Katie Ledecky looks like Olympic team contender in 100m freestyle

Katie Ledecky
AP
1 Comment

Katie Ledecky showed she’s a contender, arguably a favorite, to make the U.S. Olympic team in the 100m freestyle at her first meet of the year in Austin, Texas, on Friday.

Ledecky, the World champion in the 200m, 400m, 800m and non-Olympic 1500m frees, chopped eight tenths of a second off her personal best in the 100m free, an event she rarely swims at the top international level.

The 18-year-old clocked 53.75 seconds to finish second in the 100m free final in Austin, behind Swedish rival Sarah Sjöström (full Friday results here).

Sjöström won in 53.12, the fastest-ever in an American pool, and swam the fastest-ever 100m butterfly in an American pool 35 minutes later.

Ledecky won the 400m freestyle about 55 minutes after the 100m free, posting the fifth-fastest time ever in 3:59.54.

She outshined Michael Phelps (first in 100m butterfly, sixth in 100m freestyle), Missy Franklin (sixth in 100m free) and Ryan Lochte (fifth in 100m free and 100m butterfly) on the first of three nights of competition.

The Austin meet continues with finals Saturday and Sunday at 7 ET each night, streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra.

An Olympic 200m free duel between Ledecky and Sjöström has been anticipated since Ledecky won the World 200m free title in August, and Sjöström clocked a faster time leading off the 4x200m free relay. Sjöström opted out of the individual 200m free at Worlds.

Now, it looks like Ledecky may join Sjöström in the 100m free at the Rio Olympics.

One U.S. woman has swum the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles at one Olympics — Shirley Babashoff in 1976. Here’s more from Ledecky discussing the 100m freestyle from August.

Ledecky’s time Friday night would have won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials 100m free (by .21 of a second) and ranked her No. 2 in the country in the event last year (.07 behind Missy Franklin).

At the very least, Ledecky solidified an argument to be part of the U.S. Olympic 4x100m free relay pool, which is usually six or seven swimmers combined across prelims and finals.

Keep in mind that swimmers train to peak during the summer, but most of the U.S. Olympic medal contenders are competing in Austin. The top two in each individual event at the June/July Olympic trials make the Olympic team.

In other events Friday, Phelps took the 100m butterfly in 51.94 seconds. That’s .47 of a second faster than his time at this meet four years ago.

U.S. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian took the men’s 100m free in 48.91, with Lochte in fifth and Phelps in sixth. All three were part of the 2012 U.S. Olympic 4x100m free relay final quartet and are relay contenders again this year.

Sjöström trounced Dana Vollmer by 1.23 seconds in the 100m butterfly final, clocking 56.38. It marked their first head-to-head since the 2013 World Championships.

Vollmer won the 2012 Olympic title and returned last season after a nearly two-year break that included having a baby. Sjöström won the 2013 and 2015 World titles. They are the only women to break 56 seconds in the event all time.

“I want her to know that I’m going to be there, and I’m going to be a challenge and she wasn’t just going to crush me,” Vollmer told media in Austin. “I didn’t feel like she just blew me away. I felt like I was there ’til the end.”

Vollmer’s time, 57.61, marked her best since 2013. It would have ranked second among Americans last year behind Kelsi Worrell, who is not competing in Austin.

Katie Meili, the fastest U.S. woman in the 100m breast last year, had the best 200m breast time Friday night despite being in a consolation final.

Meili clocked a personal-best 2:23.69, which would have ranked third among U.S. women in 2015 behind two-time World medalist Micah Lawrence and Laura Sogar. Meili was one second faster than Sogar on Friday and nearly five faster than Lawrence.

MORE: Phelps remembers frustration in return to Austin

*Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated no U.S. woman has swum the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles at one Olympics.

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
Getty
0 Comments

The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
Getty
0 Comments

The U.S. women’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game