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Katie Ledecky, Australian rivals trade fast times before world champs

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It looks like Katie Ledecky will go into the world championships with the fastest times in the world this year in three of her four events, but trailing a pair of Australians in the 200m freestyle.

Ariarne Titmus, 18, and Emma McKeon, 25, each starred at Australia’s trials for July’s worlds in South Korea. Full results are here.

Titmus, who emerged last year as Ledecky’s closest competition ever in the 400m free, won the 400m and 800m frees at trials. Her 400m time — 3:59.35 — is just .07 off Ledecky’s fastest time in the world this year (which Ledecky set at a small meet in California on Saturday).

Ledecky is undefeated in 400m, 800m and 1500m free finals at major international meets, but that record could be tested like never before at worlds.

The 200m free is another story for Ledecky, who took silver at the 2017 Worlds and bronze at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. This year, she ranks fourth in that event, the shortest of her individual races.

Titmus leads the way this year at 1:54.30, a time that Ledecky hasn’t bettered since she won Rio Olympic gold in a personal-best 1:53.73. But Titmus was beaten at Australia’s trials by the veteran McKeon (albeit in 1:54.55, No. 2 in the world this year). McKeon shared silver with Ledecky at the 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky has a bit more of a cushion in the 800m and 1500m frees, where Chinese 16-year-old Wang Jianjiahe has surfaced as perhaps the closest distance rival of her career.

200m Freestyle
1. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 1:54.30
2. Emma McKeon (AUS) — 1:54.55
3. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 1:55.29 (not expected to swim 200m free at worlds)
4. Katie Ledecky — 1:55.78

400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 3:59.28
2. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 3:59.35
3. Li Bingjie (CHN) — 4:03.29

800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 8:10.70

2. Wang Jianjiahe (CHN) — 8:14.64
3. Leah Smith (USA) — 8:16.33

1500m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 15:45.59
2. Wang Jianjiahe (CHN) — 15:46.69
3. Madeleine Gough (AUS) — 15:56.39

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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement