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Michael Norman says no 200m-400m double for Olympics

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Michael Norman decided not to attempt a 200m-400m double for the Tokyo Olympics.

“These next two years, I really want to just focus on my individual event, make sure I get a medal in the 400m,” Norman said Thursday, one day before he races the 400m at the Diamond League Finals in Brussels (TV/stream schedule here). “Further down the line, hopefully I can drop down to the 200m, go for the double.”

Norman, 21, ran the sixth-fastest 400m in history on April 20, a 43.45 that is the world’s fastest time since Wayde van Niekerk lowered the world record to 43.03 at the Rio Olympics.

Norman also ranks second in the world in the 200m this year. He is the only man to beat world No. 1 Noah Lyles in the last three years, taking a Diamond League race in Rome on June 6.

Norman hasn’t raced a 200m since, opting out of it at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July and the world championships in Doha in three weeks. The world championships schedule has the 200m and 400m too close together to make the double feasible.

It doesn’t get much easier at the Olympics, where the 200m semifinals and final are on the two days between the 400m semifinals and final.

“It’s going to take a very, very, very special person to do something like that,” Norman said in July. “Is it feasible? Of course, it’s feasible. But maybe not feasible to perform very well. Shoot, is it enticing to do it? Yes.”

Norman has since decided not to go the route of Michael Johnson in 1996 and Allyson Felix in 2016; they both requested and were granted Olympic schedule changes to better accommodate the double.

Norman also noted a bet he made with coach Caryl Smith Gilbert. If he wins the 400m in Doha and Tokyo, he will be allowed to focus on the 100m in 2021.

“So hopefully, you know, I achieve those goals, and we start training for the 100m,” Norman said in July.

Lyles, the U.S. 200m champion, and Christian Coleman, the U.S. 100m champion, have both said they plan to attempt 100m-200m doubles next summer.

MORE: Christian Coleman cleared of drug-testing charge

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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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