Dominant Ledecky has biggest test yet — Sjostrom in 200 free

katie ledecky 400 free
Getty Images
0 Comments

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.”

Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

0 Comments

One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

0 Comments

Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!