Katie Ledecky
AP

Katie Ledecky looks like Olympic team contender in 100m freestyle

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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.

Danell Leyva makes incredible save on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Danell Leyva
NBC
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Danell Leyva, a three-time Olympic gymnastics medalist, put those skills to the test in the “American Ninja Warrior” finals, saving himself from splashing out of the course.

In one obstacle, Leyva slipped and fell off one of four flexible boards positioned above water.

He faceplanted onto the last board, his lower body falling off. But Leyva held on with his arms and pulled himself back onto the apparatus and to the next obstacle.

The full Las Vegas Finals episode airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Leyva previously splashed out of the “Leaps of Faith” obstacle in the Los Angeles City Finals episode that aired last month.

Leyva, a 27-year-old who took all-around bronze at the 2012 London Games, retired with parallel bars and high bar silvers in Rio.

Other Olympic gymnasts have tackled ANW, including gold medalists Nastia Liukin and Paul Hamm.

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VIDEO: U.S. gymnast catches high bar with one hand at nationals

Kim Rhode triumphs over theft on road to record-breaking Olympic bid

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Kim Rhode arrived at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, missing a few things.

The six-time Olympic shooting medalist had nearly all her equipment stolen prior to her trip earlier this month after her bag was nabbed from her father’s car.

“I lost everything but my vest and my gun,” Rhode said in Lima (noting with a smile she has seen worse: her gun was stolen a few years ago, though it was later returned). This time, “we’re all frantically trying to piece it back together, somewhat. … At the end of the day, you just have to kinda roll with it.”

It would take more than theft to rattle Rhode, who remains one of her sport’s top athletes 23 years after her first Olympic gold medal at the Atlanta Games.

The continental skeet title she won at Pan Ams (new equipment in tow) built upon a string of strong results since the last Olympics, including a world silver medal in 2018. Earlier this year, she became the first woman to win four straight World Cups in shooting.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Rhode could do something unprecedented: win seven medals in as many consecutive Olympics.

Rhode remembered a lot from her first trip to the Games as a 17-year-old carrying a pager. She described the volume of the crowd chanting “U-S-A” at the Opening Ceremony and the hum of the audience watching her compete, “almost like they were helping us to pull the trigger each and every time.” She recalled the athlete bowling alley, where both the balls and shoes were adorned with an Olympic flame symbol.

After winning gold in double trap, Rhode went back to high school life in El Monte, Calif. She couldn’t have known then that five more Olympics would follow. That one day, she’d have an Olympic medal from every continent in which the Games have been contested. That at 40, she’d still be at the top of her sport.

“I don’t think you ever get over the Olympics,” she said. “I don’t think you ever get used to it. It really takes on a life of its own.”

Rhode has been a constant in a sport that continues to evolve and change, and noted the technological advances that pushed it forward in the last several years: “you are seeing a lot more on the technical side of the stocks, more of these specialized grips,” she said, and “more people going with multiple lenses.”

Her competitors changed, too. Rhode described younger teammates showing her how to take a live photo and set up an Instagram account. “I’m kind of archaic in that sense,” she said with a laugh.

Her competitive spirit remains unchanged. While Tokyo would mark a milestone, Rhode has no plans of slowing down.

“I think I still have a few more in me,” she said, noting she’d like to compete in front of a home crowd again when the Olympics return to Los Angeles in 2028. “I definitely don’t see a need to stop. … Some of the shooters tend to be a lot older than most of the other Olympians because we have no shelf life. That’s the great thing about us.”

Rhode competed at the London Olympics not knowing she was pregnant with son Carter.

What followed was what she described as a difficult pregnancy and recovery. Her bones separated during the pregnancy, and she had her gall bladder removed after the birth.

The complications affected her ability to walk and complete endurance-related activities, which she continues to face. These days, Rhode said she still can’t run a mile, but in preparation for Tokyo, she is working with a physical therapist and nutritionist.

After Pan Ams, Rhode planned to add more strength training. “At the end of the day, I’m slowly but surely making small strides to get back to where I’m at,” she said.

Carter, now 6, speaks three languages and sometimes helps Rhode during practice, pulling for her before she shoots and collecting shells. He was on hand when Rhode earned a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, but he isn’t overly impressed (yet) by his mom’s long list of accomplishments.

“I don’t think he grasps the whole picture of what it is that I’m doing,” she said. “I think that’ll come a little bit later.”

She stores Olympic mementos at her parents’ home, a collection of bags from each Games stuffed with clothing, pins and other paraphernalia, and vacuum-sealed.

“My family is running out of room with all the bags,” she said, noting she isn’t sure when she’ll open them up and go through what’s inside.

Maybe after she collects a few more.

“To have had that opportunity so many times is amazing,” she said of her Olympic career so far. “I feel very, very fortunate.”

MORE: Georgian shooter qualifies for 9th Olympics

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