World Swimming Championships women’s preview

Katie Ledecky
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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

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing
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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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