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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.”

U.S. women’s hockey roster named for world championship

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Hilary KnightKendall Coyne Schofield and Brianna Decker are among 14 PyeongChang Olympians on the 23-player U.S. roster for the world women’s hockey championship that begins March 31 in Nova Scotia.

Every major star from the Olympic champion team returns save captain Meghan Duggan (pregnant) and twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson (childbirths in December and January).

The U.S. won the last five world titles dating to 2013, though last year’s came with controversy in the final against host Finland.

Finland, after upsetting Canada in the semifinals, forced the U.S. into overtime. The Finns scored and celebrated before the goal was overturned due to non-incidental goaltender interference. The U.S. went on to win in a shootout, just as it did in the PyeongChang Olympic final with Canada.

The U.S. coach since PyeongChang has been Bob Corkum, a 12-season NHL defenseman who succeeded Olympic head coach Robb Stauber.

Wisconsin sophomore forward Britta Curl is in line to become the first player born in the 2000s to participate in an Olympics or worlds for the U.S.

The full U.S. roster for worlds (*=PyeongChang Olympian):

Goalies
Alex Cavallini*
Aerin Frankel
Maddie Rooney*

Defenders
Cayla Barnes*
Kacey Bellamy*
Megan Bozek
Savannah Harmon
Megan Keller*
Emily Matheson*
Lee Stecklein*

Forwards
Hannah Brandt*
Dani Cameranesi*
Alex Carpenter
Jesse Compher
Kendall Coyne Schofield*
Britta Curl
Brianna Decker*
Amanda Kessel*
Hilary Knight*
Kelly Pannek*
Abby Roque
Hayley Scamurra
Grace Zumwinkle

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MORE: U.S. Olympic hockey captain plans post-pregnancy return

FINA supported Sun Yang against potential ban in doping case

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GENEVA (AP) — International swimming authorities worked to protect three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang from being banned from the sport in a doping case, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

A verdict in the case against the Chinese swimmer is expected within days from the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But a federal court document shows that swimming governing body FINA supported arguments by Sun’s lawyers to have an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency thrown out early last year in a pre-trial dispute over an alleged conflict of interest for the agency’s lead prosecutor, American lawyer Richard Young.

The swimmer’s lawyers appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, which dismissed their procedural objections weeks before a rare public hearing held by CAS last November.

“In the course of the proceedings, the swimmer and FINA raised a plea of inadmissibility because of the allegedly late filing of the (WADA) appeal brief,” said the Swiss federal ruling, dated Oct. 28.

Had Young, who previously prosecuted doping cases involving Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones and is based in Colorado, been considered ineligible for the case because of his past work for FINA, the WADA appeal could have technically missed its deadline and allowed CAS to decline jurisdiction.

Instead, Young stayed on the WADA team for the public hearing.

Sun is facing a ban of up to eight years for his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. WADA appealed after a FINA tribunal merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past, including from some top swimmers, for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

The Lausanne-based FINA declined to comment on attempts to remove Young and stop WADA’s case. Young did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Months before the public hearing by CAS, Sun’s lawyers and FINA asked Young to stand down from the case because of a possible conflict of interest. Young had resigned from FINA’s legal commission in February 2019 to free himself for WADA’s appeal, the federal court document stated.

The open-door doping hearing in Montreux, Switzerland, was streamed live for 10 hours on the CAS website.

Neither previous procedural appeal — judged by CAS in July and the federal court in October — was aired in the doping hearing when the sample collection incident was examined. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard eventually used a hammer to smash a container holding a vial of Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

“That is pretty sensational,” Young said three months ago in court. “But he (Sun) was nailed on a tampering violation before any of that happened.”

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him defending his 200m freestyle title at the Tokyo Olympics.

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics