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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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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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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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