Katie Ledecky, after chats with legends, wins two races in one night at Olympic Trials


Katie Ledecky isn’t known for pre-race chatter, but she shared a message with the other seven swimmers before the first Olympic Trials women’s 1500m freestyle final on Wednesday.

“We’re making history tonight,” she said.

Then she crushed them.

Ledecky won the 200m free and the 1500m free in an 85-minute span in Omaha, giving her three victories in three events with just the 800m free to go.

In the 200m free, Ledecky trailed at the halfway mark but won comfortably in 1:55.11. She’s joined in the individual 200m free by 2012 Olympic champion Allison Schmitt, who was 1.68 seconds behind and held on by .01 over Paige Madden. Schmitt, 31, made her fourth Olympic team after taking almost two years off after Rio, where she was strictly a relay swimmer.

Madden and fourth place Katie McLaughlin qualified for the 4x200m free relay. Bella Sims, a 16-year-old who ranked 133rd in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019, is also likely going to Tokyo along with Brooke Forde for finishing fifth and sixth.

Ledecky later routed the field by 10.68 seconds in the 1500m free, which makes its Olympic debut as a women’s event in Tokyo after being on the program for men since 1908. She clocked 15:40.50, with Erica Sullivan getting second.

Ledecky owns the 10 fastest times in history, led by her world record of 15:20.48.

Much has been made this week about the fact that Australian rival Ariarne Titmus has been faster than Ledecky this year in the 200m and 400m frees, but the American remains in class of her own in the 1500m. Her prelims time — 15:43.10 — was three seconds faster than any other woman in 2021.

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

On Tuesday night, Ledecky texted with Debbie Meyer, who in 1968 won the Olympic debuts of the women’s 200m free and the women’s 800m free. Ledecky first met Meyer at age 17 at a United States Aquatic Sports Convention. The high schooler Ledecky’s eyes lit up at the mere mention of Meyer’s name, not needing to be told that she was an Olympian.

On Tuesday, Meyer texted Ledecky to express familiarity. She saw parallels between Ledecky leading the first set of Olympic women’s 1500m freestylers into Tokyo, and her own experience with the 800m in Mexico City.

Then on Wednesday morning, Ledecky was out for a walk in steamy Omaha, her first fresh air in three days, and saw Janet Evans. She won the 800m free at the Olympics in 1988 and 1992, but never got a chance to swim the 1500m at the Games despite holding the world record from 1987 to 2007.

“She swims her races a lot like I used to,” Evans said after posing for pictures with Ledecky at the 2014 U.S. Championships. “I remember that feeling when there’s no one around you [in a race]. You’re just like, what do I do now? You keep swimming.”

While some swimmers move down to shorter events as they age, Ledecky loves the mile.

“I’ve always enjoyed the distance training,” she said, noting the mental strength, toughness and strategy to reel off 28 consecutive 31-second lengths of the pool on Wednesday.

Ledecky managed a difficult double. After winning the 200m free, she had a 15-to-20-minute warm-down swim before an awards ceremony. She ate a banana, drank chocolate milk and water and put a jacket on as she walked, slowly, maximizing efficiency and conserving energy. After stumbling over her words in a quick interview, she moderately swam some more before returning to the competition pool.

It’s a process she’s familiar with, having done the 200m-1500m double in one night at world championships with about a half-hour between events. In Tokyo, she’ll have another tough stretch:

July 26 morning: 400m freestyle final
July 26 evening: 200m free and 1500m free heats
July 27 morning: 200m free semifinals
July 28 morning: 200m free and 1500m free finals

“But I feel prepared for it,” she said Wednesday.

ON HER TURF: Ledecky qualified for one of the toughest doubles in Olympic history

In other finals, four hundredths separated first from third in the women’s 200m individual medley. Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass, 19-year-old Virginia teammates, went one-two. Madisyn Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist, missed out by .02.

Zach Harting, known to march out for races in a Batman costume, won the men’s 200m butterfly in 1:55.06, coming back from third at the 150-meter mark.

Gunnar Bentz, a 2016 Olympian who was at the Rio gas station with Ryan Lochte, was second after being fifth at 150. The 19-year-old Luca Urlando, the fastest American since the start of 2019, finished third, .09 behind Bentz to miss the team.

In semifinals, world champion Caeleb Dressel led the eight qualifiers into Thursday’s men’s 100m free final.

But 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian, eyeing his fourth Olympics and his first since a testicular cancer diagnosis two and a half years ago, was 13th and did not advance. His second and last chance to make it to Tokyo is in the 50m free this weekend, but the 100m was his better shot.

Favorites Hali Flickinger and Regan Smith were the fastest qualifiers into Thursday’s women’s 200m fly final. Katie Drabot, who took bronze at 2019 Worlds, missed the final in 13th place.

Matt Fallon, 18, was the top qualifier into Thursday’s men’s 200m breast final. He’s followed by pre-meet favorites including 2015 World silver medalist Kevin CordesCody Miller, the Rio 100m breast bronze medalist, failed to make either breaststroke final and misses the Olympic team.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Swiss extend best streak in curling history; Norway continues epic winter sports season

Switzerland Women Curling

Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni extended the most dominant run in world curling championships history, skipping a women’s team to a fourth consecutive title and pushing an unbeaten streak to 36 consecutive games.

Tirinzoni, along with Alina Pätz (who throws the last stones), Carole Howald and Briar Schwaller-Hürlimann, beat Norway 6-3 in Sunday’s final in Sandviken, Sweden.

They went 14-0 for the tournament after a Swiss team also skipped by Tirinzoni also went 14-0 to win the 2022 World title. Tirinzoni’s last defeat in world championship play came during round-robin in 2021 at the hands of Swede Anna Hasselborg, the 2018 Olympic champion.

In all, Tirinzoni’s Swiss are 42-1 over the last three world championships and 45-1 in world championship play dating to the start of the 2019 playoffs. Tirinzoni also skipped the Swiss at the last two Olympics, finishing seventh and then fourth.

Tirinzoni, a 43-year-old who has worked as a project management officer for Migros Bank, is the lone female skip to win three or more consecutive world titles.

The lone man to do it is reigning Olympic champion Niklas Edin of Sweden, who goes for a fifth in a row next week in Ottawa. Edin’s teams lost at least once in round-robin play in each of their four title runs.

Norway extended its incredible winter sports season by earning its first world medal in women’s curling since 2005.

Norway has 53 medals, including 18 golds, in world championships in Winter Olympic program events this season, surpassing its records for medals and gold medals at a single edition of a Winter Olympics (39 and 16).

A Canadian team skipped by Kerri Einarson took bronze. Canada has gone four consecutive women’s worlds without making the final, a record drought for its men’s or women’s teams.

A U.S. team skipped by Olympian Tabitha Peterson finished seventh in round-robin, missing the playoffs by one spot.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Ilia Malinin eyed new heights at figure skating worlds, but a jump to gold requires more


At 18 years old, Ilia Malinin already has reached immortality in figure skating for technical achievement, being the first to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition.

The self-styled “Quadg0d” already has shown the chutzpah (or hubris?) to go for the most technically difficult free skate program ever attempted at the world championships, including that quad Axel, the hardest jump anyone has tried.

It helped bring U.S. champion Malinin the world bronze medal Saturday in Saitama, Japan, where he made more history as the first to land the quad Axel at worlds.

But it already had him thinking that the way to reach the tops of both the worlds and Olympus might be to acknowledge his mortal limits.

Yes, if Malinin (288.44 points) had cleanly landed all six quads he did instead of going clean on just three of the six, it would have closed or even overcome the gap between him and repeat champion Shoma Uno of Japan (301.14) and surprise silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan (296.03), the first South Korean man to win a world medal.

That’s a big if, as no one ever has done six clean quads in a free skate.

And the energy needed for those quads, physical and mental, hurts Malinin’s chances of closing another big gap with the world leaders: the difference in their “artistic” marks, known as component scores.

Malinin’s technical scores led the field in both the short program and free skate. But his component scores were lower than at last year’s worlds, when he finished ninth, and they ranked 10th in the short program and 11th in the free this time. Uno had an 18.44-point overall advantage over Malinin in PCS, Cha a 13.47 advantage.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Chock, Bates, and a long road to gold | Results

As usual in figure skating, some of the PCS difference owes to the idea of paying your dues. After all, at his first world championships, eventual Olympic champion Nathan Chen had PCS scores only slightly better than Malinin’s, and Chen’s numbers improved substantially by the next season.

But credit Malinin for quickly grasping the reality that his current skating has a lot of rough edges on the performance side.

“I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to go for a lot of risks,” he said in answer to a press conference question about what he had learned from this competition. “Sometimes going for the risks you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and go for a lot cleaner skate. I think it will be beneficial next season to lower the standards a bit.”

So could it be “been-there, done-that” with the quad Axel? (and the talk of quints and quad-quad combinations?)

Saturday’s was his fourth clean quad Axel in seven attempts this season, but it got substantially the lowest grade of execution (0.36) of the four with positive marks. It was his opening jump in the four-minute free, and, after a stopped-in-your tracks landing, his next two quads, flip and Lutz, were both badly flawed.

And there were still some three minutes to go.

Malinin did not directly answer about letting the quad Axel go now that he has definitively proved he can do it. What he did say could be seen as hinting at it.

“With the whole components factor … it’s probably because you know, after doing a lot of these jumps, (which) are difficult jumps, it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” he said.

“Even though some people might enjoy jumping, and it’s one of the things I enjoy, but I also like to perform to the audience. So I think next season, I would really want to focus on this performing side.”

Chen had told me essentially the same thing for a 2017 Ice Network story (reposted last year by NBCOlympics.com) about his several years of ballet training. He regretted not being able to show that training more because of the program-consuming athletic demands that come with being an elite figure skater.

“When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through,” Chen said then. “When I watch my artistry now, it’s like, ‘Yes, it’s still there,’ but at the same time, I’m so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it.”

The artistry can still be developed and displayed, as Chen showed and as prolific and proficient quad jumpers like Uno and the now retired two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have proved.

For another perspective on how hard it is to combine both, look at the difficulty it posed for the consummate performer, Jason Brown, who had the highest PCS scores while finishing a strong fifth (280.84).

Since Brown dropped his Sisyphean attempts to do a clean quad after 26 tries (20 in a free skate), the last at the 2022 U.S. Championships, he has received the two highest international free skate scores of his career, at the 2022 Olympics and this world meet.

It meant Brown’s coming to terms with his limitations and the fact that in the sport’s current iteration, his lack of quads gives him little chance of winning a global championship medal. What he did instead was give people the chance to see the beauty of his blade work, his striking movement, his expressiveness.

He has, at 28, become an audience favorite more than ever. And the judges Saturday gave Brown six maximum PCS scores (10.0.)

“I’m so happy about today’s performance,” Brown told media in the mixed zone. “I did my best to go out there and skate my skate. And that’s what I did.”

The quadg0d is realizing that he, too, must accept limitations if he wants to achieve his goals. Ilia Malinin can’t simply jump his way onto the highest steps of the most prized podiums.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!