Ledecky breaks world record, wins fourth gold at Pan Pacs


Cierra Runge and Katie Ledecky after the 400m free at Pan Pacs. (Large)GOLD COAST, Australia – Olympian Katie Ledecky broke the world, American and meet records in the women’s 400m freestyle Saturday at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, turning  in a time of 3:58.37.


“It’s a great feeling,” Ledecky said. “It never really gets old. I knew I could be right at what I was a couple weeks ago at Nationals or a little better, so I’m really pleased with that.”


Her swim was one of three gold medals for the Americans on the third night of competition. Also winning gold for the United States were fellow Olympians Michael Phelps in the men’s 100m butterfly and Tyler Clary in the men’s 200m backstroke.


For the third straight night, Team USA finished the session with 10 medals – three gold, four silver and three bronze. That brings the Americans’ total medal count for the week to 30 – 11 gold, eight silver and 11 bronze. They lead all teams in both gold medal count and total medals won.


Other medalists for the U.S. Saturday were Kendyl Stewart with a bronze in the women’s 100m butterfly (57.82), Olympian Ryan Lochte with a silver in the men’s 100m butterfly (51.67), Cierra Runge with a silver in the women’s 400m freestyle (4:04.55), Olympian Connor Jaeger with a bronze in the men’s 400m freestyle (3:45.31) and Olympian Elizabeth Beisel with a bronze in the women’s 200m backstroke (2:08.33).


The U.S. finished the night off with a pair of silvers in the women’s and men’s 400m free relay. The women’s team of Simone Manuel, Missy Franklin, Abbey Weitzeil and Shannon Vreeland finished about two seconds behind Australia in 3:34.23, while the men’s Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin and Ryan Lochte came out on the short end of a close race, touching about a half second behind Australia in 3:13.36.


That Ledecky would win the women’s 400m freestyle was never in doubt. She dove in and took the lead from the start, leaving the rest of the field racing for second. The only question was whether or not she would break the world record of 3:58.86 she set two weeks ago at the Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine.


She was ahead of world-record pace at the first 50, but fell off for the rest of the race until the final 50 meters. With the crowd cheering her on, she hammered her way home, touching the wall about a half second ahead of the former mark.


Runge was second, followed by New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle in 4:05.33. 


It was Ledecky’s fourth win of the meet after taking gold the 200m free, 800m free and 800m free relay.


“I knew based on my swim from Nationals that my fifth, sixth and seventh 50s had to be a lot better, because I think I fell off the world-record place at Nationals on the seventh 50 and split a little slower,” Ledecky said. “So I knew if I could just work those and have a good, solid first 200 that it would be a good swim.” 


In the men’s 100m fly, Phelps was sixth at the turn, but in typical fashion turned in a solid back half, surging ahead of the pack in the final 20 meters. He touched 38-hundredths of a second ahead of Lochte in 51.29. Japan’s Hirofumi Ikebata was third in 52.50.


“It feels good to be back up there individually,” said Phelps, who also won gold as a member of the 800m free relay team Friday. “It’s been a struggle coming back, and I think it’s good for the confidence, being able to show that I can swim faster at night. 


“It definitely feels good to see that ‘1’ by your name and not second – or losing by this, or losing by that. I think I’ll be able to sleep a little easier.”


Like Phelps, Clary also had a solid finish to win the men’s 200m back in 1:54.91. In fourth place at the 150-meter mark, Clary inched his way up the side of leader Ryosuke Irie to take the lead in the final few strokes of the race. Irie, of Japan, took silver in 1:55.14, while Australia’s Larkin Mitchell took bronze in 1:55.27. Clary’s teammate, Ryan Murphy was fourth in 1:55.27.


“I wanted to see what the field was going to do, and just hang with them and let them dictate the pace of the race, because I knew with how this summer’s been going that the last leg of every one of my races has been pretty good,” Clary said. “I wanted to lean on that a little bit tonight, and by pacing put myself in a position to use that opportunity.”


Other Americans competing in the “A” finals Saturday were Claire Donahue, who finished sixth in the women’s 100m butterfly in 58.31; Michael McBroom, who finished eighth in the men’s 800m free in 3:52.77; and Missy Franklin, who finished fourth in the women’s 200m back in 2:08.82.


Competing in the “B” finals were Felicia Lee, who finished ninth in the women’s 100m fly in 58.37; Tim Phillips, who finished ninth in the men’s 100m fly in 51.52; Leah Smith, who finished ninth in the women’s 400m free in 4:06.91; Matt McLean, who finished 10th in the men’s 400m free in 3:47.70; and Elizabeth Pelton, who finished ninth in the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:09.36.


The 2014 Pan Pacific Championships come to a close Sunday with the men’s and women’s 200m IM, 50m free, 200m breast and 400m medley relay. Timed finals in the men’s 800m free and women’s 1500m free will also be contested. 


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