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Katie Ledecky mixes up schedule for her second NCAA Championships

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Katie Ledecky swims in her second NCAA Championships this week. Could it be her last college meet?

Ledecky, a Stanford sophomore, is expected to race in a relay Wednesday and three individual events starting Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. Whether Ledecky turns pro after the NCAA season-ending meet has not been discussed, according to Stanford.

“I don’t have a strong feeling about it [whether she should turn pro] one way or the other,” said NBC Olympics analyst Rowdy Gaines, who will call the meet on Friday and Saturday for ESPNU and ESPN3. “I’m not one of those saying she has to stay in school, that it’s ridiculous to turn pro. But I’m not the one that says she should turn pro, and it’s not going to be a bad thing. She’s going to be great no matter what.”

Ledecky did no interviews leading into NCAAs, according to Stanford. The Cardinal are favored to repeat as team champion.

Missy Franklin, after winning four gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and six at the 2013 Worlds, turned pro after her sophomore season at Cal-Berkeley. But Franklin’s sophomore campaign ended one year before the Rio Olympics, while Ledecky has two years until the Tokyo Games.

Ledecky is one of a host of stars at this week’s meet, joined by co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel (Stanford), Olympic 100m breaststroke champ Lilly King (Indiana) and Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker (Cal-Berkeley).

OhioStateBuckeyes.com will live stream finals Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. ESPNU and ESPN3 have coverage Friday and Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Ledecky is expected to race the 800-yard freestyle relay on Wednesday before starting her individual slate with the 500-yard free on Thursday, the 400-yard individual medley on Friday and the 1,650-yard freestyle on Saturday.

NCAA meets are contested in 25-yard pools versus 50-meter pools at major international meets like the Olympics and world championships.

As a freshman, Ledecky swept the 200-, 500-, and 1,650-yard frees, albeit tying for the title in the 200 with Mallory Comerford.

Ledecky’s schedule is different this week, swapping the 200 free for the 400 IM as her Friday event.

Ledecky swept the pair in the same evening at the Pac-12 Championships last month, clocking the fastest time this season in the 200 free and the fastest time ever in the 400 IM. Franklin’s record in the 200 free from 2015 — 1:39.10 — is more than a second faster than anyone else in history.

Swimmers can enter no more than three individual events at championship meets. Ledecky didn’t contest the 1,650 free at Pac-12s, so when she added it for NCAAs (as she did last year) it meant she had to drop one of the 200 free and 400 IM.

“If I know [Stanford coach] Greg [Meehan], he probably would have left that [decision] up to Katie, especially after Pac-12s,” Gaines said. “Why not do something that she’s the best in history?”

Gaines doesn’t believe the decision could lead to Ledecky focusing any more on the 400m IM on the international level. Ledecky has never contested it at a U.S. Championships or an Olympics, worlds or at the Pan Pacific Championships, which is this year’s major meet in Tokyo in late August.

“I think this is kind of a yards thing, a little bit of variety,” for college swimming, Gaines said.

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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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