Katie Ledecky would not trade 800m for 1500m freestyle at Olympics

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Katie Ledecky figures to capture plenty of gold in Rio.

She won’t be winning one of her best events, however.

She won’t even get a chance to swim it.

Ledecky has been the world-record holder in the 1500m freestyle for almost three years, but the metric mile has never been part of the Olympic program for women.

The longest event the 19-year-old can tackle at the Summer Games is the 800 free.

“It’s not something where I’m disappointed,” Ledecky said recently. “Tell me what events are there, and I’ll work toward those events. This year, the 800m is the longest thing I have to work toward.”

That’s quite a shame, especially for the fans in Rio de Janeiro, Italian coach Stefano Morini said.

“They’ll miss a great performance, almost surely another world record, and probably a swim that would have put her even closer to the times of the elite men,” he said.

Janet Evans, long regarded as the greatest female distance swimmer, held the 1500m world record for almost two decades, until it was taken down by Kate Ziegler in 2007. That mark stood until Ledecky went even faster at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

Since then, Ledecky has eclipsed her own 1500m record four more times, most recently with a time of 15 minutes, 25.48 seconds at last year’s Worlds in Kazan, Russia, where she broke the mark she set in the preliminaries by more than two seconds and romped to victory in the final by nearly 27 seconds over runner-up Lotte Friis.

FINA, the sport’s governing body, has pushed to add the women’s 1500m to the Olympic program (along with the 800m free for men), which would match the program at the biennial World Championships. The International Olympic Committee has rejected those proposals, not wanting to add more events to an already crowded schedule.

With the list of races already set for Rio, the next chance to make a change will be at Tokyo in 2020.

“We believe the World Championship program is excellent,” said Cornel Marculescu, executive director of FINA. “We believe it’s also good for Olympics. But there are other criteria. Hopefully for Tokyo they’ll consider our requests differently.”

Morini, who coaches Italian distance swimmers Gregorio Paltrinieri and Gabriele Detti, said the Olympic races are a holdover from a long-disproved belief that women weren’t capable of swimming a grueling event such as the 1500m.

“Obviously, that’s ridiculous,” said American Connor Jaeger, who took silver in the men’s 1500m at last year’s World Championships.

Even more so when considering that men and women have both competed in a 10km open-water event since the 2008 Beijing Games.

“I find it strange that the only races at the Olympics where men and women don’t compete at the same distance are the 800m and the 1500m,” Morini said. “It’s a bit antiquated.”

Women didn’t even compete in swimming at the first four Olympics, joining the program with two events at the 1912 Stockholm Games. There remained a disparity between the number of events for men and women until the 1996 Atlanta Games, when swimming equality was finally achieved with 16 events for both men and women — a pool program that has remained in place ever since.

But men and women have never competed in the same swimming events at the Olympics. While the men’s 1500m free has been around since 1908, the longest individual event for females was 400m until the 1968 Mexico City Games. That’s when the 800m free was added, and it remains their longest pool event at the Olympics.

The World Championships, on the other hand, have grown to include the same events for both men and women, including 50m races in all four of the strokes (as opposed to the Olympics, which have only the 50m free).

Ledecky’s coach, Bruce Gemmell, believes there is a better chance of the IOC approving 50m events for the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly than adding the women’s 1500m free.

“Everybody wants immediate gratification — short, quick races,” he said.

The 1500m, on the other hand, is a long, tedious race that can look a bit boring to the casual fan — especially when a dominant swimmer such as Ledecky is lapping the field.

Not necessarily what the IOC is looking for in its quest to appeal to a younger, hipper crowd.

“They want to put it on TV, and they want to have 40 people that are in theory competitive to win,” Gemmell said. “If you put a 1500m out there now, or even an 800m for the men, how many people are really competitive to win it? Not very many. I think the 50s are a stroke where at least somebody, even if lose, they can say, ‘Oh, I was only three-10ths (of a second) off.’ That’s a lot in the 50m, but it doesn’t sound like it.”

Ledecky wouldn’t want to add the 1500m free if it meant dropping the 800m, an event she won at the 2012 Olympics and was one of Evans’ signature races.

“There’s such a strong history in it,” Ledecky said. “I don’t think the 800m should ever be eliminated from the Olympics.”

Even without the 1500m free, she’ll be busy enough in Rio. Ledecky is an overwhelming favorite to win the 400m and 800m free (she also holds the world record in those two races) and looks to be one of the top contenders in the 200m free as well. Throw in a couple of relays, and she’s got the potential to take as many five gold medals.

“I don’t think it would add anything this year if she was swimming a 1500m,” Gemmell said. “Just another race.”

MORE: Ryan Lochte: Katie Ledecky beats me in practice

U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for 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, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes 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 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

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

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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 vs. Canada Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA vs. China Gold-Medal Game