The meet where Kathleen Ledecky became Katie Ledecky

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On May 12, 2012, a largely unknown swimmer stepped onto a starting block, flanked by the U.S.’ two fastest 400m freestylers of all time in adjacent lanes.

“This is the interesting name that Rowdy mentioned,” longtime Olympic commentator Ted Robinson said on the Universal Sports broadcast that night, noting his partner and NBC Sports swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines. “Fifteen years old. In fact, she just turned 15.”

The graphic named her: Kathleen Ledecky.

By the end of the weekend, word circulated that the wundkerind preferred “Katie.” The name stuck. It had to. Ledecky, who turned 23 on Tuesday, became the phenom of U.S. swimming, one month before the London Olympic Trials.

“It was definitely a breakthrough meet for me,” Ledecky reflected in 2018. “Kind of my first moment where I could kind of think to myself, yeah, I do have a shot at this.”

In the 400m freestyle, Ledecky nearly ran down Allison Schmitt, who would go on to take silver in the event at the Olympics. Ledecky lost by .39 of a second, taking 3.08 seconds off her personal best.

Ledecky has since chopped another 9.33 seconds, breaking the world record three times and posting the seven fastest times in history. She has lost just three 400m free finals since Charlotte 2012, at the 2012 Olympic Trials and while ill at the 2013 Duel in the Pool and last summer’s world championships.

On the last day in Charlotte, Ledecky capped the meet in the 800m freestyle. She took 4.29 seconds off her personal best, won by 10.71 seconds and earned more praise from Robinson and Gaines on TV.

“This weekend here in Charlotte is almost like your arrival,” Robinson told Ledecky in a post-race, on-camera interview.

“I don’t know about that,” the Maryland high school freshman replied. “I’m just trying to do as best I can.”

Ledecky won the Olympic 800m free two months later as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She is undefeated at 800m the last eight years with the 21 fastest times in history.

Ledecky remembers specifics from that 2012 Charlotte meet.

“I was kind of swamped with all these national teamers and Olympians coming up and saying, hey, good job or keep it up,” she said in 2018. “I think [Michael] Phelps was at that meet. Him, Allison, I think Katie Hoff, all of them were at the meet. I think my coach, Yuri [Suguiyama], was also kind of starstruck or had the same experience where a lot of coaches were coming up to him saying similar things, like, hey, this girl’s good. She’s got a shot next month [at trials].”

Ledecky also remembers that, at least for a day or two, the swimming world was introduced to her by another name.

“I like to watch my races back sometimes, especially after surreal races,” she said. “And at that moment, those were definitely surreal moments. We got a kick out of that from Rowdy [calling me Kathleen], and Rowdy gives himself a hard time about it now, and I love it.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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