Sarah Sjöström will not swim the 200m freestyle at the world championships next month, passing up a showdown with Katie Ledecky, her agent confirmed Wednesday.
Sjöström might have had the best shot to keep Ledecky from sweeping the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a second straight worlds in July.
The Swede gave Ledecky her toughest test at the Olympics, finishing .35 behind the American for silver in the 200m free. She outsplit Ledecky in the final 50 meters.
But Sjöström is focusing on the 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles at worlds, like she did two years ago. At the 2015 Worlds, Sjöström’s time leading off the 4x200m free relay was faster than Ledecky’s winning time in the individual 200m free.
Likewise, Sjöström was world No. 1 in the 200m free entering the Rio Olympics, by .09 over Ledecky.
This year, Sjöström has been on fire. She clocked personal bests in the 50m freestyle (No. 2 all time) and the 100m free in April, three months before most swimmers peak. She has not contested a single 200m freestyle this year.
Meanwhile, Ledecky came off a long NCAA season to post the fastest times in the world this year in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees this spring.
In the absence of Sjöström, Ledecky’s top rivals could be Swede Michelle Coleman (three tenths behind Ledecky in the 200m free this year) and Australian Emma McKeon (.34 behind Ledecky in the 200m free).
Then there’s Chinese 15-year-old Li Bingjie, who ranks second in the 400m and 800m frees this year, trailing Ledecky by 1.54 seconds and 5.45 seconds, respectively.
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