Three takeaways from USA Swimming Nationals

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Three thoughts following the USA Swimming National Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, heading into the world championships in three weeks … 

1. Katie Ledecky will have her best medal output ever at worlds

Here’s another adjective for Katie Ledecky: Consistent. Her times at the 2016 Olympic Trials and 2017 World Championships Trials:

100m Freestyle
2016: 53.99
2017: 54.35

200m Freestyle
2016: 1:54.88
2017: 1:54.84

400m Freestyle
2016: 3:58.98
2017: 3:58.44

800m Freestyle
2016: 8:10.32
2017: 8:11.50

Total
2016: 14:58.17
2017: 14:59.13

In four finals covering 1,500 meters, Ledecky swam within one second of her pool time at the Olympic Trials. Some key differences from year to year:

  • The Olympic Trials was an eight-day meet. The World Championships Trials was five days.
  • The Olympic Trials ended five weeks before the Olympics. The World Championships Trials ended three weeks before the world championships. This could have impacted Ledecky’s tapering schedule. She said last week she was less tapered for world trials than she was for Olympic Trials, which makes swimming nearly identical times all the more impressive.
  • Ledecky is coming off her freshman year at Stanford.

Ledecky will contest the exact same individual events in Budapest as she did at the 2015 Worlds — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees — and she is No. 1 in the world this year in each event, comfortably. She is expected to swim one more relay than in 2015, adding the 4x100m free to her 4x200m free.

Her path to a potential six gold medals (tying Missy Franklin‘s female worlds record) is boosted by two swimmers whom she will not be racing.

Swede Sarah Sjöström, who came the closest of anyone to beating Ledecky in Rio, is skipping what would have been a showdown with Ledecky in the 200m free in Budapest to focus on 50m and 100m events.

Australian Cate Campbell, the 100m freestyle world-record holder, is skipping worlds altogether. This is key, given Campbell anchored Australia to 4x100m free relay gold over the U.S. at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics.

Australia loses more than one second without Campbell in its relay quartet. Counting times from each nation’s nationals, Australia (without Campbell) would beat the U.S. (with Ledecky) by one tenth of a second in an on-paper 4x100m free.

MORE: Full U.S. roster for worlds

2. Caeleb Dressel joins Phelps, Lochte

In the last 15 years, only two U.S. men have raced in four individual events at a single Olympics or world championships — Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

Well, Caeleb Dressel can join that club in Budapest. The 20-year-old rising Florida senior qualified for the 50m and 100m butterfly and freestyles. He’s also eligible for five relays, meaning he must choose from nine total events at the eight-day Budapest meet.

No way he swims them all. For one, the 50m freestyle prelims and semis, 100m butterfly prelims and semis and 4x200m free relay prelims and final are all on the same day. (Dressel squeaked into the 4x200m free relay pool by placing sixth at nationals.)

Dressel has been the next big phenom in U.S. sprint freestyles since he was a high schooler, swimming for the same club team as Rio gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Joseph Schooling. He almost quit the sport entirely three years ago as the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

But he may be better in the butterfly. Dressel clocked the fastest time in the world in the 100m fly by .42 at nationals, lowering his personal best by 1.35 seconds. Only Phelps and Ian Crocker have swum faster among Americans all time.

Medals in Dressel’s other three individual events will be harder to come by. He ranks Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in the world in the 50m free, 100m free and 50m fly.

3. Lilly King, Yulia Efimova times three

The most memorable head-to-head in Rio was between American Lilly King and Yulia Efimova in the 100m breaststroke. King memorably finger-wagged an image of the Russian and then said she disagreed with Efimova being allowed to compete in Rio due to her previous doping ban.

King would beat Efimova in the 100m breast, but less remembered is that King flamed out in the 200m breast semifinals. Efimova made that final and finished second.

Well, King has improved drastically in the 200m breast. In sweeping the breaststrokes last week, she lowered her 200m personal best by 2.2 seconds.

Now, King and Efimova are right next to each other in the 2017 world rankings in every breaststroke, which should make for plenty more headlines in Budapest:

50m Breast
1. King — 29.66
2. Efimova — 29.88

100m Breast
1. Efimova — 1:04.82
2. King — 1:04.95

200m Breast
1. Efimova — 2:19.83
2. King — 2:21.83

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season