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Katie Ledecky eyes daunting double at World Championships

Katie Ledecky

MESA, AZ - APRIL 15: Katie Ledecky speaks at a press conference before day one of the Arena Pro Swim Series at the Skyline Aquatic Center on April 15, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK -- Katie Ledecky plans to swim a full five-event schedule at the World Championships in August, including a 1500m freestyle final followed by a 200m freestyle semifinal expected to be about 20 minutes later.

Ledecky’s lineup would then include the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees, plus the 4x200m free relay (daily Worlds schedule here).

In 2013, Missy Franklin became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships in Barcelona. Ledecky was named over Franklin as FINA’s top female swimmer of the meet, with four golds and two world records.

In 2013, Ledecky could have also tried the 1500m free-200m free double, with the same schedule as it is slated to be this August, but opted against that tight turnaround. She dropped the 200m free from her schedule.

In 2013, the time span between the 1500m free final and the first 200m free semifinal was about 15-20 minutes.

Ledecky, with makeup covering sunburn on her cheeks, explained this year’s decision before the Sullivan Award ceremony at the New York Athletic Club on Sunday morning, about 13 hours after she swam at a meet in Mesa, Ariz. Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott won the award.

“Two years ago, I decided to drop the 200, and that was because it was my still my second international meet [after the 2012 Olympics],” she said. “I had never done an international double [two swims in one finals session]. I felt like, my 200, I didn’t have enough speed yet to compete for a medal.”

Ledecky, who broke the 1500m free world record at the 2013 Worlds, improved her 200m free in 2014. She beat the World champion Franklin at the U.S. Championships and again at the Pan Pacific Championships. She finished the year with the second-fastest time in the world for the year, behind Swede Sarah Sjostrom.

“Over the last year, the more and more I look at the [Worlds] schedule, it looks more and more reasonable to me every day,” Ledecky said, adding she could still change her plans.

Ledecky could become the first woman to win four individual gold medals at a single World Championships. In 2014, she became the first woman to win four individual golds at a Pan Pacific Championships, a major international meet that does not include European nations.

At Pan Pacs, Ledecky’s double was winning the 200m free and 800m free finals about 50 minutes apart.

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Franklin have all done multiple finals in one night at Olympics or World Championships, but none of theirs included any events even half the distance of the grueling 1500m freestyle.

Also Sunday, Ledecky backed the idea of a potential head-to-head race with Phelps, which Phelps jokingly proposed in Mesa on Friday.

“There’s been murmurs of it,” Ledecky said. “Hey, he lives in Maryland. We’re pretty close. It wouldn’t be too hard. If he’s down for it, I’m down for it.”

Ledecky said she doesn’t plan to swim in the next two Pro Swim Series events in Charlotte and Santa Clara, Calif., before the World Championships in August.

She has three Advanced Placement tests at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md., coming up -- government, psychology and calculus AB.

Ledecky’s graduation is June 4, followed by a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., for altitude training at the Olympic Training Center.

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