Katie Meili

Katie Meili
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Katie Meili, Olympic breaststroke medalist, retires from swimming

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Katie Meili, the 2016 Olympic 100m breaststroke bronze medalist, has retired from swimming, a year before the Tokyo Games.

“It is with a heart full of joy and gratitude that I announce my retirement from competitive swimming,” was posted on Meili’s social media. “My swimming career has been a dream come true and I am so grateful for the lessons it has taught me, the opportunities it has provided me, and most importantly, the incredible people it has brought into my life.

“This chapter is closing, but I’m very much looking forward to the challenges and adventures the next one will bring.”

Meili, 28, had already taken her name off the team for this month’s world championships as she focuses on law school at Georgetown this year and next. She’s spending the summer as an associate at Jones Day law firm in Washington, D.C.

In April, Meili said whether she would go for a second Olympics in 2020 was “the million-dollar question,” according to the Washington Post.

“If I choose not to do it, it’ll be for all the right reasons: It’s just time,” Meili said then, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’ll keep swimming as long as I’m enjoying it and as long as I’m able. A lot of factors go into both of those prongs. But if I decide I’m not going to swim next year and I’m not going to try to make Tokyo, then I will be happy and at peace with that decision.”

Meili’s success in 2016 was the product of perseverance. She swam at Columbia (not among the NCAA powers) and planned to retire after graduating in 2013. She was offered a legal assistant job in New York and planned to take it before visiting coach David Marsh in Charlotte and accepting a place in Marsh’s training group.

Meili, who faked a headache at her first swim practice as a kid and hid in the bathroom because she thought it was too hard, lowered her 100m breast personal best by 1.8 seconds in 2015 and made the Rio Olympic team by placing second to Lilly King at trials.

In Rio, Meili took bronze behind King and Russian Yuliya Efimova and added a gold as a prelim swimmer on the medley relay. She earned a medal of every color at her lone world championships appearance in 2017, including silver in the 100m breast, again behind King. She retires as the sixth-fastest woman in history in the event.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Katie Ledecky gets gold, bronze to open Pan Pacific Championships

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Katie Ledecky was beaten in a major international meet individual final for just the second time, taking her first career bronze medal on Thursday.

Ledecky finished third in the 200m freestyle at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo behind a pair of 18-year-olds. Canadian Taylor Ruck won in 1:54.44, while Japanese Rikako Ikee took silver in 1:54.85.

Ledecky touched in 1:55.15, about 85 minutes after winning the 800m freestyle by 7.94 seconds. She said she didn’t feel fatigued going into the 200m.

“I have been a lot faster than that a number of times this year, so I’m a little disappointed,” said Ledecky, who was faster at June and July meets but not as fast as Ruck. “I think I have a lot more in me in that race. I’m going to continue to work towards that for the next two years.”

Ledecky came into the race with 27 medals among the Olympics, worlds and Pan Pacs — 25 golds and two silvers. Those two defeats came in the Rio Olympic 4x100m free relay and the 2017 Worlds 200m free, where Italian Federica Pellegrini passed the American by covering the last 50 meters nearly a second faster.

On Thursday, Ruck, set to join Ledecky at Stanford after this meet, led at every 50-meter split. Ikee passed Ledecky in the last 50 meters. Ledecky’s best time — 1:53.73 from the Rio Olympics — would have easily won, but Ruck’s time is the fastest in the world since Ledecky’s Olympic title.

Ruck, known for drinking an espresso before races, felt the nerves.

“Because [Ledecky] is the fastest woman on the planet,” Ruck, who was born in British Columbia and moved to Arizona at 10 months old, said, according to Agence France-Presse. “It was starting to get into my head a bit — just her name, I guess.”

Earlier Thursday, Ledecky opened the four-day meet by clocking the fifth fastest 800m free in history — 8:09.13 — to win by 7.94 seconds over Australian 17-year-old Ariarne Titmus.

Ledecky now owns the 20 fastest 800m frees in history, led by the world record of 8:04.79 from the Rio Olympics.

World bronze medalist Leah Smith was third, clinching the other U.S. spot in the 800m free for the 2019 Worlds. In the 200m free, eight-time Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt joins Ledecky on the world team. Schmitt’s last individual swim at an Olympics or worlds came in the 2012 Olympic 200m free.

Pan Pacs is the year’s major international meet and, along with times from nationals last month, determines the U.S. roster for the 2019 World Championships. Non-European nations take part, with the U.S., Australia and Japan fielding the best teams.

PAN PACS: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Olympic and world champion Lilly King easily took the 100m breaststroke in 1:05.44, which was .08 slower than her time at nationals two weeks ago and 1.31 seconds off her world record from 2017. Russian rival Yuliya Efimova, not at Pan Pacs, remains fastest in the world this year (1:04.98).

King is joined on the 2019 Worlds team by Olympic and world medalist Katie Meili, whose time from nationals held up for No. 2 on the U.S. list, though she was the fourth fastest American on Thursday.

Chase Kalisz, who swept the individual medleys at the 2017 Worlds, crushed Japanese rivals Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto in the 400m IM. Kalisz clocked 4:07.95, the fastest time in the world this year, and won by 3.18 seconds in a matchup of the world’s best all-around swimmers.

World silver medalist Townley Haas took the men’s 200m free in 1:45.56, edging U.S. champion Andrew Seliskar by .18. Haas ranks third in the world this year. They’ll make up the world team in the event.

Jordan Wilimovsky and Zane Grothe had the fastest 1500m freestyle times between two heats, with the Rio fourth-place finisher Wilimovsky topping the field at 14:46.93. Grothe, the U.S. champ at 400m and 800m, edged Robert Finke for second — and the final 2019 Worlds spot in the event — by three tenths of a second.

Melanie Margalis took silver in the women’s 400m IM behind Japanese Yui Ohashi, but the Olympian’s time was slower than Ally McHugh and Brooke Forde from nationals, so Margalis did not make the 2019 Worlds team.

Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki won the men’s 100m breast in 59.08, well off Brit Adam Peaty‘s world record from the European Championships set Saturday (57.10). Americans Andrew Wilson and Michael Andrew were fourth and seventh and made the 2017 Worlds team.

The U.S. mixed medley relay team of Kathleen Baker, Andrew, Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel took bronze behind Australia and Japan.

Pan Pacs continue Friday, highlighted by the 100m freestyles (full broadcast schedule here).

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Lilly King, Chase Kalisz win gold on final day of worlds

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Lilly King took the breaststroke rubber match with Yulia Efimova — and set another world record for good measure.

Chase Kalisz kept the U.S. firmly on top of the world in the men’s individual medley.

The brash King knocked off her second record of the world championships in Budapest, touching first in the 50-meter breaststroke Sunday.

King eclipsed the mark of 29.48 set by Lithuania’s Ruta Mielutyte at the 2013 worlds in Barcelona.

King added the 50 mark to her record-setting performance in the 100 breast. This was essentially the deciding match of her duel with Efimova, who won the 200 breast while King finished fourth.

Efiomova settled for silver in the 50 at 29.57, while another American, Katie Meili, took the bronze in 29.99.

“I always think Lilly has a world record in her,” Meili said. “Yeah, I knew she was going to go really fast. She’s been incredible this meet. Totally lights on her every time she gets in the pool, so I’m very very proud of her.”

Despite hard feelings between King and Efimova, sparked last summer when King griped that the Russian should not be allowed to compete because of doping violations, the two hugged each other and even appeared to joke around a bit after the race.

Kalisz breezed to victory in the 400 IM, adding to his triumph in the 200. He became the first swimmer at worlds to sweep the event, which encompasses all four strokes, since Ryan Lochte accomplished the feat in 2011.

Kalisz carried on American domination of the IMs that goes back more than two decades, largely because of Michael Phelps — a former training partner — and Lochte.

Neither is in Budapest, of course. Phelps retired again after the Rio Games, while Lochte was not allowed to compete at worlds because of his shenanigans at last summer’s Olympics.

No worries for Team USA.

Kalisz pulled away on the breaststroke leg and cruised to the finish in 4 minutes, 5.90 seconds — nearly 2½ seconds ahead of the silver medalist, Hungary’s David Verraszto. Japan’s Daiya Seto grabbed the bronze.

In the women’s 50 freestyle, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom got a bit of redemption for her loss to American Simone Manuel in the 100 free.

After setting a world record in the semifinals, Sjostrom completed the furious dash from one end of the pool to the other in 23.69 — just two-hundredths off her mark the previous evening.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands claimed the silver in 23.85, while Manuel settled for the bronze at 23.97.

Manuel knocked off Sjostrom in the 100 free after the Swede went out far too fast on the opening lap and had nothing left for the return. This time, she didn’t have to come back.

France’s Camille Lacourt took gold in the 50 backstroke with a time of 24.35. The silver went to Japan’s Junya Koga, while American veteran Matt Grevers grabbed the bronze.

Women’s 50m Breaststroke Results
Gold: Lilly King (USA) — 29.40
Silver: Yulia Efimova (RUS) — 29.57
Bronze: Katei Meili (USA) — 29.99
4. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) — 30.20
5. Jennie Johansson (SWE) — 30.31
6. Sarah Vasey (GBR) — 30.62
7. Arianna Castiglioni (ITA) — 30.74
8. Rachel Nicol (CAN) — 30.80

Men’s 400m IM Results
Gold: Chase Kalisz (USA) — 4:05.90
Silver: David Verraszto (HUN) — 4:08.38
Bronze: Daiya Seto (JPN) — 4:09.14
4. Max Litchfield (GBR) — 4:09.62
5. Jay Litherland (USA) — 4:12.05
6. Kosuke Hagino (JPN) — 4:12.65
7. Brandonn Almeida (BRA) — 4:13.00
9. Richard Nagy (SVK) — 4:16.33

Women’s 50m Freestyle Results
Gold: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 23.69
Silver: Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) — 23.85
Bronze: Simone Manuel (USA) — 23.97
4. Pernille Blume (DEN) — 24.00
5. Aliaksandra Herasimenia (BLR) — 24.46
6. Liu Xiang (CHN) — 24.58
7. Anna Santamans (FRA) — 24.58
8. Bronte Campbell (AUS) — 24.58

Women’s 400m IM Results
Gold: Katinka Hosszu (HUN) — 4:29.33
Silver: Mireia Belmonte (ESP) — 4:32.17
Bronze: Sydney Pickrem (CAN) — 4:32.88
4. Yui Ohashi (JPN) — 4:34.50
5. Sakiko Shimizu (JPN) — 4:35.62
6. Leah Smith (USA) — 4:36.09
7. Elizabeth Beisel (USA) — 4:37.63
8. Hannah Miley (GBR) — 4:38.34