Swimming: Least tapered Ledecky peerless

Katie Ledecky leaving rivals in her wake during the 800m freestyle final at the US National Championships. She clocked 8min 11.50sec in her pet event - close to nine seconds ahead of second-placed Leah Smith.
Katie Ledecky leaving rivals in her wake during the 800m freestyle final at the US National Championships. She clocked 8min 11.50sec in her pet event - close to nine seconds ahead of second-placed Leah Smith.PHOTO: REUTERS

On little rest, Olympic champion books world berth with fastest 800m time this year

INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana) • Katie Ledecky qualified for next month's World Championships in style by winning the 800m freestyle in the year's best time on the opening night of the US National Championships on Tuesday.

Ledecky, a two-time Olympic and world champion in her signature event, was well clear of the field for the entire race in Indianapolis and clocked 8min 11.50sec to punch her ticket to the July 14-30 worlds in Budapest. Leah Smith took second, 8.96 seconds back.

"I didn't rest too much for this (meet)," Ledecky said after notching her 11th national title.

"Compared to other trials and selection meets, this might be the least tapered that I've been over the past couple of years. I'm getting in and racing. I have confidence from training that I can get up and go times like that."

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For Smith, she was hoping for redemption after her disappointing 800m last year at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where she finished sixth.

"This year, I've tried to mentally approach the 800 in a more confident way," she said. "But I didn't split it the smartest way. However, this meet is not the focus of the summer. Last year, I peaked at (Olympic trials) and not in Rio. This year, I'm focusing more on peaking at worlds."

The win for Ledecky, who swam a world record 8:04.79 in the event in Rio, came shortly after she had finished sixth in the 100m free final.

Mallory Comerford won that race in 52.81 seconds, pushing Olympic champion Simone Manuel into second place and qualifying for her first major international competition.

Nathan Adrian, who won 100m freestyle gold at the 2012 London Olympics by a fingertip, claimed his eighth national title in the blue riband sprint in a time of 47.96sec, beating Caeleb Dressel by a hundredth of a second.

Ledecky could swim in four individual events and two relays at the world championships with a strong showing at this five-day meet.

"It's important to get the job done here and get to Budapest and do a lot," the 20-year-old added.

"So far I'm setting myself up well but it's just the first day."

While her victory was a world best this year, the winning time was only the ninth-best for Ledecky, who captured 200m, 400m and 800m free Olympic gold last year - retaining the 800m crown she won in London - and helped the US women's team win the 4x200m free.

She was set to swim for a world berth and US crown yesterday (this morning, Singapore time) in the 200m free, with the 400m to come tomorrow and the 1,500m free on Saturday.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline 'Least tapered Ledecky peerless'. Print Edition | Subscribe