Katie Ledecky wins by 12 seconds in trials finale, can tie Michael Phelps record at worlds

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Katie Ledecky won the 1500m freestyle by 12.37 seconds to finish the U.S. swimming trials, going four-for-four in her first major meet since the Tokyo Olympics and a cross-country move.

“It didn’t feel like a thing of beauty,” Ledecky said on CNBC of the longest race on the program. “It was decent. Would have liked to have been a little bit faster, but I’ll take it at the end of the week.

“It’s the last race of the week. It’s the 1500m. It’s never going to feel good.”

She qualified for June’s world championships in Budapest in her four primary events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees — and is also expected to be on the 4x200m free relay. That was her lineup at the Tokyo Olympics, where she won two golds, two silvers and placed fifth in the 200m free.

Ledecky, who has the 12 fastest 1500m free times in history, clocked 15:38.99 in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday night. Her world record is 15:20.48. The second-fastest woman in history went 15:38.88, nine years ago.

On Saturday, Katie Grimes was the distant runner-up to join Ledecky on the world team in the event.

Ledecky, a 25-year-old who last fall left Stanford to train at the University of Florida, won all of her events this week by at least a second.

U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | World Championships Roster

She is the fastest or tied for the fastest in the world this year in all four events, but it’s early and Australia hasn’t had its trials yet.

The best measuring stick for Ledecky is to compare her times this week with those from last year’s Olympic Trials. She was faster by more than a second in three of her four events this week. In the 200m free, she was four hundredths slower than her time from last year.

If Ledecky wins all four of her individual events at worlds, she will tie Michael Phelps‘ record 15 individual world titles. She pulled off that Ledecky Slam in 2015, sweeping the 200m through 1500m golds.

Ledecky, with 18 total world championships medals, is two behind the female record of 20 medals held by Natalie Coughlin. Ledecky owns 15 total golds dating to 2013, three shy of Ryan Lochte for the second-most in world swimming championships history behind Phelps’ 26.

Ledecky’s primary rival, Olympic 200m and 400m free champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia, is skipping worlds to focus on the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

In other events Saturday, Caeleb Dressel matched Ledecky with his fourth victory in as many events. He took the 50m freestyle in 21.29 seconds, topping Michael Andrew by .16. He is fastest in the world this year in the 50m and 100m frees and the 100m butterfly, all of which he won in Tokyo.

“I thought I could be [21.4] tonight, so to see [21.2], I’m pretty fired up,” said Dressel, who flung his cap, flexed his biceps and slapped the water four times after the victory.

Dressel is expected to swim the same eight-event schedule as he did at worlds in 2017 and 2019: 50m and 100m frees and flies, plus two men’s relays and two mixed-gender relays.

Torri Huske notched her third win of the week, taking the women’s 50m free by .02 over Erika Brown. Huske and Claire Curzan could each swim in eight events at worlds when including relays.

Olympic bronze medalist Alex Walsh won the 200m individual medley in 2:07.84, the world’s fastest time in nearly three years. Walsh improved to become the sixth-fastest performer in history and the No. 2 American behind Ariana Kukors.

Chase Kalisz will contest both IMs at a major international meet for the fifth consecutive time. Kalisz followed his runner-up in the 400m IM on Wednesday by winning the 200m IM on Saturday. Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM champion, clocked 1:56.21, the second-fastest time in the world this year and his best since 2018.

Olympic champ Bobby Finke won the 800m free in 7:43.32, the fastest time ever in a U.S. pool.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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