By Jim Rusnak//Director of Editorial Properties | Thursday, August 9, 2018
TOKYO – One would be hard-pressed to find any swimmer so thoroughly dominant in a single event as Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800m freestyle.
Not only has she won this event at every major international competition since 2012 – including two Olympic and three world titles – but she’s also the world record holder, and with her win Thursday night at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, the owner of 20 of the top 20 performances of all time.
Her time of 8:09.13 Thursday was the fifth-fastest. It also shattered the meet record of 8:11.35 she set at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. Teammate Leah Smith was third in 8:17.21, just behind Ariarne Titmus of Australia, who touched in 8:17.21.
Ledecky is one of a long line of American women who have won the 800 at Pan Pacs. In fact, American women have won this event at all but two Pan Pacific Championships since the meet began in 1985.
The 800 was one of two events for Ledecky Thursday. She also finished third in the 200m free in 1:55.15, behind Taylor Ruck of Canada (1:54.44) and Rikako Ikee of Japan (1:54.85). All three swimmers bested the meet record of 1:55.16 set by Ledecky in this morning’s prelims. Finishing fourth was Allison Schmitt of the U.S. in 1:56.71.
Coming into tonight, Ledecky said she knew from experience it was going to be a tough double, but it was a challenge she gladly accepted. While she was a little disappointed with her time in the 200, she said she sees it all as part of the process.
“I like to push the boundaries,” Ledecky said. “I like to really push my range – swimming the shorter events and the longer events. I’m proud I made the decision to swim those two events and do the best I could and come away with two medals. I can’t complain about that.
“Of course, it’s motivating. It’s something that motivated me last year, getting silver in the 200 (at Worlds), and I really put a lot of work into trying not to have that happen again. But obviously, it’s all about the process. I know that I still have two more years to go until the big show here in Tokyo. I hope to be here competing in that event and get another shot at it.”
Lilly King might not have 20 of the top 20 fastest performances of all time in the women’s 100m breaststroke, but she does hold the world record, and over the past few years has become the dominant force in that event, winning Olympic gold, World Championship gold, and now Pan Pac gold after touching first Thursday in 1:05.76.
It was the fifth straight gold for an American woman in this event at Pan Pacs, a streak that goes back to 2002. Micah Sumrall, the second American swimmer in tonight’s finals, finished fifth in 1:06.56.
“I haven’t lost this race since 2015, so it’s been a while,” King said. “It definitely is my baby, and I don’t know how I would take losing, so I’m just going to keep winning. I was hoping to be quite a bit faster tonight, actually, but a win for USA is a win for USA, and I’ve got to take it. Hopefully the 200’s a lot better. I still have to make the Worlds team in that, so I’m looking forward to that in two days.”
Overall the U.S. took 11 medals on the first night of competition – five gold, three silver and three bronze. Here’s a little run-down:
Jordan Wilimovsky and Zane Grothe went 1-2 for the Americans in the men’s 1500m free, in 14:46.93 and 14:48.40, respectively. That’s just the second time an American has won the 1500 at Pan Pacs, and the first time the U.S. has gone 1-2 at this meet. The last American winner was Connor Jager in 2014.
Townley Haas and Andrew Seliskar went 1-2 in the men’s 200m free, in 1:45.56 and 1:45.74. It was the first time Americans went 1-2 in this event at Pan Pacs since Doug Gjertsen and Jon Olsen did it in 1989.
Chase Kalisz missed Ryan Lochte’s meet record of 4:07.59 by 36-hundredths of a second, winning gold in 4:07.95. It was the fastest time in the world this year. Teammate Jay Litherland was fourth in 4:12.87.
In the women’s 400m IM, Melanie Margalis took silver in 4:35.60, behind Yui Ohashi of Japan (4:33.77). Sakiko Shimizu of Japan was third in 4:36.27, followed by Brooke Forde of the U.S. in 4:39.22.
The Americans finished third in the mixed 400m medley relay, the team of Kathleen Baker, Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel touching in 3:41.74. Australia was first in 3:38.91, followed by Japan in 3:40.98. Tonight marked the first time this relay – which will become an official Olympic event in 2020 – was contested at Pan Pacs.
The only event in which the U.S. did not medal Thursday was the men’s 100m breast. Andrew Wilson was fourth in 59.70. Michael Andrew was seventh in 1:00.04.