Katie Ledecky starts new Olympic cycle with different world championships lineup

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky will be plenty busy at the world championships that start next week, just not at the record level of mileage we saw in Tokyo. She’s slated to swim a total of 5,600 meters, a drop down from her 6,200 at the Olympics last year, an unprecedented total for the Games.

Ledecky made the team for worlds in Budapest in all of her usual events, winning the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles at the U.S. trials like she has done every time dating to 2014.

Yet three days after trials ended, the USA Swimming roster was changed. Ledecky was dropped from the 200m free. Turns out, she made that decision last fall.

In one of her first conversations with new coach Anthony Nesty, Ledecky said she wanted to zero in a little bit more on distance events going forward. That combined with the world championships schedule, having the 200m free semifinals and 1500m free final in the same session as in past years, led to the ultimate call.

“I wanted to not have a double this year and see what I could do with a mile and just kind of lighten my load a little bit,” she said last week before flying to a pre-worlds team training camp in Croatia.

Ledecky still swam the 200m free at trials because she wants to be part of the 4x200m free relay. She swam the relay at every major international meet dating to 2013 and is expected to do so again in Budapest. The last time she didn’t swim the individual 200m free at a major meet was the 2013 Worlds (not counting 2019 Worlds, when she withdrew while ill).

Whether Ledecky re-adds the 200m free in future years is TBD.

“We’ll kind of see how things go this summer,” said Ledecky, who at 25 is now older than any woman to win a world championships distance freestyle race (400m, 800m and 1500m). “I continue to feel confident in my 200m free, and I’ll definitely be targeting it for the relay. But yeah, we’ll see individually what makes sense moving forward. It definitely would be more on the table if the schedule does open up a little bit more and creates a little more rest in there.”

That may happen. In Tokyo, the women’s 200m and 1500m free finals were in the same session. Ledecky was fifth in the 200m free, her shortest event. About 70 minutes later, she dove in for the 1500m free, her longest event, and won by 4.07 seconds.

The Olympic schedule will go from eight days of swimming to nine for the 2024 Paris Games, creating the possibility for the 200m and 1500m frees to be on separate days, like they already were for the men. The detailed daily event schedule hasn’t been published yet.

Ledecky is undefeated in the 800m and 1500m frees for more than a decade.

In the 200m free, she won gold at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, then took silver and bronze medals at major international meets in 2017 and 2018 and dropped out of the event at the 2019 Worlds due to illness before placing fifth in Tokyo.

Had Ledecky entered the 200m free at these worlds, she could have bid to tie Michael Phelps‘ record 15 career individual world titles. Ledecky, currently at 11, can now get within one of Phelps in Budapest, then chase 15 with more world championships meets in July 2023 and January 2024.

“I definitely have always been somebody that’s valued quality of swims over quantity and medals,” she said. “And I’ve never set goals for a certain number of medals or certain records like that.”

Ledecky’s shortest individual event at worlds is now the 400m free. She took silver in that event at the last worlds and Olympics, both times behind Australian Ariarne Titmus. Titmus decided months ago that she will not race at this year’s worlds while focusing on the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

“I don’t have too strong of an opinion one way or the other,” Ledecky said of Titmus’ decision. “Of course, I always want to race the best. But she’s made a decision that she feels is best for her moving forward.”

At the Australian Championships last month, Titmus broke Ledecky’s world record in the 400m free, which Ledecky had set at the 2016 Olympics. Titmus became the first swimmer other than Ledecky to break a Ledecky world record. Ledecky learned of it that Sunday morning while checking social media or the Meet Mobile app that compiles competition results.

“I expected it, to be honest,” Ledecky said. “I had seen how she was swimming that whole week at her trials. She was right on her times, and I knew it was a real possibility. So I wasn’t surprised.

“It’s great for the sport, great to have somebody like that to race at these meets. And I know that there are other swimmers as well in that event that are coming up that are going to be very competitive over the next couple of years. So definitely keeps me on my toes. And I think we’ll continue to have some great races.”

It doesn’t look like Ledecky and Titmus will race each other in 2022. Ledecky’s plan is to compete at worlds and then the U.S. Championships in late July.

She doesn’t plan to race at the Duel in the Pool, a Ryder Cup-style U.S. vs. Australia competition in Sydney in August. Ledecky mapped out her schedule last fall before the Duel in the Pool was revived earlier this year and announced in April. Titmus reportedly said last week that she was undecided on Duel in the Pool.

It all adds up to a unique world championships experience for Ledecky. These worlds were originally scheduled for 2021 in Fukuoka, Japan, then in 2020 were postponed to May 2022 after the Olympics were moved to 2021. This past winter, Fukuoka postponed its worlds again until 2023 due to the pandemic. For a week in February, there were no worlds scheduled for 2022. Then Budapest stepped in.

“I feel just as confident,” as for past major meets, Ledecky said. “I feel very good about the training that I put in. I don’t feel like this snuck up on me or that it was a shorter year or anything like that.”

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Kaori Sakamoto leads figure skating worlds; U.S. in medal mix in women’s, pairs’ events


Defending champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan topped the women’s short program at the world figure skating championships, while Americans are in the medal mix in the women’s and pairs’ events going into the free skates.

Sakamoto, trying to become the first Japanese skater to win back-to-back world titles, tallied 79.24 points, taking a significant 5.62-point lead over South Korean Lee Hae-In going into Friday’s free skate in Saitama, Japan. It’s the largest lead after a women’s short program at worlds since 2015.

“Usually, when I go into my short program, there’s some uncertainties and anxiety,” Sakamoto, who skated clean with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, said through a translator. “But today I was doing very well in practice, and I wasn’t making any mistakes. So I knew that I could just put everything out there, and that’s exactly what I was able to do.”

U.S. champion Isabeau Levito is in fourth (just 59 hundredths out of second), one year after winning the world junior title. Levito, 16, can become the youngest world medalist since 2014.

“I am really happy with my score,” said Levito, who had a negative grade of execution on her triple Lutz-triple toe combination but still had her best score of the season. “Based on this performance, I’m very excited for the long program.”

Fellow Americans Bradie Tennell and Amber Glenn are eighth and 10th, respectively, about in line with their world rankings. The top two American finishes after the free skate must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example) to avoid dropping down to two spots for next year’s worlds.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs’ short program, distancing defending champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the U.S., who placed second despite Frazier’s fall on their side-by-side triple toe loops.

Miura and Kihara, the world’s top-ranked pair this season, can become the first Japanese pair to win a world title, a year after taking silver behind Knierim and Frazier.

Knierim and Frazier, who will likely retire after this season, are trying to become the first U.S. pair to win multiple world titles. They’re skating without their primary coaches, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, who didn’t travel after Sand had a heart attack three weeks ago.

“Todd’s condition is very serious, so it’s difficult to train when you feel broken inside, when your person is not there,” Knierim said. “However, that person is the one that instilled fight in us, so we’re able to work hard every day to make him proud, and I think we did a good job of that today.”

In fourth place are Canadians Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps. Stellato-Dudek, the 2000 World junior silver medalist in singles, came out of a 15-year retirement in 2016 and can become, at 39, the oldest world championships medalist in recent memory.

Worlds continue Wednesday night (U.S. time) with the pairs’ free skate, followed Thursday morning with the men’s short program, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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2023 World Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule


The world figure skating championships from Saitama, Japan, air live on USA Network and Peacock this week.

The U.S. has medal contenders in all four disciplines, one year after winning a medal in all four events for the first time since 1967 (note Russia’s ban, and China sent no skaters).

In the pairs’ event that starts Tuesday night (U.S. time), Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier can become the first U.S. duo to win multiple world titles, one year after becoming the first American pair to take gold since 1979.

They rank second in the world this season behind Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, last year’s silver medalists who look to earn Japan’s first pairs’ world title.

Japan has the world’s top two women’s singles skaters in reigning world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Grand Prix Final winner Mai Mihara.

Isabeau Levito, a 16-year-old American who won last year’s world junior title, ranks fourth in the field by best score this season. She can become the youngest world medalist since 2014.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old American who this season became the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, is seeded second in the men’s field behind Shoma Uno, the reigning world champion from Japan.

In ice dance, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates posted the world’s top score this season at last month’s Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs. After 12 seasons together, their goal is to win their first world title after silver in 2015, bronze in 2016 and bronze in 2022.

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2023 World Figure Skating Championships Broadcast Schedule

Day Competition Time (ET) Network
Tuesday Pairs’ Short 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Wednesday Women’s Short 2:45-8 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Women’s Short 6-8 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Pairs’ Free 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Thursday Men’s Short 2:45-8 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Men’s Short 6-8 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Pairs’ Free 8-10 a.m.* USA | STREAM LINK
Rhythm Dance 10 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM
Friday Women’s Free 4:15-8:30 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM | Skate Order
Women’s Free 6:30-8:30 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Free Dance 11:30 p.m.-3 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM
Saturday Men’s Free 4:15-8:30 a.m. Peacock | LIVE STREAM
Men’s Free 6:30-8:30 a.m. USA | LIVE STREAM | Peacock
Highlights 8-10 p.m.* NBC | STREAM LINK

*Delayed broadcast.