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Dominant Ledecky has biggest test yet — Sjostrom in 200 free

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Take a look at the world rankings in the women’s 200m freestyle for this year, and you will see this:

1. Sarah Sjöström (SWE) – 1:54.34
2. Katie Ledecky (USA) – 1:54.43

Yes, the great Ledecky shattered her 400m freestyle world record on Sunday night, but it’s time to look ahead. The toughest individual race on her Olympic schedule starts Monday afternoon.

That’s the 200m freestyle.

Rewind to the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia. Ledecky wins the 200m freestyle in 1:55.16.

The field she beat did not include Sjöström, who favors the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle and did not enter the 200m free at Worlds.

MORE: Ledecky swims away with gold, sets record in 400m freestyle

But, Sjöström did swim leadoff on Sweden’s 4x200m freestyle relay at Worlds and clocked 1:54.31, the fastest time in the world since the 2012 Olympics.

If Sjöström had entered the 200m free final that week and repeated that time, she would have spoiled the “Ledecky Slam.”

“I bet that she’ll swim that event [the 200m free] in Rio,” Ledecky said of Sjöström at Worlds. “I’ve never had the opportunity to race her yet, so, hopefully, I’ll get that chance.”

Ledecky got that chance earlier than expected this past January. Sjöström traveled to the U.S. to compete in a grand prix-level meet in Austin, Texas.

And this time the 22-year-old, with the Olympic rings tattooed over the Swedish flag on her arm, did swim the 200m free. But it wasn’t the best gauge for Rio predictions.

Ledecky was obviously rested for the Austin meet because she set personal bests in the 100m, 200m and 800m frees.

Sjöström was obviously not.

Ledecky crushed her, 1:54.43 to 1:55.14.

MORE: Who can rival Katie Ledecky?

Then came the Swedish Championships in July. There, Sjöström swam that 1:54.34 to push Ledecky from No. 1 to No. 2 in the world rankings this year.

On Sunday night, Ledecky’s coach, Bruce Gemmell, couldn’t help but notice that both Ledecky and Sjöström lowered their world records in winning gold medals. Ledecky in the 400m free; Sjöström in the 100m butterfly.

“Both of them swam really well tonight, and maybe they’ll meet in the middle,” in the 200m free, Gemmell said.

Sjöström previously said that if she won the 100m butterfly, she would do the samba on Copacabana Beach, which is interesting for this reason: it’s unclear how seriously the Swede takes the 200m freestyle.

Yes, Sjöström has a unique personality.

“I swam wearing earrings today, and I’ve never done that before,” she said Sunday night, “and I listened to music for the first time before a race. Why not?” She also chilled in the afternoon by playing Yahtzee.

MORE: Australian women repeat at 4x100m freestyle gold medalists

The Associated Press didn’t even pick Sjöström to make the 200m free podium in pre-Games medal projections.

In the 4x100m freestyle relay Saturday, Ledecky had a best split of 52.64 seconds, fantastic for her in an off-event. Sjöström split 52.47, best of any swimmer who is entered in the 200m freestyle.

So Ledecky isn’t taking her that lightly.

“She’s a tough competitor and is obviously swimming really well right now,” Ledecky said Sunday night in her post-victory press conference, shortly after Sjöström’s post-victory press conference. “We have three rounds starting tomorrow.”

Danielle Perkins is first U.S. boxer to win world title in 3 years

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Danielle Perkins became the U.S.’ first world champion boxer in this Olympic cycle, taking the heavyweight crown in Russia on Sunday.

Perkins, a 37-year-old who played college basketball at George Mason and St. John’s, improved from bronze in 2018 to earn her first world title, blanking defending world champion Yang Xiaoli of China 5-0 in Sunday’s final.

Video of the bout is here.

Perkins was slated to fight Yang in the 2018 World semifinals but withdrew due to medical reasons, according to USA Boxing.

The heavyweight division is 81+kg, but the heaviest Olympic weight division is capped at 75kg.

The last American to earn a world title was Claressa Shields in 2016, before she repeated as Olympic champion in Rio and moved to the professional ranks.

The Olympic trials are in December in Louisiana, after which winners will fight internationally in early 2020 in bids to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

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MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA

Brigid Kosgei shatters marathon world record in Chicago

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Kenyan Brigid Kosgei shattered a 16-year-old world record in the women’s marathon by 81 seconds, winning the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04 on Sunday.

Brit Paula Radcliffe had held the record of 2:15:25 set at the 2003 London Marathon. Kenyan Mary Keitany holds the female-only record of 2:17:01 from the 2017 London Marathon. Both Kosgei and Radcliffe, the only women to break 2:17, ran with men in their record races.

Radcliffe’s record was the longest-standing for the men’s or women’s marathon of the last 50 years.

Kosgei did it one day after Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run a sub-two-hour marathon in a non-record-eligible event in Vienna. She won by a gaping 6 minutes, 47 seconds over Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh.

Kosgei, who won Chicago in 2018 and the London Marathon in April, came in highly favored. The 25-year-old tuned up with the fastest half-marathon ever by a woman (by 23 seconds) on Sept. 8 on a non-record-eligible course.

“2:10 is possible for a lady,” Kosgei said after Sunday’s record.

Jordan Hasay, the top U.S. woman in the field, stopped after feeling a sharp hamstring strain after two miles. Hasay, who was coached by Alberto Salazar before his ban in a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case, is one of several women in contention for the three Olympic spots at the Feb. 29 trials in Atlanta.

Kenyan Lawrence Cherono won the men’s race by one second over Ethiopian Dejene Debela in 2:05:45.

The U.S.’ top marathoner, Galen Rupp, dropped out around mile 23 after straining a calf around the sixth mile. Rupp, who was also coached by Salazar, was racing for the first time since the 2018 Chicago Marathon and Achilles surgery.

Mo Farah, the defending champion and four-time Olympic track gold medalist, finished eighth in 2:09:58. He also dropped from the leaders before the halfway point.

American Daniel Romanchuk and Swiss Manuela Schar won the wheelchair races.

Romanchuk, 21, repeated as champion. He has also won Boston London and New York City in the last year. Schar distanced decorated American Tatyana McFadden by 4:14, though McFadden did qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics with her runner-up finish (as did Romanchuk).

The fall major marathon season concludes with the New York City Marathon on Nov. 3, featuring defending champions Mary Keitany and Lelisa Desisa and 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden.

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MORE: Chicago Marathon results