Ledecky wrapping up freshman year at Stanford, worlds next

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ATLANTA (AP) — Katie Ledecky’s life has changed so much over the past year.

She’s living on her own for the first time, on the opposite side of the country from her tight-knit family. She’s got a new coach and new teammates. She’s a full-fledged college student now – stimulated by her studies, excited about meeting different people, fully embracing the idea of being all grown up.

“The year’s gone by fast,” Ledecky said.

She’s used to going fast in the pool.

Nothing’s changed there.

After leading Stanford to its first NCAA women’s national title since 1998, capturing three individual events and taking a turn on two winning relays, Ledecky has turned her attention to this summer’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

“There have kind of been phases throughout the year, different things to look forward to, that I’ve kind of kept my eye on, which has kept me very motivated,” the 20-year-old Ledecky said during a recent interview in Atlanta, where she won three events at a grand prix meet.

MORE: Katie Ledecky wins at Atlanta Arena Pro Series

Now that Michael Phelps has retired again, Ryan Lochte is serving a suspension for his antics in Rio de Janeiro and Missy Franklin faces the daunting challenge of bouncing back from a disappointing Olympics, Ledecky is the undisputed star of the mighty U.S. program.

She doesn’t seem the least bit burdened by the prospect of having the swimming spotlight all to herself heading into the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“I don’t really think of it in those terms at all,” Ledecky said. “Just taking things step by step, focusing on my own goals, and not letting anything else get to me has always been what I’ve done a good job of and what I need to continue to do moving forward.”

College life certainly agrees with her.

Ledecky has just a few weeks left in her freshman year at Stanford, a move that took her away from her home in the Washington suburbs.

She hasn’t decided on a major, signing up for classes ranging from psychology (“How Beliefs Create Reality,” which seems especially relevant in today’s world) to Greek art history to a course on sleep and dreams taught by renowned researcher William Dement.

“I’ve loved it,” Ledecky said. “I’ve had a great first year, taken some really great classes, met some pretty amazing people, and it’s been a great environment in the pool, in my dorm and in school.”

After a stellar performance at the Rio Olympics last summer, where she won four gold medals and a silver while obliterating a pair of world records, Ledecky was home for about three weeks.

Then she headed off to college.

The timing of the move worked out perfectly, according to Stanford coach Greg Meehan.

“Oftentimes after the games, there will be a lull for these athletes coming out of the Olympics,” he explained. “Sometimes, during that down time, they can have that post-Olympic depression. But I think moving into a new environment, being excited about some new challenges, that really helped with the transition. That kept things moving, kept things fresh and exciting.”

NCAA: Katie Ledecky wins first individual NCAA title with American record 

For many athletes, a coaching change can be rather jarring.

Not so for Ledecky, who’d already been through it once before. After Ledecky won a surprising gold at the 2012 London Games, her coach, Yuri Suguiyama, left for a job on the West Coast. Ledecky switched the Bruce Gemmell and soared to even greater heights in Rio.

From all indications, the transition to Meehan has gone just as smoothly.

He’s worked to tweak a few things in her technique, training and race strategy, but there’s certainly no need for a major overhaul.

“She’s already achieved levels in this sport that, outside of Michael, no one else has gotten to,” Meehan said. “Michael was more dominant in the spread of events he could cover. He’s the most amazing swimmer I’ve ever seen. But I think Katie is much more dominant in her (freestyle) events. So there is a little bit of a sense of what’s next, if she’s already doing the things she’s doing?”

This new partnership has required them both to be open-minded.

“This is only year one,” Meehan said. “We’re continuing to learn each other and push the envelope in some ways. We’ll get through this year and next year, then we’ll start looking at big-picture goals.”

The freestyle will certainly remain her focus, with an eye toward getting faster in the 100 meters. Ledecky isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to compete for an individual gold in that event, but she wants to remain a part of the 4x100m relay team that took the silver in Rio with her swimming the anchor leg.

While Ledecky must still go through the formality of qualifying for the world championship team next month in Indianapolis, she will surely be a favorite to repeat her victories in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m free, in addition to competing on a pair of relay teams.

“I don’t focus on outdoing myself,” Ledecky said. “I’ve just got to focus on what I want to achieve and not let anything else stand in my way.”

Seems her approach to swimming hasn’t changed a bit.

Something else sounds familiar, too.

Ledecky still doesn’t have a driver’s license.

“Maybe this summer,” she said with a smile, not sounding all that persuasive.

MORE: Katie Ledecky swims fastest 800m free of 2017

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U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia vs. Canada Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA vs. China Gold-Medal Game