Katie Ledecky breaks female record for most swimming worlds medals

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BUDAPEST — Katie Ledecky decided last fall to drop the individual 200m freestyle from her program, at least for one year. In a recent interview, she added one line to the end of her explanation about focusing on longer events in 2022.

“I still feel confident in my 200m free and my ability to step up on that relay,” said Ledecky, who swam the 200m free from 2014 through 2021.

As usual, Ledecky backed that up in the pool.

The greatest distance swimmer in history posted the third-fastest 4x200m free relay split in history, and the fastest of her career, as the U.S. quartet took gold on Wednesday.

Claire WeinsteinLeah Smith, Ledecky and Bella Sims clocked a championship record 7 minutes, 41.45 seconds to distance rival Australia by 2.41 seconds. The U.S. took silver in the event at the previous Olympics and worlds.

“It’s so easy to get up for these relays and just not think and go,” Ledecky said. “I had so much trust in these three. I think we’re always counted out, and we always deliver.”

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

Ledecky earned her 21st career world swimming championships medal, breaking her tie with Natalie Coughlin for the most by a woman in worlds history. Two men have more medals: Michael Phelps (33) and Ryan Lochte (27).

She also tied Lochte for the second-most gold medals (18), trailing only Phelps (26). Ledecky has one more event this week, her trademark 800m free, and then two more world championships before the 2024 Paris Olympics to chase Phelps. She has said she may try to swim through the 2028 Los Angeles Games, which would put Phelps’ records in real jeopardy.

Ledecky’s split on Wednesday was 1:53.67, trailing only Federica Pellegrini‘s 1:53.45 from the 2009 World Championships, where records fell everywhere due to since-banned high-tech swimsuits. And Sarah Sjostrom‘s 1:53.64 from the 2014 European Championships.

In Tokyo, Ledecky was fifth in the individual 200m free on the same night she had the final in the 1500m free, which she won. Two days later, she had the fastest split of the 32 swimmers in the 4x200m free relay final, 1:53.76.

Ledecky said before worlds that re-adding the 200m free “would be more on the table” if the to-be-announced 2024 Olympic swimming schedule, with one more day of swimming than in 2021, puts more time between the women’s 200m and 1500m frees. The men’s 200m and 1500m frees have traditionally been on different days.

Also Wednesday, 15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh became the youngest individual world championships gold medalist since 2011 (Ye Shiwen), taking the 200m butterfly in a world junior record 2:05.20. American Hali Flickinger earned silver, just as she did at the 2019 Worlds.

(Weinstein, a younger 15 than McIntosh, became the youngest world champion since 2007 with her relay gold, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.)

Romanian 17-year-old David Popovici became the first swimmer to sweep the 100m and 200m frees at a worlds since the very first edition in 1973. Popovici won the 100m in 47.58, edging Frenchman Maxime Grousset by six hundredths.

“I’m a bit prouder of the 200m win,” said Popovici, the Chlorine Daddy who went faster in the 100m free semis with a world junior record 47.13. “You know, my neck is quite heavy because of the medals – so I need to strengthen that part for the next meets.”

The race lacked reigning Olympic and world champion Caeleb Dressel, who withdrew from the meet a day after scratching the 100m free semis on unspecified medical grounds.

French 20-year-old Leon Marchand completed a sweep of the individual medleys, taking the 200m by .49 over American Carson Foster, who also bagged silver in the 400m IM. Marchand competes at Arizona State under Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of Michael Phelps.

American Katharine Berkoff earned silver in the 50m backstroke, eight hundredths behind Canadian Kylie Masse.

Worlds continue Thursday with finals in the men’s 200m back (Ryan Murphy, Shaine Casas), 200m breaststroke (Nic Fink) and 4x200m free relay and the women’s 100m free (Claire Curzan, Torri Huske) and 200m breast (Lilly King, Kate Douglass).

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“I think I was just not ready to deliver at that day,” Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen, said on NBC. “I was really so confident, I think I sort of overthought everything and tried to get ahead of myself. But I think it’s all right.”

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Women
Gold: Isabeau Levito — 223.33
Silver: Bradie Tennell — 213.12
Bronze: Amber Glenn — 207.44
4. Starr Andrews — 188.24
5. Josephine Lee — 187.68
6. Lindsay Thorngren — 187.19
7. Clare Seo — 175.60
8. Gracie Gold — 173.98
9. Ava Ziegler — 167.70
10. Sonja Hilmer — 166.49
11. Gabriella Izzo — 166.40
12. Ting Cui — 161.27
13. Audrey Shin — 161.12
14. Lindsay Wang — 154.91
15. Michelle Lee — 145.28
16. Elsa Cheng — 138.13
17. Alexa Gasparotto — 129.41
WD. Hanna Harrell

Men
Gold: Ilia Malinin — 287.74
Silver: Jason Brown — 277.31
Bronze: Andrew Torgashev — 256.56
4. Maxim Naumov — 249.14
5. Jimmy Ma — 243.09
6. Liam Kapeikis — 226.85
7. Yaroslav Paniot — 225.99
8. Camden Pulkinen — 223.72
9. Samuel Mindra — 218.74
10. Tomoki Hiwatashi — 217.62
11. Daniel Martynov — 213.67
12. Matthew Nielsen — 202.38
13. Joseph Klein — 194.87
14. Joonsoo Kim — 193.78
15. Will Annis — 188.13
16. Dinh Tran — 187.18
17. Goku Endo — 171.50
18. Mitchell Friess — 151.31

Pairs
Gold: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 227.97
Silver: Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 196.86

Bronze: Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea — 184.01
4. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 179.08
5. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 176.34
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 172.74
7. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 148.84
8. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 137.98
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 135.30
10. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 132.07
11. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 129.80

Ice Dance
Gold: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 229.75
Silver: Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 207.46
Bronze: Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 198.45
4. Emilea Zingas/Vadym Kolesnik — 198.13
5. Emily Bratti/Ian Somerville — 189.84
6. Lorraine McNamara/Anton Spiridonov — 189.15
7. Katarina Wolfkostin/Jeffrey Chen — 183.05
8. Eva Pate/Logan Bye — 182.61
9. Oona Brown/Gage Brown — 181.89
10. Isabella Flores/Ivan Desyatov — 177.31
11. Angela Ling/Caleb Wein — 167.87
12. Leah Krauskopf/YuanShi Jin — 133.93
13. Cara Murphy/Joshua Levitt — 129.85
14. Caroline Depietri/TJ Carey — 123.40
WD. Raffaella Koncius/Alexey Shchepetov

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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