The three surviving members of the 1976 U.S. women's 4x100 gold medal-winning relay: left to right, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel, Shirley Babashoff

The three surviving members of the 1976 U.S. women's 4x100 gold medal-winning relay: left to right, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel, Shirley Babashoff

Swimming

‘The Last Gold’: on history, and shades of gray

The very essence of competition at the Olympics is fair play. What happens when doping makes a mockery of that ideal? When it’s all but impossible to re-write history? When the notion of who is a victim, and why, is the farthest thing from black and white — but is, instead, layered in varying shades of gray?

These and other questions are as essential now, amid allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia, as they have been since at least 1976, at the Montreal Olympics, when East German’s female swimmers won 11 of 13 gold medals.

The North Korean delegation Thursday at ANOC, perusing the magazine from the Olympic publisher Around the Rings

The North Korean delegation Thursday at ANOC, perusing the magazine from the Olympic publisher Around the Rings

LA 2024

The Olympic scene drops in on the USA

WASHINGTON — What got done here this week at the Assn. of National Olympic Committees meeting was not nearly as noteworthy as two other essentials: the fact that the meeting was held in the first place in the United States and that delegates from 204 entities were on hand.

As the session gaveled to order on Thursday, there in their place in the rows of seats were, for instance, representatives from North Korea.

Katie Ledecky after setting a new world record -- in the heats --  in the 1500 free // Getty Images

Katie Ledecky after setting a new world record -- in the heats -- in the 1500 free // Getty Images

Swimming

An indisputable U.S. swim bright spot: Katie Ledecky

KAZAN, Russia — For Katie Ledecky, every single race on the big stage becomes an opportunity to make the superbly difficult look so easy.

On Monday, in the preliminary rounds of the women’s 1500 freestyle, the 30-lap race that swimmers call the mile, Ledecky broke her own world record, touching in 15:27.71, 65-hundredths faster than she had gone last August at the Pan Pacific championships in Australia.

Katie Ledecky with her 400 free gold // Getty Images

Katie Ledecky with her 400 free gold // Getty Images

Swimming

No Michael Phelps but Katie Ledecky is so good

KAZAN, Russia — No Michael Phelps but when you have Katie Ledecky, you get records. So maybe the only ones happier than Ledecky after she set a world championships record Sunday night in the 400-meter freestyle was, well, everyone who  wondered, exactly, what this meet would be like without Phelps, the one and only.

All sports need big stars, and in the absence of Phelps, beyond doubt the biggest name in swim history, Ledecky showed Sunday — again — why she is one of the most gifted, truly thrilling athletes in the Olympic scene.