Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel, who now share a training base, qualified for June’s world championships by winning events on the first day of the five-day U.S. swimming trials in Greensboro, N.C., on Tuesday night.
Ledecky, a 10-time Olympic medalist, made her 10th consecutive national team by dominating the 800m freestyle, her trademark event, in 8:09.27, the sixth-fastest time in history and her best in four years. She let out a rare thunderous celebration, splashing the water once. It’s her first trials meet since moving from Stanford to Gainesville, Florida, last fall.
“I haven’t been under 8:10 in a couple of years now, and that was a little bit of a goal in mind coming in,” Ledecky, who won the Tokyo Olympic title in 8:12.57, said on Olympic Channel.
Ledecky, who owns the 26 fastest times in history, distanced runner-up Leah Smith by 8.25 seconds. Smith has finished second to Ledecky in eight trials races in her career.
U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule
Ledecky is on a 50-plus-meet win streak in the 800m free dating to 2010 (when she was 13 years old), according to a hand count of USA Swimming database times. She has been known to set goal times years out from the Olympics, but hasn’t done so yet under new coach Anthony Nesty.
“First goal is just to make the worlds team,” she said. “We talk a lot about improvement. … Of course, improvement looks a little different for me than some other people given that my times are really hard to improve. I’ve acknowledged that, and I’ve learned that over the years.”
Bobby Finke, the Olympic men’s 800m and 1500m free gold medalist who won the latter on Tuesday, said Ledecky has beaten him in training at Florida.
“I’m not afraid to say it,” he said. “Those times are good for me in practice. Just a huge hat’s off to her.”
Earlier Tuesday, Dressel took the 100m free in 47.79 as he eyes a third consecutive world title in the showcase sprint. Dressel came into trials ranked sixth in the U.S. this year by best time, but is now the world’s fastest man in the event in 2022.
Dressel, a five-time gold medalist in Tokyo, is at his first major meet since changing coaches from Gregg Troy to Nesty and Steve Jungbluth, staying in Gainesville.
He’s joined on the world team in the 100m free by Brooks Curry, an Olympic 4x100m free relay gold medalist.
Ledecky and Dressel could each make the world team this week in four individual events. Ledecky is also favored in the 200m, 400m and 1500m frees. Dressel is expected to later qualify in the 50m and 100m butterflies and 50m free.
In the absence of Simone Manuel, Tokyo Olympic butterfliers Torri Huske and Claire Curzan took the two world team spots in the women’s 100m free. Abbey Weitzeil, who won the Olympic Trials, was seventh.
Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger, who earned Olympic silver and bronze in the 200m fly, will represent the U.S. in that event at worlds. Flickinger got the win Tuesday.
Luca Urlando was the lone race winner on opening night who was not on the Tokyo Olympic team. Urlando, the grandson of an Italian Olympic hammer thrower, prevailed in the men’s 200m fly. He entered last year’s Olympic Trials with the fastest time in the nation over the previous two years and finished third in both butterflies, missing Tokyo by one spot.
Trials continue Wednesday, highlighted by Ledecky in the 200m free and the women’s 200m breaststroke with three Tokyo Olympic medalists — Lilly King, Annie Lazor and Lydia Jacoby — vying for two world championships team spots.
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