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Katie Ledecky wins world championship rematch, shaves three seconds off U.S. record

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Seven weeks after losing the 400m freestyle while feeling the effects of an ill-timed illness at the swimming world championships, Katie Ledecky took a measure of revenge Sunday in the debut meet of the International Swimming League, finishing in a U.S. record 3:54.06, 3.55 seconds ahead of world champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia.

The ISL, unlike the world championships and traditional international meets, uses the short-course lap distance of 25 meters. Ledecky rarely swims at that distance — her college meets were measured in yards rather than meters — and she took advantage of the rare opportunity to smash the U.S. record of 3:57.07, set by Katie Hoff at the 2010 short-course world championships. Ledecky finished in 3:54.06.

Ledecky also came close to the world record of 3:53.92, which Titmus set in last year’s short-course world championships. But while USA Swimming will recognize times from the ISL, international organizer FINA will not. FINA does not sanction the ISL and threatened to ban swimmers who participated before relenting under legal pressure.

“I think all times should count if we are following all the rules, which we are,” Ledecky said. “That is the way it should be.”

The ISL is a team-based competition in which swimmers are split not by national team but assigned to teams nominally representing four cities in the United States and four in Europe, though most of the meets will not take place in any of those cities. The debut meet took place in Indianapolis, which does not have a representative team in the league, and the final will be in Las Vegas in December.

The ISL’s debut season got more eventful Monday, SwimSwam reported, as the swimmers’ plane to Naples, Italy, was diverted to Rome due to turbulence.

Ledecky, along with 2016 bronze medalist breaststroke specialist Cody Miller and three-time Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin, swims for the DC Trident, which finished third out of four teams in the debut meet. Energy Standard Istanbul, led by multiple-event winners Chad le Clos, Sarah Sjostrom and Florent Manaudou, won the team title.

Lilly King helped the Cali Condors take second place overall by sweeping the three breaststroke events.

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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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