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Where does Katie Ledecky go from here?

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Katie Ledecky met all of her goals. It’s time to set new ones.

Ledecky, after winning her fourth gold medal and breaking her second world record of these Games in her finale, the 800m freestyle, started looking ahead.

New goals? Not yet decided.

When? She’ll see once she gets settled in at Stanford later this summer. Ledecky has not turned professional and plans to swim at least one NCAA season.

She will leave her coach of the last three years, Bruce Gemmell, and train under Stanford coach Greg Meehan, who guided Simone Manuel and Maya DiRado to golds the last two days.

“I’ll know we’ll set some team goals, which will be probably more important than my individual goals for the next year,” she said.

And those individual goals?

“Whether that’s goals for one year or for the whole four years, we’ll see, but it’s important to take things one step at a time,” she said.

In 2013, Ledecky and her coach, Bruce Gemmell, decided on three goals for the rest of the Rio Olympic cycle – to go 3:56 in the 400m freestyle, 8:05 in the 800m freestyle and simply get her hand on the wall first in the 200m freestyle in Rio. They kept them a secret until this week.

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Ledecky met all of them, completing a dominant quad that has included 18 major international meet gold medals, 13 long-course meters world records and the title of face of the U.S. swim team, now that Michael Phelps is retiring.

Ledecky, true to herself, balked at the idea that she could fill the shoes of Phelps.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Gold medalist Katie Ledecky of the United States poses during the medal ceremony for the Women's 400m Freestyle Final on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

“Collectively, we’ll try and carry that forward,” she said of a U.S. swim team that has bagged 14 golds and 29 total medals with one day of competition left in the pool.

Two golds in the medley relays Saturday will put the U.S. past its 2012 medal output in the pool. Ledecky will probably be cheering from the stands, thinking about flying home next week.

“I’ll have to get all my stuff for my dorm,” Ledecky said. “I’m excited for the next chapter and what that can hold.”

So are swimming fans.

How can Ledecky possibly get better?

“Does that mean times are faster? I’m not sure it does,” Gemmell said as Ledecky passed by in a hallway, sticking her tongue out at him. “She’s been the most dominant female freestyler probably ever. Maybe the most dominant female swimmer over a four-year period, ever. … There can be new challenges. There can be new doors. There can be new opportunities. I guess I just don’t want to get hung on the faster is necessarily better, and if it’s not faster it’s not better.”

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NCAA swimming will come first. And since collegiate meets are held in 25-yard pools, versus 50 meters at the Olympics and world championships, there will be adjustments.

But once Ledecky is back in international competition, there are a few obvious markers on her horizon.

Ledecky’s personal best in the 200m freestyle is 1:53.73. The American record is 1:53.61. The world record is 1:52.98.

Ledecky could also continue to develop her 100m freestyle. She was seventh at the Olympic Trials but split 52.64 in the 4x100m free relay here, which ranked fifth among all swimmers in prelims and the final.

There are other possibilities beyond the freestyle. Maybe they should be considered, since distance freestyles have long been known to favor teens.

In 2020, Ledecky will be older than any previous Olympic or world champion in the women’s 800m freestyle.

“I hope that what she does is kind of broaden her approach,” U.S. head women’s coach David Marsh said. “She can be a heck of a 400m IMer, 200m flyer. She can be a lot of things.”

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Gemmell said he and Ledecky were never serious about the 400m individual medley, despite dropping 22 seconds off her personal best in the last three years. Ledecky rarely swims it in competition but ranked seventh in the U.S. this year.

“We had the 400m, 800m, 200m [freestyle] goals,” Gemmell said. “The rest of the stuff was just peripheral distraction [he later corrected “distraction” to “variation”], something to do on off-days.”

katie ledecky 400 free
(Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Marsh shared a meal with Ledecky and her parents the other day and stressed one goal Ledecky should have outside the pool in the next several weeks.

“Try to meet people that aren’t swimmers, because Stanford is a school that you’ll meet incredible people who will influence your life,” said Marsh, who formerly coached Auburn. “They won’t all be on the swim team.”

The toughest part of what lies ahead in Palo Alto?

“Not training with boys,” Gemmell said. “I think that will be a huge. Coaches are creative. Greg will figure it out. But that’s what she’s done. That’s what’s challenging. That’s what’s driven her. Somebody said to me, maybe at Olympic Trials. They said Katie’s secret weapon is Andrew, my son [a 2012 Olympian]. There’s a lot of truth to that.”

Even the long-term future was discussed separately by Ledecky and Gemmell on Friday, after they shared tears in their first meeting following the 800m free.

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Ledecky was asked if she could fathom what 35-year-old teammate Anthony Ervin did, winning 50m free gold medals 16 years apart.

“That’s like winning an individual gold medal in 2028, that’s insane to think about,” said Ledecky, who won her first gold in the 800m free at London 2012 as the youngest member of the entire U.S. delegation. “I’ll be happy if I’m even still swimming at that point.”

Gemmell thought ahead to the 2030s.

“I hope 20 years from now somebody else is doing something close and somebody’s picking up the phone and calling me,” he said. “They’re jogging my memory about 20 years ago, and I’m trying to recall and say what I remember because some little girl who probably wasn’t born yet is watching it on TV or something and is wanting to be Katie Ledecky.”

David Boudia adjusts diving event, goal for world championships

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David Boudia earned diving medals at his last three world championships and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but that was on the platform. He competes on the global stage on the springboard for the first time at worlds this week.

“I don’t have a lot of high hopes,” Boudia, who is still learning the springboard after switching to it in the last year, said in a phone interview from South Korea, where he begins competition Wednesday (TV schedule here). “But I think my biggest goal is to walk away with an Olympic spot.”

An Olympic spot not necessarily for himself, but for the U.S.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, and any other American will clinch 2020 Olympic quota spots by placing in the top 12 in their respective individual events this week. Those spots, and any others earned at later competitions in the next year, will be filled at trials in June in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter believes Boudia, who left the sport to sell homes in 2017 and came back and suffered a concussion off the platform in 2018, can meet his goal of making Friday’s 12-man final in Gwangju.

“He would have to dive well, but not better than he’s been diving,” she said. “His springboard is really well-timed, rhythmic, and he’s for a long time known how to go into the water without making a splash.”

But challenging Rio Olympic gold and silver medalists Cao Yuan of China and Jack Laugher of Great Britain, plus defending world champion Xie Siyi of China would be very tough.

Boudia lacks their degrees of difficulty, for now. He hopes to switch out two of his six dives before his first competition of 2020, though he could insert one of them should he make the world final.

“I need a good six months, so from August to December is when we’re kind of really drilling the fundamentals of learning those new dives and getting them perfected,” he said.

Boudia rallied to beat Rio Olympic springboard diver Michael Hixon for the title in May at nationals, where the top two per event earned world berths. But Boudia competed there with about a month of competition dive practice, about half as long as he would prefer.

“Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five,” at worlds, Boudia said in May, according to TeamUSA.org.

Boudia is the lone U.S. diver to earn an individual world medal in an Olympic diving event since 2009.

The U.S. produced breakthroughs at worlds so far. Sarah Bacon became the first American woman to earn a world title since 2005, taking the non-Olympic 1m springboard event. Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young bagged bronze in synchronized platform, ending a decade-long medal drought in any synchro event.

But Boudia’s goal must be shared among the whole team — as many top-12 finishes individually and top three in synchro events to gobble up Tokyo 2020 quota spots. The U.S. failed to qualify full teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the top 12 in the four individual Olympic events is the big deal right now,” Potter said. “Whether you are on the awards stand or not, that would be icing on the cake for a lot of these divers.”

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Anita Wlodarczyk, one of track and field’s most dominant, sidelined

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Poland hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the only woman to win the last five combined Olympic and world titles in a track and field event, will not go for a fourth straight world championship this fall.

Wlodarczyk had season-ending, arthroscopic left knee surgery on Monday, according to Polish media citing her coach.

Wlodarczyk, 33, has the top 15 throws on the IAAF’s all-time list, and 27 of the top 29. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history. She originally took silver at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds but was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Lysenko was stripped for doping.

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017, then suffered three losses in 2018 and two so far this year in three lower-level meets before the operation.

Americans DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. A U.S. woman has never finished in the top five of an Olympic or world championships hammer throw, which debuted at worlds in 1999 and the Olympics in 2000.

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