katie ledecky 400 free
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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.”

Alysa Liu lands quad Lutz

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Alysa Liu, a 14-year-old who in January became the youngest U.S. women’s figure skating champion, on Saturday landed a quadruple Lutz, something no other U.S. woman has done in competition.

Liu landed the jump at the Aurora Games, a women’s sports festival in Albany, N.Y. It does not count officially, since it’s not a sanctioned competition.

Previously, Sasha Cohen landed a quadruple Salchow in practice in 2001, but never in competition. At least three Russian teens landed quads in junior competition in the last two years.

Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva became the first woman to land a clean, fully rotated quad in senior competition en route to silver at last season’s world championships.

Liu, who landed three triple Axels between two programs at January’s nationals, makes her junior international debut at a Grand Prix stop in Lake Placid, N.Y., next week.

She will not meet the age minimum for senior international competitions until the 2022 Olympic season. But she can continue to compete at senior nationals.

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MORE: 2019 Grand Prix figure skating assignments

Noah Lyles bests Bolt’s meet record in Paris Diamond League meet

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Noah Lyles set a meet record of 19.65 seconds to win the 200m with ease at Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Paris.

The previous record of 19.73 belonged to Usain Bolt.

Running out of lane 6, Lyles quickly made up the stagger on France’s Christophe Lemaitre and remained several meters ahead of world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey, who finished in 20.01.

Lyles’ time was especially impressive because several early races saw relatively slow times despite the elite fields in  the final Diamond League meet before the season-long circuit’s finals, which will be split between two meets Aug. 29 in Zurich and Sept. 6 in Brussels. The meet opened on the new track at Stade Charlety with temperatures in the upper 80s.

“I barely remember any of the race, to be honest,” Lyles said. “I was going around the track and before I knew it I was at the finish line. I was like, ‘Hold up — this happened too fast!'”

READ: Lyles overcomes 2017 heartbreak to reach first world championship

Meanwhile, several meet records fell in the field events, capped by a back-and-forth contest between U.S. triple jump rivals Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who have finished 1-2 in the last two Olympics and the 2017 world championships.

Taylor also won the world title in 2011 and 2015, and his personal best of 18.21m is the second-best of all time. Claye, who also has a long jump bronze medal from 2012 and two more world championship medals, is third on the all-time list at 18.14.

Through three rounds, Claye led by 1cm, 17.39 to 17.38. Taylor took the lead in the fourth, jumping 17.49. Claye responded with a jump of 17.71, just off the meet record.

Taylor broke that record in the fifth round, going 17.82. Claye immediately reclaimed the lead and took the record with a jump of 18.06. Taylor had a strong jump in the sixth round but had taken off just a bit over the line.

“This is the farthest I’ve ever jumped overseas, so it’s a great day,” Claye said.

Omar Craddock made it a U.S. sweep, jumping 17.28. Craddock joins Taylor, Claye and Donald Scott in the U.S. contingent for the Diamond League final.

Though Taylor has taken top honors in the big competitions, Claye has kept it close in the all-time head-to-head matchups between the two former Florida Gators, winning 23 of their 49 meetings.

READ: Taylor, Claye go 1-2 in second straight Olympics

A showdown between U.S. rivals and recent collegians Daniel Roberts and Grant Holloway failed to materialize in the men’s 110m hurdles.

Holloway had broken a 40-year old NCAA record in June, finishing in 12.98 to edge Roberts, who tied the old record in 13.00. Roberts then beat Holloway to win the USATF Championship in July.

Roberts held up his end Saturday, winning in 13.08, but Holloway lost his form late to finish sixth.

“It hasn’t been too hard for me to stay at a high level this long after NCAAs,” Roberts said. “A lot of people tell me after long seasons they feel it a little bit more but my body feels great, everything feels good and I’m just thankful to be here.”

Freddie Crittenden finished third with a personal-best 13.17 to take the last spot in the Diamond League final. Roberts also clinched a berth with his win, his first in Diamond League competition. Holloway was making his Diamond League debut and wouldn’t have made the final even with a win.

READ: Holloway beats Renaldo Nehemiah’s NCAA record in 2019 final

Olympic shot put champion Tomas Walsh of New Zealand beat his own meet record of 22.00m four times, winning with a throw of 22.44 in a contest with eight athletes throwing beyond the 21-meter mark for the first time.

American Joe Kovacs also beat the old meet record, finishing second at 22.11. Kovacs won the 2015 world title and was second to Crouser in the 2016 Olympics, then second to Walsh in the 2017 world championships. 

Ryan Crouser, whose 22.74 heave in April was the best result in the event since Randy Barnes set the world record in 1990, did not compete in Paris. Kovacs, Crouser and Darrell Hill will give the U.S. three of the eight slots in the final.

READ: Crouser passed up NFL shot, now aims at world record

U.S. pole vaulter Sam Kendricks also entered the meet record book, tying the previous mark with a clearance of 6.00m in an event with no Diamond League points.

The meet was the last chance for athletes to claim spots in the Diamond League finals, and some Americans qualified with clutch performances.

Hanna Green won the women’s 800m in 1:58.39 with a late surge to take the last spot in the final. Green’s win gives U.S. three runners in the event alongside Ajee Wilson and Raevyn Rogers, who went out quickly with the pace-setter Saturday and led through the 700-meter mark before fading to sixth.

U.S. high jump champion Jeron Robinson cleared 2.26m to tie for fourth and clinch his spot.

U.S. triple jumper Keturah Orji jumped a personal-best of 14.72m to take third place and secure a spot in the final. Orji’s jump is the second best in U.S. history. Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, the reigning world champion, won at 15.05.

In the women’s pole vault, world leader Jenn Suhr did not clear the first height she attempted but held on to a spot in the final. Canadian Alysha Newman upset the top two finishers in the last Olympic and world championship competitions Katerina Stefanidi of Greece and U.S. champion Sandi Morris. Suhr, Morris and Katie Nageotte will be in the final.

READ: Jenn Suhr ends retirement in 2018

In the women’s 100m, Olympic champion Elaine Thompson put a slight bit of daylight between herself and a tightly bunched group, finishing in 10.98. Thompson shares the world lead of 10.73 with fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

The next five finishers were separated by 0.04 seconds. Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast took second in 11.13, followed by the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, U.S. champion Teahna Daniels and Aleia Hobbs

Hobbs, who did not qualify for the world championships after finishing sixth in the U.S. meet, will be the only American in the Diamond League final. 

READ: Hobbs upsets Thompson to win senior international debut

In the women’s 400m, Kendall Ellis was the only American to qualify for the final, finishing second behind Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson. Two U.S. runners followed  Shakima Wimbley and Phyllis Francis, who finished 10th in the Diamond League standings.

In the men’s 400m hurdles, world champion Karsten Warholm of Norway ran away from the field to win in 47.26, just shy of his world-leading time of 47.12. Americans TJ Holmes and David Kendziera finished fifth and sixth to secure places in the final along with Rai Benjamin, who didn’t race in Paris but has the second-fastest time in the world this year at 47.16. Ireland’s Thomas Barr finished atop the Diamond League standings despite finishing last in Paris.

In the women’s discus, Valarie Allman took fifth to ensure a U.S. representative in the final.

Neither of the U.S. runners in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase earned enough points to qualify, though Hillary Bor already had enough points to qualify.

John Gregorek hung on to the last spot in the men’s 1,500m despite not competing Saturday.

Canada’s Brandon McBride won the 800m, which didn’t count toward Diamond League standings, with U.S. runner Clayton Murphy fifth.

France’s Kevin Mayer won the triathlon, which combined the shot put, long jump and 110m hurdles. U.S. athlete Devon Williams tied for fourth.

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