Katie Ledecky compete in the Women's 400m Freestyle Final on Day 3 of the TYR Pro Swim Series in San Antonio, Texas.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Katie Ledecky made it look easy Tuesday night as she swam most of the women’s 800-meter freestyle race with no other athlete near her in the pool.
When she touched the wall, the 10-time Olympic medalist surprised even herself when she saw her time flash on the large scoreboard inside the Greensboro Aquatic Center. The 25-year-old easily won the 800-meter freestyle in 8 minutes, 9.27 seconds on the first of five days of the Phillips 66 International Team Trials.
It was her fastest time in the event since 2018 and the sixth-fastest time ever.
“I’m really happy with that,” Ledecky said. “I felt coming in like I could possibly go under 8:10, and so (for it) to say that on the scoreboard was really exciting and the fastest I’ve been in a couple of years. Can’t complain, really happy with that.”
Ledecky’s performance highlighted a dramatic first night at the international team trials, which will determine the American swimmers who’ll compete at this summer’s 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. In total, 11 swimmers earned their spots in Hungary based on the evening’s results.
Ledecky headed into Greensboro less than a year removed from her dominant performance at the Olympic Tokyo Games 2020, where she earned two more gold medals — including in the 800 freestyle.
She jumped out to an early lead Tuesday and then pulled away from the rest of the pack to punch her ticket to her fifth world championships with the win.
“The biggest thing is I just felt really good, almost too good the first 400,” Ledecky said, laughing. “So yeah, it was really good to feel good and have the time be pretty good.”
With her victory, Ledecky is set to join a select group of American swimmers who have competed in at least five world championships. That list includes American swimming greats Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin.
“I always talk about how it’s good to start a meet on a good note,” Ledecky said. “… When I have a good first swim, I can kind of get into a rhythm, just kind of have that confidence, have that little boost. So yeah, I’m excited. I’m excited about the schedule I have here.”
Caeleb Dressel, a seven-time gold medalist like Ledecky, won the men’s 100 freestyle in 47.79 seconds — this year’s fastest time in the world in the event.
Dressel needed every bit of it to outlast a deep field of swimmers and secure his spot at his third world championships.
While he was the only swimmer to post a time under 48 seconds, he was followed closely behind by runner-up Brooks Curry (48.04 seconds), who won a gold with Dressel as a member of the U.S. men’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay team in Tokyo.
Fellow Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held finished in third at 48.18 seconds.