

Ledecky, the youngest member of U.S. swimming’s big four, will win more individual titles next week in Kazan, Russia, than any other swimmer if the last two years’ rankings hold true.

She plans to swim four individual events and one relay, a slate of distances ranging from 200m to the grueling 1500m freestyle. The 200m freestyle semifinals and the 1500m free final are separated by about 20 minutes, a double arguably more daunting than anything seen before from Phelps, Lochte or Franklin at a major international meet.

Worlds broadcast schedule | Daily schedule of events | Entry lists | Men’s preview

Ledecky, an 18-year-old who graduated from a D.C.-area Catholic all-girls school on June 4, is scheduled to swim each of the first seven days of the eight-day meet. On Sunday, Aug. 9, the final day, she will rest.

She’s the world-record holder in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles (finals this Sunday (400m), then Tuesday (1500m) and then Saturday (800m)).

Ledecky swept those three events at the 2013 World Championships, one year after she took Olympic gold in her only event in London, the 800m free, as the youngest member of the entire U.S. Olympic team of more than 500 athletes.

She has since grown to dominate the distance freestyles so much that she added the 200m free to her program in 2014. How did that go? Ledecky was the second fastest woman in the world in the event last year behind Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who is not swimming the 200m free in Kazan next week.

If Ledecky sweeps the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees, she will become the first woman to win four individual golds at a single World Championships. The only men to do so? Phelps and Lochte.

“It’s going to be a busy week for me, but I’m just excited for the challenge,” Ledecky told media in Kazan on Friday.

Ledecky eyes daunting double at Worlds

Franklin, meanwhile, is a bit of a question despite being a tested and proven swimmer at major meets (four golds at the 2012 Olympics, six golds at the 2013 Worlds). She needed help walking following back spasms two days before last year’s major international meet, the Pan Pacific Championships, and came home with one individual medal (bronze).

Though Franklin hasn’t had back flare-ups at competitions since, her form going into Worlds is a little unclear. She’s raced in one meet since the NCAA Championships in March. Her FINA world rankings in her four individual events the last two years (keeping in mind last season’s back spasms and this year’s lack of racing long-course meters):

Event 2014 World Ranking 2015 World Ranking
100 Freestyle T6 105
200 Freestyle 8 13
100 Backstroke 4 31
200 Backstroke 6 18

 

Franklin remained confident in interviews at her only meet this spring or summer, in June in Santa Clara, Calif. She’s returned to her longtime Colorado coach, Todd Schmitz, since turning professional.

“We don’t really know quite what to expect, but when you think about how many times we’ve swam these races and the experience we got on previous trips and hold on to that confidence and know that we know what we’re doing,” Franklin told media in Kazan on Friday.

Missy Franklin on her dream relay, unusual autographs, ‘the worm’

Ledecky and Franklin were the only U.S. women to earn individual golds at 2013 Worlds. Again, there might not be any others this year.

Across all Worlds events, only one other U.S. woman owns a top-three world ranking either of the last two years — Jessica Hardy was second in 2014 in the 50m breaststroke, which is not contested at the Olympics.

Granted this year, U.S. swimmers haven’t needed to post fast times in competition before going to Kazan, because the U.S. team for Worlds was determined in 2014. Americans could have spent all year in heavy training, while many swimmers from other nations needed to peak in competition in the spring for Worlds qualifying meets.

One swimmer who has been on fire this year is Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, the 2013 World champion in the 200m and 400m individual medleys. Hosszu, nicknamed “Iron Lady” for her Ripken-like durability while swimming several events in three- and four-day meets, could show up in seven individual events in Kazan.

Hosszu is world No. 1 in the 200m medley the last two years, No. 1 in the 400m medley this year and No. 2 last year, No. 2 in the 200m back this year and No. 3 in the 100m back last year.

Hosszu is set for showdowns with China’s Ye Shiwen in the individual medleys in Kazan. Ye was the 16-year-old who broke the Olympic record in both medleys at London 2012, including the 400m IM world record by swimming the final 50 meters faster than Lochte did in the men’s race.

Katinka Hosszu emerges from depression to become swimming’s Iron Lady

In other events, the favorites are Australian Cate Campbell and the Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk in the sprint freestyles, Australian Emily Seebohm in the backstrokes (if recovered from May’s dislocated kneecap), Lithuanian breaststroker Ruta Meilutyte and the Swede Sjostrom in the sprint freestyles and butterflies.

Key women’s finals:

Sunday, Aug. 2
400m freestyle — Ledecky is the world-record holder
4x100m freestyle relay — Australia vs. USA vs. Netherlands, who have traded Olympic and World titles since 2003

Monday, Aug. 3
100m butterfly — Sjostrom is the defending champion and world-record holder; Olympic champion Dana Vollmer is not competing at Worlds after having a baby
200m individual medley — Hosszu was fastest in the world in 2013, 2014 and 2015, but Ye lurks

Tuesday, Aug. 4
100m backstroke — Franklin is the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World champion, but Seebohm has been world No. 1 the last two years
1500m freestyle — Ledecky is 14 seconds faster than anyone else this year
100m breaststroke — Meilutyte is the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World champion and world-record holder

Wednesday, Aug. 5
200m freestyle — Ledecky and Franklin’s only shared individual event

Thursday, Aug. 6
200m butterfly — Missing the reigning Olympic and World gold and silver medalists
4x200m freestyle relay — Ledecky and Franklin expected to lead U.S.

Friday, Aug. 7
100m freestyle — Franklin is not a medal favorite, behind Australia’s Campbell sisters, Sjostrom and Heemskerk
200m breaststroke — Defending champ Russian Yulia Efimova is back from a doping ban

Saturday, Aug. 8
200m backstroke — Franklin is the Olympic and World champion and world-record holder, but Seebohm is top seed
800m freestyle — Ledecky’s fourth and final individual event

Sunday, Aug. 9
50m freestyle — Campbell looks to dethrone Dutch Olympic and World champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo
400m individual medley — Hosszu vs. Ye II
4x100m medley relay — U.S. has won six of last seven World titles

Mark Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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