Katie Ledecky beats Missy Franklin in World Championships 200m freestyle

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Katie Ledecky won her third gold medal of the World Championships, taking the 200m freestyle over a field that included defending World champion Missy Franklin in Kazan, Russia, on Wednesday.

Ledecky clocked 1:55:16. Italian world-record holder Federica Pellegrini earned silver at 1:55.32, followed by Franklin for bronze in 1:55.49.

“It was a star-studded field, just glad that it all went well,” Ledecky told Michele Tafoya on Universal Sports. “I just felt a lot more recovered than yesterday [when Ledecky swam the 200m freestyle semifinals after winning the 1500m free final in world-record time 30 minutes earlier]. I was able to go out with the field.”

Ledecky, 18, has entered seven career Worlds events and won gold in all of them. If she wins the 800m freestyle on Saturday, Ledecky will become the third swimmer to win four individual titles at a single World Championships. The others were Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

“This one was the least expected,” Ledecky said of the 200m free on Eurosport, with her coach, Bruce Gemmell, adding that he was surprised that she won. “I knew this would be the toughest race.”

Ledecky did not swim the 200m free at Worlds in 2013, when Franklin won in 1:54:81.

“Katie’s just an inspiration to everyone,” Franklin, who has fifth- and third-place finishes this week in two individual events that she won two years ago, told Tafoya on Universal Sports. “What she does is incredible, and it’s never been done before.”

Ledecky’s rise to become the world’s best 200m freestyle swimmer the last two years makes one wonder if she will dip down further to the 100m freestyle for 2016.

In January, Ledecky chopped .41 off her 100m freestyle personal best at a meet in Austin, Texas, two months after her coach, Bruce Gemmell, did not rule out adding the 100m free in interviews.

Ledecky’s personal best in the 100m free (54.55) ranks her 42nd in the world this year and ninth among Americans. It’s likely the top six at the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials will make the Olympic team for the 4x100m free relay. The Rio Olympic 4x100m relay is on the first day of competition at the Olympics, a day where Ledecky has no other events.

In 1972, Australian Shane Gould won medals in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles at the Munich Olympics.

Worlds broadcast schedule | Wednesday results

The U.S. has won eight medals in four days in Kazan with four days left. Its lowest medal total at an Olympics or Worlds in the last 50 years was 21 at the 1994 World Championships.

In other events Wednesday, China’s Sun Yang won his third straight 800m freestyle World title, his second gold medal in Kazan and his third medal overall. Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri was second, .85 behind, followed by Mack Horton of Australia getting the bronze. American Connor Jaeger was fourth.

Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh won his second World Championship, 10 years after his first. Cseh, for so long chasing Phelps in various events, clocked 1:53.48 in the 200m butterfly to beat reigning Olympic and World champion Chad le Clos of South Africa by .20. Poland’s Jan Switkowski earned bronze.

Le Clos had been the 200m fly king starting with his Olympic upset of Phelps in London. Phelps said earlier this year that he’s open to competing seriously in the 200m fly again, after swearing it off last year, citing slow times worldwide in the event.

“I wish that he was here,” Le Clos said of Phelps, according to The Associated Press. “He’s been talking a lot of smack in the media about how slow the butterfly is, so I just can’t wait until I race him again. I’m going to really go for his world record next year.”

Great Britain’s Adam Peaty followed his 100m breaststroke title with a 50m breast gold medal in 26.51, which was .15 ahead of South African Cameron van der Burgh. Van der Burgh also took silver in the 100m breast. American Kevin Cordes took bronze in the 50m breast by .01. The 50m breast is not contested at the Olympics.

In semifinals, Lochte was the top qualifier into Thursday’s 200m individual medley final. Lochte finished fourth in the 200m freestyle Tuesday in his only other individual event in Kazan. He’s the three-time defending World champion in the 200m IM.

Olympic champion Nathan Adrian qualified fifth into Thursday’s 100m free final. That final will not include two-time reigning World champion James Magnussen of Australia (injured) or Russian world leader Vladimir Morozov (false start in the semifinals).

Americans Katie McLaughlin and Cammile Adams qualified fifth and sixth into Thursday’s 200m butterfly final.

Three-time reigning champion pulls out of Worlds

Jordan Wilimovsky qualifies for Tokyo Olympics in open-water swimming

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Open-water swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky is the first male athlete on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team.

Wilimovsky, who placed fourth and fifth in two distance events at the 2016 Rio Games, joined fellow open-water swimmers Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell in qualifying for Tokyo via the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Wilimovsky, 25, placed fifth in the 10km event on Tuesday. Anderson and Twichell were second and sixth in the women’s 10km on Sunday. Top-10 finishers at worlds qualified for Tokyo.

German Florian Wellbrock won by two tenths of a second over French Olympic bronze medalist Marc-Antoine Olivier after 1 hour, 47 minutes in the water. Wilimovsky led with 600 meters left. Olympic 1500m freestyle champion Gregorio Paltrinieri also qualified for Tokyo in the open-water 10km by finishing sixth.

The other American, David Heron, was 25th, missing the Olympic team, but he can try again in the 1500m free in the pool at the Olympic trials next June.

Wilimovsky missed a medal in the Rio Olympic 1500m in the pool by 4.17 seconds, taking fourth. Three days later, he was fifth in the open-water 10km, 1.2 seconds out of bronze.

Wilimovsky, a Malibu native who redshirted at Northwestern to train for Rio, earned gold and silver in the 10km at the 2015 and 2017 World Championships.

A U.S. man has never earned an Olympic open-water medal. The event debuted at Beijing 2008.

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Ted Ligety scales back race schedule

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Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety is scaling back his race schedule as he enters the final portion of his decorated Alpine skiing career.

Ligety, a 34-year-old who has endured many injuries since his last World Cup win in 2015, said he will race strictly giant slaloms this year. The World Cup season starts in late October.

“So it’ll be a little bit easier schedule on my body,” Ligety said in a KPCW radio interview in his native Park City, Utah. “I’ll be able to be home a little bit more as well, and then we see. I mean, I would like to keep going as long as I feel like I can win races and feel healthy. That’s really the biggest part, and nowadays I have a 2-year-old son, and there’s more factors than there was when I was 25 years old.”

Ligety, nicknamed “Mr. GS” for his giant slalom prowess, has a 2014 Olympic gold medal and three world titles in that event.

He also owns an Olympic combined title from 2006 and world titles in the super-G and combined from 2013, but he hasn’t won a race in one of those disciplines since January 2014. And since then, he has undergone back and knee surgeries and dealt with hip problems.

“There’s a lot of hard miles on my body up to this point, but I’m still enjoying it,” said Ligety, whose 321 World Cup starts are the most among active Olympic medalists now that Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal have retired. “Right now, I feel really healthy and trying to get to a point where I feel I can win races. That’s the goal right now.”

Ligety, a four-time Olympian, has not publicly committed to a 2022 Olympic run.

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