Getty Images

Katie Ledecky-Sarah Sjostrom rematch at worlds not in the cards

Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Lochte had suicidal thoughts after Rio Olympics

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

Simone Biles
Getty Images
Leave a comment

For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!