Katie Meili, Olympic breaststroke medalist, retires from swimming

Katie Meili
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Katie Meili, the 2016 Olympic 100m breaststroke bronze medalist, has retired from swimming, a year before the Tokyo Games.

“It is with a heart full of joy and gratitude that I announce my retirement from competitive swimming,” was posted on Meili’s social media. “My swimming career has been a dream come true and I am so grateful for the lessons it has taught me, the opportunities it has provided me, and most importantly, the incredible people it has brought into my life.

“This chapter is closing, but I’m very much looking forward to the challenges and adventures the next one will bring.”

Meili, 28, had already taken her name off the team for this month’s world championships as she focuses on law school at Georgetown this year and next. She’s spending the summer as an associate at Jones Day law firm in Washington, D.C.

In April, Meili said whether she would go for a second Olympics in 2020 was “the million-dollar question,” according to the Washington Post.

“If I choose not to do it, it’ll be for all the right reasons: It’s just time,” Meili said then, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’ll keep swimming as long as I’m enjoying it and as long as I’m able. A lot of factors go into both of those prongs. But if I decide I’m not going to swim next year and I’m not going to try to make Tokyo, then I will be happy and at peace with that decision.”

Meili’s success in 2016 was the product of perseverance. She swam at Columbia (not among the NCAA powers) and planned to retire after graduating in 2013. She was offered a legal assistant job in New York and planned to take it before visiting coach David Marsh in Charlotte and accepting a place in Marsh’s training group.

Meili, who faked a headache at her first swim practice as a kid and hid in the bathroom because she thought it was too hard, lowered her 100m breast personal best by 1.8 seconds in 2015 and made the Rio Olympic team by placing second to Lilly King at trials.

In Rio, Meili took bronze behind King and Russian Yuliya Efimova and added a gold as a prelim swimmer on the medley relay. She earned a medal of every color at her lone world championships appearance in 2017, including silver in the 100m breast, again behind King. She retires as the sixth-fastest woman in history in the event.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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