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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

Alyssa Thomas

If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with older veterans — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team.

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

FIBA Women's World Cup Basketball

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 Saturday, 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.


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.


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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!