Katie Ledecky kicked off a big first day at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships for Team USA by beating her own four-year-old meet record of 8:11:35 in the women’s 800-meter freestyle, winning gold with a time of 8:09.13 Thursday in Tokyo.
The field at this meet, which runs Thursday through Tuesday, is packed with American athletes, primarily because, despite which event they qualified for the team in, swimmers can enter any race at Pan Pacs, though only two per country can make the final. Results from the Pan Pacs combined with results from last month’s national championships will be used to determine the roster for the 2019 world championships. The best of the best are ready to show what they can do in Tokyo two years in advance of when they hope to return to the city for the 2020 Olympic Games.
That showed as American swimmers won five races and finished with 11 medals.
In addition to Ledecky’s win in the 800 free, which was the fifth-fastest time ever at the distance, Leah Smith took the bronze in 8:17.21, just barely edged by Australia’s Ariarne Titmus.
Ledecky, who turned pro earlier this year, later took home the bronze in the 200 free with a time of 1:55.16 as she was beat out by two 18-year-olds. Taylor Ruck of Canada was the winner in 1:54.44 and Japan’s Rikako Ikee the silver medalist in 1:54.85. This was the first international bronze of Ledecky’s career and only the second time she did not win gold in an individual final; she earned silver in the 200 free at the 2017 world championships.
The U.S. went 1-2 in the men’s 1,500 free, with open-water swimming world champion Jordan Wilimovsky grabbing gold (14:46.93) followed by Zane Grothe with the silver (14:48.40).
Lilly King made it three golds in a row for the U.S. with her victory in the women’s 100 breaststroke. The Olympic champion led the entire race and finished with a time of 1:05.44.
In the men’s 200 free, the U.S. went 1-2 again, this time with Townley Haas and Andrew Seliskar grabbing top honors. Haas led from the start and finished with a time of 1:45.56, the fifth-fastest time ever by an American, but he had to hold off a blazing Seliskar who was intent on catching him in the final lap and finished in 1:45.74 for his first senior international medal.
Melanie Margalis took silver in the women’s 400 IM with a time of 4:35.60, while reigning world champion Chase Kalisz came from behind in the men’s 400 IM to win with a time of 4:07.95, just missing the record of 4:07.59 set by Ryan Lochte in 2010.
The U.S. rounded out the day with a bronze medal in the 400-meter mixed medley relay. Kathleen Baker, Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel finished in 3:41.74.
Competition continues on Friday with eight more finals, including the men’s and women’s 4x200 freestyles.