Katie Ledecky wins by 12 seconds in trials finale, can tie Michael Phelps record at worlds

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Katie Ledecky won the 1500m freestyle by 12.37 seconds to finish the U.S. swimming trials, going four-for-four in her first major meet since the Tokyo Olympics and a cross-country move.

“It didn’t feel like a thing of beauty,” Ledecky said on CNBC of the longest race on the program. “It was decent. Would have liked to have been a little bit faster, but I’ll take it at the end of the week.

“It’s the last race of the week. It’s the 1500m. It’s never going to feel good.”

She qualified for June’s world championships in Budapest in her four primary events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees — and is also expected to be on the 4x200m free relay. That was her lineup at the Tokyo Olympics, where she won two golds, two silvers and placed fifth in the 200m free.

Ledecky, who has the 12 fastest 1500m free times in history, clocked 15:38.99 in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday night. Her world record is 15:20.48. The second-fastest woman in history went 15:38.88, nine years ago.

On Saturday, Katie Grimes was the distant runner-up to join Ledecky on the world team in the event.

Ledecky, a 25-year-old who last fall left Stanford to train at the University of Florida, won all of her events this week by at least a second.

U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | World Championships Roster

She is the fastest or tied for the fastest in the world this year in all four events, but it’s early and Australia hasn’t had its trials yet.

The best measuring stick for Ledecky is to compare her times this week with those from last year’s Olympic Trials. She was faster by more than a second in three of her four events this week. In the 200m free, she was four hundredths slower than her time from last year.

If Ledecky wins all four of her individual events at worlds, she will tie Michael Phelps‘ record 15 individual world titles. She pulled off that Ledecky Slam in 2015, sweeping the 200m through 1500m golds.

Ledecky, with 18 total world championships medals, is two behind the female record of 20 medals held by Natalie Coughlin. Ledecky owns 15 total golds dating to 2013, three shy of Ryan Lochte for the second-most in world swimming championships history behind Phelps’ 26.

Ledecky’s primary rival, Olympic 200m and 400m free champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia, is skipping worlds to focus on the Commonwealth Games later this summer.

In other events Saturday, Caeleb Dressel matched Ledecky with his fourth victory in as many events. He took the 50m freestyle in 21.29 seconds, topping Michael Andrew by .16. He is fastest in the world this year in the 50m and 100m frees and the 100m butterfly, all of which he won in Tokyo.

“I thought I could be [21.4] tonight, so to see [21.2], I’m pretty fired up,” said Dressel, who flung his cap, flexed his biceps and slapped the water four times after the victory.

Dressel is expected to swim the same eight-event schedule as he did at worlds in 2017 and 2019: 50m and 100m frees and flies, plus two men’s relays and two mixed-gender relays.

Torri Huske notched her third win of the week, taking the women’s 50m free by .02 over Erika Brown. Huske and Claire Curzan could each swim in eight events at worlds when including relays.

Olympic bronze medalist Alex Walsh won the 200m individual medley in 2:07.84, the world’s fastest time in nearly three years. Walsh improved to become the sixth-fastest performer in history and the No. 2 American behind Ariana Kukors.

Chase Kalisz will contest both IMs at a major international meet for the fifth consecutive time. Kalisz followed his runner-up in the 400m IM on Wednesday by winning the 200m IM on Saturday. Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM champion, clocked 1:56.21, the second-fastest time in the world this year and his best since 2018.

Olympic champ Bobby Finke won the 800m free in 7:43.32, the fastest time ever in a U.S. pool.

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