Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky close Mesa meet with wins

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MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Katie Ledecky won the 800m freestyle by nearly 15 seconds at the Arena Pro Swim meet Saturday night, her third victory in three days just over two months before the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Ledecky swam well ahead of the rest of the field and touched in 8 minutes, 13.20 seconds on the last night of the meet at Skyline Aquatic Center. Conditions were much calmer than Friday when wind gusts up to 30 mph kicked up the water and gave swimmers an extra element to fight against.

Ledecky finished 14.65 seconds ahead of Lotte Friis of Denmark, who touched in 8:27.85. Cierra Runge finished third in 8:32.21.

Ledecky added the 800m free to her earlier victories in the 200m and 400m freestyles. She later finished sixth in the 100 free; her specialty is the longer distances.

Michael Phelps led all the way in the 200m individual medley, touching in 1:57.90 – third-fastest in the world this year. He led a 1-2-3 sweep by North Baltimore Aquatic Club swimmers. Chase Kalisz was second in 1:59.05 and David Nolan third.

”The freestyle wasn’t that great,” Phelps said. ”I’m never really too satisfied. I always like to have something to work on. I have the speed and that’s something I was lacking. The rest will come.”

Phelps won the 200 butterfly on Friday as he trains with an eye on swimming in his fifth Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro. Next up is six weeks of high-altitude training in Colorado while he awaits the birth of his first child in May.

”I’ve got so much in my head right now,” Phelps said. ”I had 15 different thoughts in my head last night, like where do I even go from here?”

Ryan Lochte scratched the 200m IM final to focus on a double of the 200m backstroke and 100m free. He won the backstroke in 2:01.04 and was last in the 100m free.

”It was rough,” he said. ”Feeling that pain like I did this morning (when he swam three races), I hadn’t done that in so long it was new to me. It tells me I’m physically tired. I’ve been training really hard.”

Nathan Adrian won the 100m free to go with his earlier title in the 50m free. His time of 48 seconds was fourth-fastest in the world this year.

The women’s 100m free went to Simone Manuel in 53.80.

Maya DiRado won the women’s 200m IM in 2:11.09, with world record holder Katinka Hosszu of Hungary finishing fifth.

DiRado returned about 15 minutes later to win the 200m back, again beating Hosszu, who was fifth. DiRado won in 2:08.61. Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, aiming for another Olympics at age 32, finished second in 2:10.04. World record holder Missy Franklin scratched the final, tweeting that she wasn’t feeling well and was resting on her coach’s orders.

Jordan Wilimovsky, already on the Olympic team in open-water swimming, won the 1500m free.

MORE: Katie Ledecky ‘breaks’ Olympic male gold medalist in practice

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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