Katie Ledecky breaks world record; Phelps beats Lochte in Austin

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Katie Ledecky broke the 800m freestyle world record for the fourth time in as many years, clocking 8:06.68 in Austin, Texas, on Sunday night.

“I kind of knew from the start if I put together a good swim and swam it the right way that I could have a pretty good swim,” Ledecky, who exuberantly splashed in her lane after seeing her time, said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “Every race is different, every world record has some sort of meaning.”

Ledecky, 18, first lowered the 800m free world record of 8:14.10 set by Rebecca Adlington at the Beijing 2008 Olympics on Aug. 3, 2013, when she won the World Championship in 8:13.86.

Ledecky later broke the record on June 22, 2014 and on Aug. 8, when she repeated as World champion in 8:07.39.

Her world record Sunday marked the 11th in her career in a long-course meters event.

Ledecky, who won the 2012 Olympic 800m free as the youngest member of the U.S. delegation of more than 500 athletes, owns the 400m, 800m and 1500m free world records.

She is the reigning World champion in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees.

In Rio, Ledecky could become the second U.S. woman to swim the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m frees at one Olympics, if she finishes in the top two in each event at the June/July Olympic trials in Omaha. The women’s 1500m free is not on the Olympic program.

Including relays, Ledecky could also challenge the records for most gold medals won by a woman at a single Olympics (six by East German swimmer Kristin Otto at Seoul 1988; the U.S. record is four by Missy Franklin and Amy Van Dyken).

Also in Austin, Ledecky set personal bests in the 100m and 200m freestyles and won the 400m free with the fifth-fastest time of all time.

“The 400 is my sweet spot,” Ledecky told media in Austin. “It’s probably what I train for the most, and then I’m able to go up and down from it.”

Earlier Sunday, Michael Phelps notched another first in his comeback, beating Ryan Lochte in a 200m IM final for the first time since the London Olympics. Full Austin meet results are here.

Phelps, who came out of a 20-month competitive retirement in April 2014, topped Lochte in the event by clocking 1:58.00 to his rival’s 1:58.43.

“I can look back throughout my career and say he’s probably the one who has really brought the most out of me,” Phelps told media in Austin. “I’ve had a lot of people that I’ve raced and, I guess I have a history with, but I think with Ryan it’s something special. We’ve been racing since 2004.”

Phelps and Lochte had competed in the 200m IM in four meets since Phelps’ comeback going into Austin — with Lochte clocking a faster time in every one of those meets.

The 200m IM is the staple of the Phelps-Lochte rivalry. Phelps has won the last three Olympic 200m IM titles, with Lochte joining him on the podium each time. Lochte has won the last four World titles.

Phelps swam the fastest time in the world in 2015 — 1:54.75 — at the U.S. Championships, after Lochte took the World Championship in 1:55.81, the second-fastest in the world in 2015, three days earlier.

Lochte is the world-record holder, thanks to his 1:54.00 at the 2011 World Championships.

Earlier Sunday, Franklin took second in the 100m backstroke behind Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, who won the 200m individual medley about 15 minutes later.

Franklin also finished sixth in the 100m free on Friday and third in the 200m free and 200m back on Saturday.

Olympic champion Matt Grevers prevailed in a 100m back final that included the three fastest U.S. men in the event in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Grevers prevailed in 53.35, followed by Ryan Murphy in 53.46 and David Plummer in 53.50.

That trio is expected to vie for two Olympic spots at the trials on June 28, possibly along with Olympic silver medalist Nick Thoman.

The Pro Swim Series continues March 3-5 in Orlando.

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

*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.

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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