Katie Ledecky, after a flooring email, month in a hotel, revs up for another Olympic cycle


After winning another four medals in Tokyo, Katie Ledecky joked that since she only took two weeks out of the pool after the 2016 Olympics, maybe she would take three this time.

What actually happened: Within two weeks, she dived back in at Palisades in Maryland, where she first joined a swim team with her brother back in 2003.

“I hate being out of the water,” she said.

This next month is key for Ledecky, a headliner at a Pro Series meet in San Antonio this week (broadcast schedule here). It’s the last top-level competition before the world championships trials at the end of April, where the top two in most individual events qualify for worlds in Budapest in June.

Ledecky should have no problem making the team for a 10th consecutive major international meet, but trials will be the biggest gauge yet of how she has handled a cross-country, post-Olympic move.

Last year, Ledecky kept the focus on the Olympics through all 6,200 meters of racing in Tokyo. But she knew all along that a decision was coming. Her apartment lease at Stanford was up at the end of September.

“I was training with a college team, and I’m older than most of the other swimmers,” she said after moving to Florida, also noting being closer to her family on the East Coast. “I didn’t have too many mid-distance, distance people to train with. So it had entered my mind that there would be a change post-Olympics.”

Ledecky swam between two and six times per week in those first weeks after Tokyo, either while visiting family in the D.C. area or at her home base of Stanford. She called it sporadic. She still wasn’t back into real training when she emailed Anthony Nesty, the 1988 Olympic butterfly gold medalist for Suriname who coaches at Florida.

“I almost fell off my chair,” said Nesty, who guided Bobby Finke to 800m and 1500m freestyle golds and Kieran Smith to 400m free bronze in Tokyo.

“Where we started talking, I said one thing I’m not going to do is recruit you,” Nesty said. “I told you this is what we do. This is how we run things. It’s up for you to decide if this challenge is what you’re looking for.”

Ledecky, over a three-day visit that included a trip to Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille with Finke and Smith, decided it was. She shipped her stuff from California and lived for a month out of a hotel (with a kitchenette) before moving into her new home.

By Oct. 1, Ledecky returned to a normal practice schedule, a little more than two months after her last Olympic swim. She lived out of suitcases — as many as four at a time — from trials in June until November.

She has replayed all of her Olympic races — the opening silver in the 400m free behind Australian Ariarne Titmus, a fifth-place finish in the 200m free and golds in the 800m and 1500m frees. Most of all Ledecky watched the 4x200m free relay, where the U.S. took silver. She anchored with the best split in the 32-swimmer field by .61 of a second, 1.45 seconds faster than her individual 200m free.

In 2016, Ledecky set specific time goals for the Olympics, writing them in code on a pull buoy named Beilke, and hit them. The goals for Tokyo that she also wrote out in various places were more about results and medals, but she declined to divulge specifics.

“I was very pleased with how it went in Tokyo,” she said. ” I was happy with the progress I made between trials and the Games.”

It’s hard to grade Ledecky’s early returns at Florida based off her first meets when she could be slowed by heavy training. But her times are strong in comparison to last year.

In early February, she swam a 200m free in 1:56.09, which was .53 faster than she did in early March 2021 (when she had not raced since March 2020).

At her most recent meet four weeks ago, she was 3.41 seconds faster in the 400m free than a year earlier and 3.47 seconds faster in a 1500m free. Best of all, she swam her fastest time in her trademark event, the 800m free, since 2019.

She ranks No. 1 in the nation this year in all four events, each by at least three seconds and the 1500m by 41.18 seconds.

Speaking in December at the Golden Goggle Awards, where Ledecky tied Michael Phelps‘ record with a seventh Athlete of the Year honor, she said she had not yet set goals for the 2024 Olympic cycle. Ledecky, who in Paris can become the oldest U.S. woman to win individual swimming gold by two years, cited needing time to acclimate to her new training environment.

“I’m kind of taking it slow on that,” said Ledecky, who in 2012 at age 15 became the second-youngest U.S. woman to win individual swimming gold, according to Olympedia.org. “The first goal is just to make the worlds team this next year.”

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At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

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Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

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