For Katie Ledecky, starting college means riding a bike

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NEW YORK — Katie Ledecky returned home from Rio and got on her bike.

Stanford prohibits freshmen from having cars on campus. Ledecky, now a five-time Olympic champion, still doesn’t have a driver’s license anyway.

So the college-bound swimmer took her three weeks between the Olympics and move-in to acquaint with life on land on two wheels.

Ledecky spent two years volunteering for Bikes for the World in high school, assembling bikes, but her riding was apparently not as smooth as her freestyle stroke.

In late August, Ledecky could often be seen wheeling at a park down the street from her family’s house in Bethesda, Md.

“I was practicing,” Ledecky said, “because I had no reason to bike back home.”

Stanford is nearly 13 square miles, one of the 10 largest colleges or universities in the country.

In September, Ledecky spent that first week in Palo Alto studying a campus map on her phone before setting out to bike to her destinations.

The first days of freshman year are flooded with introductions. To roommates (Ledecky shares a space with three women who recognized her at first sight at move-in). To teammates. To coaches and staff.

The who’s who proved the biggest challenge of Ledecky’s transition.

“I would always feel really embarrassed when I couldn’t remember their [names], and they could remember mine,” she said Monday at the Golden Goggle awards in Times Square.

Stanford fifth-year coach Greg Meehan said a goal was for Ledecky to settle into “a little anonymity on campus.” That has happened.

“On a day-to-day basis, like no selfies, no autographs, nothing that you guys probably expect,” Ledecky told media on a red carpet Monday night. “Everybody at Stanford is special.”

But nobody quite like Ledecky in the pool.

She has barely dragged in competition, easily breaking NCAA records in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyles in her first four meets.

On Saturday, Ledecky lost a freestyle final longer than 100 meters for the first time in nearly three years (to close friend, Stanford teammate and fellow Olympic champion Simone Manuel).

The next day, Ledecky won a 1,650-yard race by one minute, snapping her own American record by 10 seconds.

“She’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime athletes,” Meehan said. “You just never know what she’s going to do.”

Meehan recruited Ledecky, who committed to Stanford back in May 2014, but even he wasn’t privy to Ledecky’s closely guarded goal times for the Rio Olympics that she set back in 2013.

“I kind of had an idea, but she never actually shared them,” Meehan said. “I respect that and appreciate that.”

He started to get to know her on a personal level when she joined the team for a preseason training trip to Hawaii in September.

“She lets you in, little by little,” Meehan said. “The more she does, the more it kind of helps me coach her.”

Ledecky said she and Meehan have “an ever-evolving conversation” about her short- and long-term goals. She wouldn’t reveal much, except that the short-term goals are for the NCAA season and, internationally, her focus remains on freestyle events. For now.

On the team, freshmen have chores like carrying towels at practice. Ledecky is handling her shifts well.

“I definitely give her some mess, every now and then, bug with her,” said Manuel, a redshirt sophomore.

Manuel isn’t alone.

“We joke about the fact that she can’t really put her cap on straight,” Meehan said.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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