Katie Ledecky, by excelling at 25, outswims history once again


When Katie Ledecky won her 50th-plus consecutive 800m freestyle to open this week’s world championships trials, in her fastest time in four years, she achieved a feat lesser celebrated than her seven Olympic gold medals and 14 world records. But just as unmatched.

She extended her dominance past her 25th birthday, which for various reasons, none of the female distance swimming stars before her did. Many were in eras with a lack of incentive to compete past high school (pre-Title IX) or college (pre-Michael Phelps, fewer U.S. swimmers had financial and training opportunities to excel as professionals).

As Ledecky piled up blowout victories and gold medals over the last decade, at some point questions about her place in history discarded like leaves off an autumn tree. The last point of contention, for Ledecky and any transcendent athlete, is longevity.

U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Ledecky barreled through that. If not at the Tokyo Olympics, then in the eight months since.

She didn’t set goal times for the next Olympics, like she did before to start a new cycle, but instead put her head down and began training under new coach Anthony Nesty and with the best U.S. male distance swimmers.

“We talk a lot about improvement,” Ledecky, working with a different coach for each of her four Olympic cycles, said Tuesday. “Of course, improvement looks a little different for me than some other people given that my times are really hard to improve. I’ve acknowledged that, and I’ve learned that over the years.”

History is against Ledecky continuing to post times that are faster than any other woman, yet she continues to do it.

Janet Evans, the benchmark in women’s distance swimming before Ledecky, retired just before turning 25. Evans and Ledecky are the lone Americans to compete in three Olympics as distance swimmers.

“In my generation, I quit at 24, that was old,” said Evans, who placed sixth in the 800m free at the 1996 Atlanta Games after five medals, including four golds, between 1988 and 1992. “My reasoning for quitting was I was just sick of it. I just wanted to not train 20,000 yards a day. I wanted to kind of move on with my life. But everyone moved on with their lives at that point. Now, you have swimmers well into their 30s.”

The American outliers in previous generations — swimmers who earned medals into their 30s, even 40s — were all sprinters. Jenny ThompsonDara Torres, even going back to Duke Kahanamoku in 1924. More recently, as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte aged, they largely abandoned the grueling 400m individual medley and earned all of their medals in 100m or 200m events.

Globally, some distance swimmers hung on into their late 20s. Australian men Kieren Perkins and Grant Hackett won 1500m free silver medals at 27 and 28, respectively. Ledecky, with her third Olympic 800m free gold in Tokyo, became the oldest woman to win that event and the third-oldest medalist behind German Dagmar Hase (26 in 1996) and Brit Jazz Carlin (25 in 2016), according to Olympedia.org.

If Ledecky swims through the 2028 Los Angeles Games, which Evans, the LA 2028 Chief Athlete Officer, hopes to see, she will be bidding for medals in her 30s.

“So much of distance swimming is mental,” Evans said. “Her ability to continue to swim the events she’s swimming and train for the events she’s swimming is, to me, as much mental as it is physical. To not only try to stay motivated, but to deal with the fact that you might not always do a best time, although she’s getting pretty darn close, to just wanting to keep grinding.”

Brooke Bennett succeeded Evans as Olympic 800m free champion at age 16 in 1996. She started having shoulder problems a year or two later. After sweeping the 400m and 800m frees in 2000, she underwent surgeries on both shoulders in 2001.

”It was the same problem,” Bennett said in 2003, according to The New York Times. “Inflammation in both shoulders due to elasticity in the capsule in the ligaments. It was from almost 17 years of competitive swimming. The surgeon said it was stretched out like a rubber band. If I decided never to compete again, the pain would have gone away.”

She made it back for one more Olympic Trials in 2004 and placed third at age 24.

“We don’t see as much anymore the injuries that kind of ended my career,” Bennett said this week. “Our training was to get in the water and grind out as much yardage as you possibly can. And you only rested and swam fast once a year, maybe twice a year, depending on how nationals or trials or an international meet came about. Now you have these series of meets where the pros are getting up and swimming fast every few months. What’s been incorporated [in training] is treating the body better, so the longevity is there.”

Ledecky has been blessed to stay major injury-free. Bennett does open-water distance swimming to this day. She’s signed up for a seven-mile event on Saturday.

“I would certainly say, 20 years after surgery, if I wouldn’t have done that, the things that I do today in my 40s wouldn’t be possible,” she said.

Kate Ziegler, who held the 1500m free world record before Ledecky snatched it, was 24 at her second and final Olympics in 2012. She left competitive swimming six months later, citing a need for a break from competition.

“I’m not defined by the successes or the failures in the sport,” she said upon making a comeback in 2015 through the 2016 Olympic Trials. “That was something that was very hard for me growing up. It was really my identity.”

Ledecky’s international foes a decade ago — Brit Rebecca Adlington and Dane Lotte Friis — won their last major medals at age 23 and 25, respectively.

On Tuesday, Ledecky swam the sixth-fastest 800m free in history, giving her the 26 fastest times in history. She also ranks No. 1 in the world this year in the 200m free (tied with Aussie Ariarne Titmus) and 1500m free (by 17.41 seconds).

In June, she will bid to become the oldest woman to win a world title in a distance freestyle race — 400m, 800m or 1500m. In 2024, she can become the oldest woman to win an Olympic race longer than 200 meters, according to Olympedia.

Her 10th anniversary at the top is this summer, or even next month, when it will be exactly a decade since the meet that Kathleen became Katie. As Evans said, a 25-year-old swimmer was considered old 25 years ago. Now, not really.

Ledecky is proof. And so are others around her. She trains at the same pool as Dressel, who though he is a sprinter, is also 25 and considered in his prime. Leah Smith has finished runner-up to Ledecky eight times in trials meets. She also qualified for the world championships at age 27.

“If you have people around you telling you, hey, you’re 24 years old, move on, you need to get a life, aren’t you sick of this, that really shapes how you start to feel,” Evans said of previous generations. “The narrative has shifted. It’s such a positive outcome that these athletes can basically serve as long as they want to, and have the support.”

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2023 French Open TV, live stream schedule


The French Open airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points at Roland Garros in Paris.

Tennis Channel has live daily coverage with NBC and Peacock coming back for the middle weekend, plus the men’s and women’s singles semifinals and finals.

All NBC TV coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

It’s the first French Open since 2004 without Rafael Nadal, the record 14-time champion who is out with a hip injury and hopes to return next year for a likely final time.

In his place, the favorites are top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, who is tied with Nadal for the men’s record 22 Grand Slam singles titles.


No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland is favored to claim a third French Open title, a year after beating American Coco Gauff in the final. She bids to join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win the French Open three or more times since 2000.

Two Americans are ranked in the top six in the world — No. 3 Jessica Pegula and Gauff.

The last American to win a major singles title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought matches the longest in history (since 1877) for American men and women combined.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Broadcast Schedule

Date Time (ET) Platform Round
Sunday, May 28 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. Peacock (STREAM LINK)
Monday, May 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
11 a.m.-3 p.m. NBC (STREAM) | Peacock (STREAM)
3-5:30 p.m. Peacock (STREAM LINK)
Tuesday, May 30 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, May 31 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, June 1 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, June 2 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, June 3 5 a.m.-1 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
12-3 p.m. NBC (STREAM) | Peacock (STREAM)
3-5:30 p.m. Peacock (STREAM LINK)
Sunday, June 4 5 a.m.-1 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
12-3 p.m. NBC (STREAM) | Peacock (STREAM)
3-5:30 p.m. Peacock (STREAM LINK)
Monday, June 5 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
Tuesday, June 6 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
2-5 p.m. Tennis Channel
Wednesday, June 7 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
2-5 p.m. Tennis Channel
Thursday, June 8 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semifinals
11 a.m.-2 p.m. NBC (STREAM) | Peacock (STREAM)
Friday, June 9 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semifinals
11 a.m.-3 p.m. NBC (STREAM) | Peacock (STREAM)
Saturday, June 10 9 a.m.-2 p.m. NBC (STREAM) | Peacock (STREAM) Women’s Final
Sunday, June 11 9 a.m.-2 p.m. NBC (STREAM) | Peacock (STREAM) Men’s Final

2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw