Katie Ledecky
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Katie Ledecky preps to conquer fresh Olympic challenges in new suit

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The swimsuit Katie Ledecky plans to wear in races through the 2020 Olympics is called the Venzo.

“It means ‘I conquer’ in Spanish,” Ledecky said.

Fitting. Ledecky, one of the world’s most dominant athletes, discussed the new suit from her sponsor, Tyr, in a recent phone interview and reflected on her performance at August’s Pan Pacific Championships, her first major international meet as a pro.

Ledecky earned three golds, a silver and a bronze at Pan Pacs in Tokyo. But at the meet she expressed dissatisfaction with her times and acclimation to the 16-hour time difference after arriving in Japan four days beforehand.

Ledecky said last week that it marked the most difficult circumstances under which she has raced at a major international meet.

She was beaten by younger swimmers for the first time (Canadian Taylor Ruck and Japanese Rikako Ikee in the 200m freestyle) and, also for the first time, failed to clock her fastest time for the year in any individual event at a major international meet (Olympics, worlds, Pan Pacs).

“I was really happy with how I swam under those circumstances,” Ledecky said, noting her 4x200m free relay split of 1:53.84, faster than Ruck and Ikee and her second-fastest ever after a 1:53.74 in Rio, and her fifth-fastest 800m free. “A lot of good takeaways. The biggest one is the challenge we had in front of us and what we experienced. In some ways I’m happy we experienced that. Hopefully, I’ll learn from it.”

Ledecky continues to live at Stanford after turning pro following her sophomore season for the Cardinal. She still trains with Stanford team swimmers, though she is no longer eligible to compete collegiately. That means she’s sharing the pool with one of her new rivals, Ruck, a freshman on the team.

“We don’t overlap too much, thus far at least,” Ledecky said. Ruck swims the 100m and 200m frees and the 100m and 200m backstrokes. “She kind of comes up to the 200m [in training], and I kind of come down to it from the mile. It provides me some extra motivation having her next to me, and I would hope it does the same for her.”

The 200m free has been the most competitive of Ledecky’s four primary events (400m, 800m, 1500m frees, too). It should only get more interesting as the Olympics near with Ruck in the same training pool and Ikee looking like one of the host nation’s biggest stars. Both are 18 years old, three years younger than Ledecky.

“They’re only going to get faster,” said Ledecky, whose personal best of 1:53.73 from Rio is .71 faster than Ruck’s and 1.12 seconds clear of Ikee. “I really feel like I have a good future in that event. I know that because I have a 1:53 under my belt in an individual race, and I’ve been 1:53 on a relay at Pan Pacs [one day after the individual 200m free].”

When Ledecky took that 200m free bronze at Pan Pacs (just her second defeat in a major international individual final), it came 85 minutes after she won the 800m free. And what she called “a challenging” first day of the meet, when she was still adjusting to the time difference.

“I was feeling a lot of fatigue by the time 8 p.m. rolled around, but that’s not an excuse,” she said. “I don’t think I need an excuse for that race. Taylor and Rikako Ikee had great races, and I need to be ready to compete against them.”

The Olympic swimming schedule released last month has the women’s 200m and 1500m freestyle finals in the same session. It creates for Ledecky one of the toughest potential doubles in Olympic swimming history in the first Games with a women’s 1500m free.

Ledecky conquered a similar double before, winning the 1500m free and then advancing out of the 200m free semis less than an hour later at the 2015 and 2017 Worlds.

But Ledecky first pointed out an earlier day on the Olympic program, where the 400m free final is in the morning followed by the 200m and 1500m free heats that night.

“That one day will be a lot of racing, but I feel very confident that I can prepare for that,” she said. “I’m happy the 200m final is before the 1500m final. I kind of like that pairing a little better than the other way around.”

As for the Venzo, expect to see Ledecky wear it in competition for the first time in January. She expects her next meet to be Winter Nationals in late November. Everything is about preparing for the world championships in South Korea in July.

Ledecky, who signed with Tyr in June, said the company has been working on this suit since the Rio Olympics, gathering input from its pro swimmer roster.

“When I was figuring out who to sign with, I had the opportunity to meet with Tyr and try the suit on day one,” she said. “That was a big factor in signing with Tyr. It’s all about feel. There’s no magical formula that I can tell you this is what I would want to feel, but I got in the water with it on and got comfortable and felt like it was fast and advanced the technology of the suit.”

MORE: Ledecky ties Michael Phelps record for USA Swimming award

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Katie Ledecky ties Michael Phelps’ record for USA Swimming awards

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At age 21, Katie Ledecky has matched a Michael Phelps career record.

Ledecky was voted USA Swimming’s Athlete of the Year for a fifth time, tying Phelps’ mark. USA Swimming’s House of Delegates votes on the annual winner.

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, earned three golds, a silver and a bronze at this year’s major international meet, the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo. She also broke her first world record since the Rio Games, taking five seconds off her 1500m freestyle time on May 16.

Ledecky earned Swimmer of the Year four straight years from 2013-16, with Caeleb Dressel snapping her streak last year. Dressel tied Phelps’ record seven gold medals at a single world championships in 2017.

Phelps was Swimmer of the Year in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008.

The award debuted in 1981. No other woman has earned it more than twice.

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MORE: U.S. female swimmers historically dominant in 2018 world rankings

Katie Ledecky, Chloe Kim among Olympians on most marketable athletes list

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Katie Ledecky is the world’s ninth most marketable athlete for the next three years, according to Great Britain’s SportsPro magazine.

The magazine published its full list of the 50 most marketable athletes through summer 2021 on Friday. It’s based on value for money, age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal.

No. 1 is Paul Pogba, the Manchester United star who just won the World Cup with France. He’s followed by 2012 Olympic boxing champion and current world heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua of Great Britain, last year’s No. 1, and French teammate Kylian Mbappé of Paris Saint-Germain, who didn’t make the top 50 last year.

Other Olympians or Olympic hopefuls high on the list: Tennis player Alexander Zverev of Germany (No. 4), Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (No. 5), snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim (No. 7), gymnast Simone Biles (No. 15), Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin (No. 23), tennis player Naomi Osaka of Japan (No. 27), British swimmer Adam Peaty (No. 38) and British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith (No. 47)

Olympians to be named No. 1 before Joshua were Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard in 2015, Brazilian soccer star Neymar in 2012 and 2013, Usain Bolt in 2011 and LeBron James in 2010, the first year of the rankings.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were left off last year’s list because they reached a long-cemented commercial peak, SportsPro said. They were also not on this year’s list. Neither was James and Serena Williams.

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