Katie Ledecky, Australian rivals trade fast times before world champs

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It looks like Katie Ledecky will go into the world championships with the fastest times in the world this year in three of her four events, but trailing a pair of Australians in the 200m freestyle.

Ariarne Titmus, 18, and Emma McKeon, 25, each starred at Australia’s trials for July’s worlds in South Korea. Full results are here.

Titmus, who emerged last year as Ledecky’s closest competition ever in the 400m free, won the 400m and 800m frees at trials. Her 400m time — 3:59.35 — is just .07 off Ledecky’s fastest time in the world this year (which Ledecky set at a small meet in California on Saturday).

Ledecky is undefeated in 400m, 800m and 1500m free finals at major international meets, but that record could be tested like never before at worlds.

The 200m free is another story for Ledecky, who took silver at the 2017 Worlds and bronze at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. This year, she ranks fourth in that event, the shortest of her individual races.

Titmus leads the way this year at 1:54.30, a time that Ledecky hasn’t bettered since she won Rio Olympic gold in a personal-best 1:53.73. But Titmus was beaten at Australia’s trials by the veteran McKeon (albeit in 1:54.55, No. 2 in the world this year). McKeon shared silver with Ledecky at the 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky has a bit more of a cushion in the 800m and 1500m frees, where Chinese 16-year-old Wang Jianjiahe has surfaced as perhaps the closest distance rival of her career.

200m Freestyle
1. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 1:54.30
2. Emma McKeon (AUS) — 1:54.55
3. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) — 1:55.29 (not expected to swim 200m free at worlds)
4. Katie Ledecky — 1:55.78

400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 3:59.28
2. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 3:59.35
3. Li Bingjie (CHN) — 4:03.29

800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 8:10.70

2. Wang Jianjiahe (CHN) — 8:14.64
3. Leah Smith (USA) — 8:16.33

1500m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 15:45.59
2. Wang Jianjiahe (CHN) — 15:46.69
3. Madeleine Gough (AUS) — 15:56.39

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