Katie Ledecky had the pool to herself on Thursday as she kicked off the final Arena Pro Swim Series meet of the season with a win in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle.
Competing in the event for the first time since she set the world record at the 2015 world championships, Ledecky swam away from the field and touched the wall in 15 minutes, 35.65 seconds at the George F. Haines International Swim Center in Santa Clara, California.
Ledecky’s time was more than 37 seconds faster than second-place finisher Kristel Kobrich, a three-time Olympian from Chile, and was the fastest time in the world so far this year. Kobrich clocked in at 16:12.89, while Mackenzie Padington of Canada finished third at 16:31.33.
The 20-year-old Ledecky is coming off a dominant performance at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, where she won four gold medals, including a sweep of the women’s 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle events. She would have been favored to win the 1,500 as well, but that’s not an Olympic event for women.
Ledecky, a two-time Olympian who just finished her freshman year at Stanford, came into Santa Clara ranked second in the Arena Pro Swim Series standings, trailing only Melanie Margalis. The Bethesda, Maryland, native is also scheduled to compete in the 100-meter freestyle on Friday and the 200-meter freestyle on Saturday. She’s the top seed in the 200 and third in the 100.
In the only other final held Thursday, Matias Koski held off Marcelo Acosta and True Sweetser to win the men’s 800-meter freestyle. Koski, a 2012 Olympian for Finland, finished in 8:00.28, just under a second ahead of Acosta, a 2016 Olympian for El Salvador, who finished at 8:01.28. Sweetser, a Stanford freshman, touched the wall soon after at 8:01.44.
The meet continues through Sunday and is the last major competition before the Phillips 66 National Championships, part of the Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, which begin June 27 in Indianapolis. Several Olympians are expected to compete under the open skies in Santa Clara, including 2016 gold medalists Nathan Adrian, Simone Manuel and Ryan Murphy.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic Movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials every year since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.