Katie Ledecky grabs relay silver in return from illness at swim worlds

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Katie Ledecky grabbed relay silver in her return to the world swimming championships after suffering through dehydration and vomiting for the previous week.

“That went a lot better than I expected,” Ledecky said. “I’d say 95 percent sure that I’ll swim tomorrow [in the 800m freestyle].”

Ledecky, in her first race since Monday, gave the U.S. the lead in the second leg of the 4x200m free, but Australia surged ahead on anchor to win in a world record 7:41.50. It’s the first time the U.S. lost the event at an Olympics or worlds since China set the previous world record in 2009.

The U.S. also swam under the old record, clocking 7:41.87. Ledecky had the third-fastest split of the 32 swimmers in the final. She was joined by Simone ManuelMelanie Margalis and Katie McLaughlin.

In other events Thursday, Caeleb Dressel earned his third gold at worlds with the second-fastest 100m freestyle in history. More on Dressel and the other individual finals here.

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, withdrew from her previous two events on Tuesday (200m and 1500m freestyles), with USA Swimming and her coach, Greg Meehan, then citing an unspecified illness that had affected her since arriving in South Korea on July 17 from a training camp in Singapore.

“We don’t know exactly what caused this all, but feeling the effects of dehydration, loss of appetite, lightheadedness, a lot of different things,” Ledecky said after Thursday’s race. “It kind of created a perfect storm that pulled me out. I wouldn’t have pulled out if it was [not] serious or if I was concerned, scared and worried about my health.”

Ledecky returned to light swimming on Wednesday, checking her heart rate after every 50 meters.

On Tuesday, Meehan said Ledecky’s slow last 50 meters of Sunday’s opening 400m free final, where she was passed by 18-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus and relegated to silver, was “a little bit of a sign” of a problem.

Ledecky said Thursday that she almost stopped with 400 meters left of her 1500m freestyle heat on Monday, her last swim before temporarily withdrawing from the meet. She still posted the fastest overall time by 2.69 seconds in an event where she is the world-record holder by 18.4 seconds.

“Got over to the coaches and the medical staff, told them I’m not myself,” she said. “Spent the next two days sleeping and getting as much rest and hydration as I could.”

Michael Phelps texted to check on her during one of Ledecky’s sleepless nights.

“That meant a lot,” Ledecky said.

Ledecky is now expected to race one more event in Gwangju, the 800m free, with heats on Friday and the final on Saturday. Ledecky has won the last five combined Olympic and world titles in that event.

NBC Sports researcher Megan Soisson and The Associated Press contributed to this report from Gwangju.

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SWIM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results

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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