Katie Ledecky takes on unprecedented U.S. Olympic Trials double

2021 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming - Day 3
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Two finals totaling 1,700 meters of swimming separated by an hour would be a daunting slate for most. But it’s becoming old hat for Katie Ledecky.

On Wednesday night, the greatest distance swimmer in history tackles what on the surface looks like her toughest session of the eight-day U.S. Olympic Trials.

Ledecky is the favorite to win the 200m freestyle that starts at 8:21 p.m. ET. Sixty-eight minutes later, Ledecky dives in for the first Olympic Trials women’s 1500m free final in history. The event — along with the men’s 800m free — was added to the Olympic program for Tokyo.

But Ledecky said her hardest session was actually Tuesday morning — a 200m free prelim followed nearly two hours later by a 1500m free prelim, after winning the 400m free the night before.

Tears flowed for Ledecky after that 400m free on Monday night. The realization that she made her third Olympic team (albeit she was surprised by her time, 2.29 seconds slower then her winning time at 2016 Trials). And being in the same room as immediate family for the first time since Christmastime 2019, celebrating.

“We just had kind of a moment where I started crying, they started crying,” she said.

This may be a first for an Olympic Trials, but Ledecky succeeded in 200m semifinal/1500m final doubles at the world championships in 2015 and 2017.

In Omaha, Ledecky qualified first into both the 200m and 1500m free finals. It’s been seven years since she last lost a freestyle of 200 meters or longer domestically. She owns the 10 fastest 1500m free times in history.

That’s a lot of time in the pool. How does she plan to prepare on Wednesday morning?

“I also haven’t been outside in like three days,” she said Tuesday, “so I’m planning on doing a little bit of that tomorrow to get some fresh air.”

SWIM TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Women’s Event Previews | Men’s Event Previews

A look at tonight’s races:

Men’s 100m Freestyle Semifinals — 8:05 p.m. ET
All of the contenders advanced from morning prelims, led by Rio Olympic relay champion Ryan Held. World champion Caeleb Dressel was fourth, and 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian sixth. Top eight from the semis make Thursday’s final.

Women’s 200m Freestyle FINAL — 8:21
Ledecky was last beaten by an American in a 200m free in January 2014. She qualified fastest into this final by .61 over 23-year-old Paige Madden, who still deals with chest pain after being diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this year, shortly after receiving her first vaccine dose. Madden also took second to Ledecky in the 400m free despite entering Trials ranked seventh in the nation this year. This is Ledecky’s shortest individual event, so it is where she is most likely to be challenged. Her time will no doubt be measured against what rival Ariarne Titmus did at Australia’s Olympic Trials on Monday — a 1:53.09, the second-fastest time in history and .64 faster than Ledecky’s best time.

Men’s 200m Butterfly FINAL — 8:32
The first Olympic Trials 200m butterfly without Michael Phelps since 1996. The top four in the semifinals were separated by .21 — Luca Urlando and Justin Harting (who shared the best time), Trenton Julian and Gunnar Bentz. None of them are ranked in the top 10 in the world this year, but Urlando broke Phelps’ 17-18 national age group record in 2019, going 1:53.84 (before an early 2020 shoulder dislocation). No other American has been within 1.36 seconds since.

Women’s 200m Butterfly Semifinals — 8:43
World silver medalist Hali Flickinger, who already took second in the 400m individual medley, led qualifiers into the semis by .82. The other favorites, Regan Smith and Katie Drabot, were fourth and seventh.

Men’s 200m Breaststroke Semifinals — 8:59
The news of the morning was Rio Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot finishing 17th and, for now, missing the semis by one spot (see if anybody scratches). Prenot then tweeted that he plans to take at least a year off from competitive swimming. The fastest Americans this year — Daniel Roy, Nic Fink and Will Licon — all advanced

Women’s 200m Individual Medley FINAL — 9:19
Alex Walsh, a 19-year-old from the University of Virginia, dusted the field by 1.12 seconds in the semifinals. But others have gone faster before. Such as Madisyn Cox, the fastest American this year. Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist, missed the 2019 Worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitaminMeghan Small, who came into Trials ranked 13th in the nation this year, qualified third into the final, taking 1.15 seconds off a personal best from 2015.

Women’s 1500m Freestyle FINAL — 9:29
Nobody in this field has swum with 33 seconds of Ledecky’s world record. Ledecky was fastest in prelims by 13.14 seconds, and it wasn’t even among her 14 fastest swims ever at 1500m. She holds the 10 fastest times in history. If she has any competition in the event, it will come in Tokyo, not Omaha, from Italian Simona Quadarella, who won the 2019 World title in Ledecky’s absence in 15:40.89. Ledecky’s best time this year is 15:40.55, but she went 15:29.51 in 2020.

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U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last week, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. Australia vs. China Semifinals
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final