Katie Ledecky earns gold for record 20th swim worlds medal; Regan Smith wins backstroke


BUDAPEST — Katie Ledecky is more interested in lap times than medal counts. She was satisfied with both at the world swimming championships on Monday.

Ledecky took gold in the 1500m freestyle for her 20th career world medal, tying Natalie Coughlin for the female record. Ledecky, after winning her opening 400m free on Saturday, clocked 15 minutes, 30.15 seconds to bag her fourth world title in the 1500m on Monday. It was a U.S. one-two as 16-year-old Katie Grimes took silver, 14.74 seconds back.

“My goal was to hold 31 low [second laps to ], so that’s right on the money,” said Ledecky, who went 7.59 seconds faster than her time to win the event’s Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Grimes is the youngest U.S. medalist at a worlds since Ledecky in 2013 and the second-youngest medalist ever in the women’s 1500m after Ledecky, who is now both the youngest and the oldest world 1500m free champion, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

The U.S. added four medals between the men’s and women’s 100m backstrokes — gold (Regan Smith), silver (Ryan Murphy) and bronze (Hunter Armstrong and Claire Curzan). Murphy ceded his world record to Italian gold medalist Thomas Ceccon, who lowered it from 51.85 to 51.60.

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster

Ledecky, now a four-time world champion in the 1500m free, owns the 13 fastest times in history in the event, including the world record of 15:20.48. Her time on Monday was 8.73 seconds faster than any swimmer in history not named Ledecky.

The only swimmers with more world championships medals than Ledecky are Michael Phelps (33) and Ryan Lochte (27). Ledecky’s 17 gold medals are also third in history behind Phelps (26) and Lochte (18).

“I don’t count [medals],” Ledecky said. “It’s pretty wild because I feel like just yesterday I was in Barcelona at my first worlds [at age 16 in 2013] like Katie [Grimes] is now.”

She has two more events left at worlds, the 4x200m free relay on Wednesday and the 800m free on Friday and Saturday. In the 800m free, Ledecky can become the first swimmer to win five consecutive world titles in one event.

Smith added a 100m back title to the 200m crown she earned in 2019, when she broke three world records in two races at age 17.

She held off two-time defending world champion Kylie Masse of Canada by .18, prevailing in the absence of Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Kaylee McKeown of Australia. McKeown scratched the 100m back, reportedly to focus on the 200m individual medley, where she took silver.

“It’s getting harder and harder to deal with the pressure because a lot of people expecting me to deliver,” said Smith, who took 100m back bronze in Tokyo. “I’ve been working a lot with a psychologist to survive this situation, and it seems to be working.”

Curzan, who is slated to join Smith at Stanford later this summer, earned her first individual Olympic or world medal.

In the men’s 100m back, Ceccon went from fourth in Tokyo to a world champion and world record holder. He trained the last few years at the same pool as Italian legend Federica Pellegrini, who retired last year.

“I haven’t realized that I broke the world record,” he said in disbelief. “I didn’t think of any record or time before the start.”

Murphy, who swept the backstrokes at the 2016 Olympics, wasn’t upset that he was denied his first individual world title given he swam his best time in four years.

“I honestly was not expecting to be that fast,” he said. “Thomas is an incredible talent. Hats off to him. That’s a gnarly swim.”

Armstrong, who broke the 50m back world record at April’s trials, earned his first individual medal at an Olympics or worlds.

In the 100m breaststroke, 2016 Olympic champion and world record holder Lilly King took fourth after squeaking into the final in the eighth and last spot. She got in after training partner Annie Lazor was disqualified for illegal leg movement with her kick in the semifinals.

King, vying to become the first woman to win three consecutive world titles in a breaststroke event, missed bronze by five hundredths behind 2012 Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania. Meilutyte retired in 2019 after it was announced she was facing a ban for missed (but not failed) drug tests. She was given a two-year ban and returned to competition last December.

Italian 17-year-old Benedetta Pilato won the 100m breast in 1:05.93, holding off German Anna Elendt by .05.

The 17-year-old Romanian David Popovici won the 200m free in 1:43.21, the world’s best time in 10 years. Popovici became the first Romanian man to win a world title and the youngest male gold medalist from any nation in 15 years.

Worlds continue Tuesday featuring Olympic champion Bobby Finke in the 800m free final and the mixed medley relay, expected to include Caeleb Dressel.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Luz Long’s Olympic silver medal for sale from Jesse Owens long jump duel

Jesse Owens, Luz Long

One of the most consequential Olympic medals ever awarded is on the auction block — the silver medal captured in 1936 by Germany’s Luz Long, the long jumper who walked arm in arm through the stadium with Jesse Owens to celebrate their triumphs while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands.

Long’s family has decided to auction the medal and other collectibles from the German jumper’s career. Long was killed in World War II in 1943.

The auction house selling the medal has labeled Long’s collection “The Beacon of Hope.”

“The story of Jesse Owens never seems to end,” said Long’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, in a phone interview from her house in Munich. “My grandfather has always been inspirational and influential in the way I choose to see the world, and this is something I think the world outside needs. Now more than ever. It gives us hope.”

Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures.

There’s also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn’t foul on his last try. Owens took that advice and went on to win the title — one of four he captured in Berlin — with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches).

Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.

The camaraderie between Owens and Long, and the relationship that ensued between the men and their families, are often held up as the prime example of what the Olympics are supposed to be about — a peaceful coming together of people from different countries and cultures who set their differences aside in the spirit of competition.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me,” Owens said, years later. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

The decision to sell came shortly after Luz’s son (and Julia’s father), Kai, died at age 80. Kellner-Long said the great responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s memorabilia should be passed onto an individual, or museum, that has the time and resources to do so. The family also wanted to use the sale to rekindle the story of Long and Owens.

“Even 86 years later, shining a beacon of hope is an important and realistic value, especially in a time of increasing racism, increasing exclusion and hatred,” Kellner-Long said.

The auction house started the bidding for Long’s medal at $50,000, and estimated the value at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. The bidding runs through Oct. 15. The value of Olympic medals on the open market varies widely. One of Owens’ four gold medals from 1936 fetched $1.46 million. Bill Russell’s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics recently sold for $587,500.

David Kohler of SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, said the medal is about Long, but also “the story of the courageousness and the athlete and what he did there.”

Long didn’t live long enough to see his legacy play out. He was killed in 1943 in the battle of St. Pietro on the Italian island of Sardinia. Shortly before that, he wrote a letter to Owens, one he predicted would be “the last letter I shall ever write.”

In it, Long asked Owens to go to Germany after the war and find his son.

“Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war,” Long wrote. “I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

Owens and Kai Long met several times over the years, including at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1966. Owens later was a best man at Kai’s wedding.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson

Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!