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ot overpowering, and

  • 20 Apr
    When you compete in something as long as I have -- remember, I swam in my first Olympics before I was old enough to drive -- you see just about everything. The aging superstar chasing one more Olympic gold, the teenage record holder who everyone believes is the next big thing. Some succeed. Most fail. Maybe theyre not good enough, dont want to put in the work, or dont care about winning enough to truly push their body to its limit.And then theres Katie Ledecky. It was two years before the 2012 London Games when I first started paying attention to her. Every time she got in the water, it didnt matter what time of year it was, how rested she was, where she was swimming, who she was swimming against -- she was cranking best times, national records. It was incredible. I remember thinking, this girl might be the real deal.But I wanted to see it on the big, big stage. Could she do it in the Olympics?In London, Katie was just 15 years old -- the same age I was at my first Olympics in Sydney. She was quiet, kind of kept to herself. But on the final day of competition, in the 800 freestyle, she won gold by more than four seconds. I won gold in the 100 fly earlier that night and had just received my medal when Katies event began. As I was walking through the interview area, reporters began asking me questions that I didnt even answer. Instead, I pointed to the monitor where Katie was crushing it.This past summer in Rio, she backed it up with four more golds. Right now, shes untouchable. There are swimmers who might push her, but no one is going to beat her. I remember what that feeling was like; its a great place to be. You know that if you put in the work, the reward is going to be there at the end. The challenge becomes longevity. How long can you keep it up?But no one is better prepared for this than Katie. Shes that much better than everybody else. When I watch her swim, its like an art. Its beautiful. She maximizes her distance per stroke. Its just something you dont see in swimming. Beyond that, shes one of the hardest-working people Ive ever seen in training camp. She will swim with the guys and make them look like theyre standing still. I did a set with her once in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Olympic Training Center. We were supposed to go together, but I was thrilled when she decided to lead a lane because I didnt want to get my ass whipped. Shes just special.And beyond that, mentally, she never lets up. She goes all out the entire race. Her mentality is, Im going to crush this field as much as I possibly can. In the first 100 meters, the race is over. Hell, in the first 50 its over. She makes the statement and then backs it up. Its just so remarkable.Yet away from the pool, with her teammates, shes as laid back as anyone. Shes talking, laughing, messing around. Then she gives a few high-fives, goes out and absolutely destroys the rest of the world. Its amazing to watch. You just dont see people like her in the sport. I know. And for me to have shared part of my career with someone so dominant and dedicated, and yet still so determined, is an honor. I mean it. Im a fan of this sport as much as anyone. And I cant wait to see what she does next.More on Katie Ledecky? What makes Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky remarkable Story ?? On this night, appropriately, Ledecky eclipses Phelps?Story ?? Katie Ledecky: Road to Rio training regimen?Story ?? How to be Katie Ledecky?Video ?The IMPACT25 is espnWs annual list of the 25 athletes and influencers who have made the greatest difference for women in sports. Explore the 2016 list and more content at espnW.com/IMPACT25. 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Cheap Nike Air Force 1 Wholesale Canada . -- Adam Snyder returned to the San Francisco 49ers this season because the offensive lineman thought it was his best opportunity to win a championship. MIAMI -- Jerad Eickhoff is a big man at 6-4 and 245 pounds, and the Philadelphia Phillies right-hander works in a way that befits his imposing stature.In his first full year in the majors, the 26-year-old Eickhoff has yet to miss a start.Thats my job, Eickhoff told the media after his most recent start. I take pride in being able to do that.He will get start No. 28 on Monday, when the Phillies (60-76) open a three-game series at the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. The Phillies are hoping to snap a six-game losing streak.Meanwhile, the Marlins (68-69) come home after a brutal 1-6 road trip, including a 6-5 walk-off loss at the Cleveland Indians on Sunday. Miami relievers allowed six runs, including three in the ninth. That loss put the Marlins four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second and final wild-card playoff berth.Miami is under .500 for the first time since April 28.Eickhoff will seek to take advantage of the Marlins slump and will be looking to pitch more like last year, when he made his major league debut, going 3-3 with a 2.65 ERA in eight starts. He was 7-for-8 in terms of quality starts, using a low-90s fastball and a hammer curve to neutralize batters.This year hasnt been quite as good for Eickhoff, who has 15 quality starts, a 9-13 record and a 3.90 ERA. His batting average allowed has increased from .212 last year to .261 this year, when he has allowed 22 home runs.Eickhoff was at his best this June, when he went 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA. But his ERA was 4.50 in July and 4.85 in August.Among Eickhoffs problems includes the fact that he has struggled on the road -- his 4.55 ERA away from Philly is almost one run higher than it is at home.In addition, Eickhoff has struggled late in his starts. He has a 2.64 ERA in the first five innings but 12.32 thereafter.Yet another problem has been Eickhoffs inability to consistently handle lefty hitters, who are batting .279 with 14 homers against him. He is holding righty hitters to a .239 average and eight homers.The Marlins, who will start rookie right-hander Jake Esch against him, will likely look to load the lineup with lefty batters.Among the lefty hitters who could do somee damage for the Marlins are first baseman Derek Dietrich, second baseman Dee Gordon and outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Christian Yelich.ddddddddddddThey and the rest of the Marlins offense will try to support Esch, who will be making just his second major league appearance.Esch, a 26-year-old Minnesota native who played shortstop in high school, was a pitcher/hitter in his college days at Georgia Tech. The Marlins made him their 11th-round pick in 2011, drafting him as a pitcher even though he had just five innings on the mound in his junior year.With a fastball that ranges from 90 to 94 mph, Esch is not overpowering, and -- like Eichhoff -- hes had his struggles against lefty batters.But with the Marlins rotation injuries -- left-handers Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen are on the disabled list -- Miami has little choice but to give Esch a chance.In his first big-league start, last week against the New York Mets, Esch averaged 91 mph on his fastball and lasted just 4 1/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, three walks and two runs, striking out two.The Mets hit .389 against Esch, who escaped with a no-decision.Theres nothing like getting thrown into the fire, Esch told the media after allowing a two-run homer to Mets infielder Wilmer Flores. I wish I could have taken back that one mistake.Esch, who had 20 family members in the stands for his big-league debut in New York, should have a more normal pregame experience leading up to Monday.But even if Esch were to give Miami a good start, the Marlins bullpen is suddenly a concern. Closer Fernando Rodney was dominant with the San Diego Padres earlier this year, posting a 0.31 ERA in 28 games, earning an All-Star berth.But in 29 games since he was acquired by Miami, Rodney is 2-2 with a 4.45 ERA. He inherited a two-run lead on Sunday and couldnt hold it, giving up a tying hit with two outs and a 1-2 count.Set-up man A.J. Ramos, who was an All-Star closer before the Marlins got Rodney, had a 2.25 ERA before the All-Star Game and a 6.28 ERA since then, including an 8.22 mark in August. ' ' '