Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte notch key wins in Austin

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Katie Ledecky and Ryan Lochte recorded statement victories, while Michael Phelps showed there’s at least one event he still must improve upon in his comeback at their opening meet of the Olympic year in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.

Ledecky outdueled Swede Sarah Sjöström in the 200m freestyle, in a matchup of the two Rio Olympic favorites in the event.

Ledecky clocked a personal-best 1 minute, 54.43 seconds, with Sjöström in second, 1.71 seconds behind. Missy Franklin was third (full results here).

“Good swim all-around,” Ledecky said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I was happy with my 100 [freestyle personal best] and my 400 [freestyle win] yesterday and knew the 200 was right in the middle, been able to focus a little more on the shorter races this year. I think it’s paying off.”

Ledecky, 18, moved into fourth place all time in the event. The reigning World champion in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles last lost a long-course meters final in any of those events on Jan. 18, 2014.

Sjöström, who beat Ledecky in the 100m free on Friday and won the 50m free later Saturday, had the world’s fastest 200m free time in 2015 but did not contest it at the World Championships last August.

Sjöström’s best time in 2015, 1:54.31, would have beaten Ledecky on Saturday, though.

Earlier Saturday, Lochte won the grueling 400m individual medley at a meet in an Olympic-sized pool for the first time since May 30, 2013.

In fact, it marked Lochte’s first win in a Pro Swim Series meet in an event other than the 200m individual medley since April 24, 2014.

Lochte, the reigning Olympic 400m IM champion, has rarely contested the event since the London Games but remained coy about whether he will race it June 26 at the Olympic trials.

“I don’t know,” he said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “It’s something that me and my coach, David Marsh, are going to talk about, but we’ll keep you guys on your toes.”

Lochte clocked 4:12.66 on Saturday, beating the fastest U.S. man from 2015, Chase Kalisz, by 1.98 seconds. Lochte’s time would have ranked No. 8 in the world and No. 4 in the U.S. for 2015.

Also Saturday, Phelps finished fourth in the 200m freestyle, which is no longer one of his primary events.

Phelps, fastest in the world in 2015 in the 100m and 200m butterflies and the 200m individual medley, ranked No. 18 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2015.

Phelps could contend for a place on the 4x200m free relay team in Rio after being on that relay at the last three Olympics. But he will likely have to cut at least one second off his best time in the event since his comeback.

“I have to swim it more,” Phelps told media in Austin. “It was OK, but I’m just frustrated.”

Maya DiRado and Ryan Murphy, two swimmers in great position to make their first Olympic teams at trials, swept the 200m backstrokes Saturday. Franklin took third in the women’s 200m back.

Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian easily took the 50m freestyle in 21.85 seconds. Adrian, the World 50m free silver medalist, won against a field that did not include reigning Olympic and World champion Florent Manaudou of France.

The meet concludes Sunday with finals at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE SWIMMING: Ledecky looks like Olympic contender in 100m free

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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