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Katie Ledecky ends her longest break for winter nationals; TV schedule

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Katie Ledecky ends the longest break between meets of her brilliant career this week, suiting up for USA Swimming’s Winter Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., live on NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

Last we saw Ledecky, she wrapped up the year’s major international meet — the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo — with three golds, a silver and a bronze on Aug. 12. Close to her typical medal haul, but it came under the most difficult major-meet circumstances of her life.

Ledecky is usually back in competition by early fall. Not this year. Having turned pro, she no longer has a school team to rack up points for. She still trains and studies at Stanford, but she can’t race for the Cardinal.

USA Swimming’s database says Ledecky hasn’t taken three and a half months between meets since 2004, when she was 7 years old.

Winter Nationals is an opportune meet to ease back into racing. Ledecky and other headliners Simone ManuelDana Vollmer and Nathan Adrian don’t have the pressure of trying to make a national team. This meet, for many swimmers, is the first chance to post qualifying times for the 2020 Olympic Trials, which the aforementioned gold medalists don’t have to worry about.

Ledecky is entered in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyles. Manuel joins her in the 100m and 200m frees and is on the 50m free start list.

Vollmer’s presence is notable. The five-time Olympic champion races for the first time since January. Vollmer skipped nationals in July as she works back from her second childbirth on July 4, 2017, meaning she missed not only Pan Pacs but also a chance at the 2019 World Championships.

MORE: Ledecky preps for new Olympic challenges in new suit

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Date Time (ET) Event Network
Thursday 5 p.m. Day Two Finals (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Friday 5 p.m. Day Three Finals (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Saturday 5 p.m. Day Four Finals (LIVE) Streaming
Sunday 10 p.m. Highlights NBCSN
Sun., Dec. 16 3 p.m. Highlights NBC

*All broadcast coverage streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. All preliminary races stream live on usaswimming.org.

Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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