Katie Ledecky breaks Michael Phelps record at Golden Goggles

Katie Ledecky
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Katie Ledecky broke her tie with Michael Phelps by winning her eighth USA Swimming Athlete of the Year award.

Ledecky was named Female Athlete of the Year at the Golden Goggles awards in New York City on Monday night.

At June’s world championships in Budapest, Ledecky won all four of her events, capping the meet with an unprecedented fifth consecutive world title in an individual event (800m freestyle). She also broke two short-course world records this fall.

She was named Female Athlete of the Year over Katie Grimes, Torri Huske, Lilly King, Regan Smith and Alex Walsh.

“My very first goal in swimming was just to get across the pool for a 25-meter freestyle without stopping on the lane line,” said Ledecky, who also won Female Race of the Year for her 800m triumph at worlds. “Now I swim the long-distance events. You never know what impact you’re going to make by teaching young kids how to swim.”

Ledecky was Female Athlete of the Year six consecutive times from 2013-18, then again the last two years. Simone Manuel won it in 2019. There were no Golden Goggles in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Phelps was Male Athlete of the Year in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2014-16. Phelps would have won it in 2003, but Golden Goggles didn’t start until 2004.

Bobby Finke, who trains with Ledecky in Gainesville, Florida, became the first distance swimmer to ever win Male Athlete of the Year at Golden Goggles. Carson Foster, Nic Fink and Ryan Murphy were the other nominees.

Finke took 800m free gold and 1500m free silver at worlds.

Swimming at this level was “something I didn’t really think I was going to be able to do until 2016. I was a 16-year-old kid and made my first Olympic Trials final,” said Finke, who also won Male Race of the Year for his 800m free win. “Ever since then, it’s just been a dream come true.”

Anthony Nesty, who coaches Ledecky, Finke and others at the University of Florida, won Coach of the Year.

Relay of the Year went to the women’s 4x200m free from worlds, which broke the championship record and distanced rival Australia by 2.41 seconds.

Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the 200m IM at worlds at age 16, won Breakout Performer of the Year.

Leah Smith, who bounced back from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to win relay gold and 400m free bronze at worlds, earned the Perseverance Award.

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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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