Katie Ledecky breaks record in Olympic Trials finale, joined on team by Little Flower buddy

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Katie Ledecky was the youngest swimmer on the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 and 2016, but this past week, and especially Saturday night, the Olympic Trials showed the next generation arrived.

Ten teenage women have qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team, with another possible on the final day Sunday. It’s the most since 1996.

Ledecky, 24, completed her Olympic Trials with her fourth victory in as many events, taking the 800m freestyle in 18:14.62. It’s her signature event, which she won at the 2012 Olympics at age 15, in 8:14.63. She is undefeated since and owns the 23 fastest times in history.

Her time Saturday wasn’t one of those 23, but it’s still faster than any other active woman has swum. She earned her eighth career Olympic Trials win, breaking the female record she shared with Katie Hoff and Tracy Caulkins (Michael Phelps won 16).

“I haven’t been super happy with my times, but I still feel like I’m in a good spot,” Ledecky said, summarizing her week and looking ahead to swimming five or six events in Tokyo when including relays. “I’m not comparing myself to my past.”

ON HER TURF: Ledecky’s dominance greatest in 800m free

Ledecky ranks second in the world this year in the 200m and 400m frees — behind Australian rival Ariarne Titmus — and first in the 800m and 1500m. Her best time this year in three of the four events came before Olympic Trials.

Also Saturday, Simone Manuel and Nathan Adrian qualified into Sunday’s 50m free finals to keep their chances alive of making the team. Both Olympic champions failed to reach the 100m free finals, making the 50m their only shot.

Caeleb Dressel won for the second time in as many finals in the 100m butterfly. Dressel, the world-record holder and world champion, is joined on the team by Tom Shields, whose wife rescued him in 2018.

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

Ledecky is joined on the Olympic team in the 800m by 15-year-old Katie Grimes, who was 5.74 seconds behind. Grimes becomes the youngest U.S. Olympic swimmer since Ledecky in 2012.

Earlier this week, Grimes finished third in the 1500m free, missing the team by one spot. Ledecky told her after that race, “You’re the future.” After Saturday’s final, Ledecky told her, “You’re the now.”

It’s reminiscent of 2012, when Ledecky opened Trials by finishing third in the 400m free, was told by Elizabeth Beisel that she had big things ahead, then won the 800m later in the week.

“Katie squared is going to crush it in Tokyo,” Ledecky said Saturday.

Grimes, in a TV interview and, moments later, in a virtual mixed zone, said she was speechless.

“I was not even expecting that,” said Grimes, who took 17.1 seconds off her 800m free personal best the last two days. “I’m just so honored to even be at this meet.”

Another teen, world-record holder Regan Smith, finished third in the 200m backstroke, missing the team by one spot. Smith previously qualified in the 100m back and the 200m butterfly.

Instead, Rhyan White won in 2:05.73, 2.38 seconds slower than Smith’s world record, to qualify in both backstrokes. Phoebe Bacon, 18, finished second to clinch her first Olympic berth, .33 ahead of Smith.

Bacon went to the same elementary school as Ledecky — Little Flower School in Bethesda, Maryland. When Ledecky was in fourth grade, she was paired with a “little buddy” in pre-kindergarten. That was Bacon.

Bacon followed Ledecky to Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. Though Bacon didn’t matriculate at Ledecky’s Stanford, she did choose Ledecky’s former coach, Yuri Suguiyama, now the head coach at Wisconsin.

“It’s been a dream of mine to be on the Olympic team, I think since Katie went to Trials in 2012,” Bacon said. “That was kind of eye-opening to me — this young girl from the same area, same schools that I’ve been going to made her dreams come true. I wanted to follow in her footsteps.”

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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