(Reuters) – Katie Ledecky took care of business securing her ticket to Tokyo on Monday with yet another dominating win in the 400 metres freestyle at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
The world record holder and gold medallist at the Rio Olympics, Ledecky made it look effortless in front of a cheering crowd, taking the lead from the first stroke and cruising home in a time of four minutes, 1.27 seconds, more than three seconds clear of her nearest threat.
Ledecky just might be the best female swimmer in the world but even she must go through the crucible that is the U.S. Olympic Trails which sees only the top two in each event, as long as they have met the Olympic standard, qualify for the Tokyo Summer Games.
With Ledecky racing herself the drama took place well behind her with Paige Madden grabbing the coveted spot ahead of Leah Smith.
“It’s just a great feeling to be here and lock in my spot,” said Ledecky during her poolside interview. “I thought it was a lot faster, I was a little surprised by the time.
“It’s just good to check the box and hopefully have some good swims the rest of the week.”
The 400m marked the start of a busy week for the 24-year-old who will also contest the 200m, 800m and 1,500m freestyles as she prepares for an assault on the Olympic podium.
Already with six Olympic medals, including five gold, Ledecky is expected to be biggest star at the pool as she targets four individual gold along with relays that could see her become the most decorated American female Olympian of all-time.
In other finals, two teenagers grabbed the Olympic spots in the women’s 100m butterfly, 18-year-old Torri Huske getting to the wall first in front of 16-year-old Claire Curzan.
Huske was clocked a 55.66 seconds, just 0.18 off Swede Sarah Sjostrom’s world record, followed by Curzan in 56.43.
“It is really surreal. I feel like it’s more than a dream come true. I cannot believe it’s happening,” said Huske.
Michael Andrew, who turned professional at 14, qualified for his first Olympics at the age of 22 by winning the men’s 100m breaststroke in 58.73, just 1/100th of a second ahead of Andrew Wilson.
Ryan Lochte’s quest to qualify for a fifth Olympics got off to a sputtering start, the 36-year-old posting only the 25th best time in the morning heats for the 200m freestyle, missing out on the evening semi-finals.
One of the United States’ most decorated swimmers with 12 Olympic medals, including six gold, Lochte also scratched from Monday’s 100m backstroke to focus his efforts on the 200m individual medley, the event that likely represents his best chance of securing a Tokyo berth.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Stephen Coates)