Where does Katie Ledecky go from here?

Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images
0 Comments

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.

MORE: Simone Manuel talks racial label

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.”

MORE: USA women’s water polo dominating

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.”

MORE: USA women’s eight rowers take gold

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.

MORE: Bolt cruises, Gatlin clocks top time

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.”

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!