Katie Ledecky smashes her first world record since Rio Olympics

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You could say Katie Ledecky‘s first race as a professional swimmer was memorable. She destroyed one of her world records by five seconds on Wednesday.

The five-time Olympic champion won a 1500m freestyle at a USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Indianapolis in 15 minutes, 20.48 seconds. It’s her first world record since the Rio Olympics. World records are usually broken in August, when swimmers are tapered for major international meets. Not May.

“I knew I was going to have a good swim,” Ledecky told media in Indianapolis but adding she didn’t expect to go that quick. “I’ve just been training really, really well, doing some things I haven’t done before, just, like, times in practice.

“Was pretty surprised when I saw the 20 [seconds next to 15 minutes on the scoreboard]. I knew as it was going on, it was a great swim. Maybe it was going to be 24, 25, 26, somewhere around there. Something under 15:30, I would say. When I saw the 20, yeah, I was pretty shocked.”

Ledecky reacted to the record by smashing her fist in the water and sticking her tongue out before the runner-up touched the wall 49.4 seconds later. Ledecky ended her longest drought between world records since she broke the first of her 14 marks in 2013.

“It’s a feeling that never gets old,” said Ledecky after her first world record since relocating from the Washington, D.C., area to Stanford. “Each one is unique and special.”

She now owns the eight fastest women’s 1500m freestyle times. The next-fastest swimmer, retired Dane Lotte Friis, has a personal best that is 18.4 seconds slower than Ledecky’s world record.

The women’s 1500m free makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020. Ledecky is undefeated over the distance in five years of senior competition. Her original target for this season in the 1500m free was to break 15:30 after going 15:31 to win 2017 Worlds by 19 seconds.

“Might have to recalibrate some goals a little bit now,” she said. “That’s one I’ll never forget. … couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Ledecky is racing this week for the first time since turning professional following the NCAA Championships in March, where she competed as a Stanford sophomore.

NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and the NBC Sports app will air live coverage of the meet starting Friday.

Ledecky is also entered in the 400m freestyle (Thursday), 100m freestyle (Thursday), 400m individual medley (Friday), 200m freestyle (Friday), 200m individual medley (Saturday) and 800m freestyle (Saturday).

Other individual U.S. Olympic champions in the field are Nathan AdrianMatt GreversLilly KingSimone Manuel and Allison Schmitt.

Broadcast Schedule
Thursday (7 p.m. ET): USASwimming.org
Friday (7 ET): Olympic Channel, OlympicChannel.com, Olympic Channel app*
Saturday (7 ET): NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
Olympic Channel coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for Olympic Channel subscribers.

Swimmers are preparing for the U.S. Championships in July and Pan Pacific Championships in August, the two meets that will determine the 2019 World Championships team.

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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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