Katie Ledecky swims 200m free time at nationals that would have won world title

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Katie Ledecky didn’t swim the 200m freestyle at last month’s world championships, but her winning time at the U.S. Championships on Wednesday would have won the world title by nearly a half-second.

Ledecky prevailed in 1 minute, 54.50 seconds at nationals in Irvine, California, distancing Erin Gemmell (who lowered her personal best by 1.27 seconds on Wednesday) by 1.64 seconds. Ledecky is undefeated in domestic 200m free races for eight years.

“I’m really happy with that time,” she said on Olympic Channel. “I didn’t feel so great today, so really wasn’t expecting to go that fast.”

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Ledecky swam the fourth-best time of her career. Only Australian rival Ariarne Titmus has gone faster this year — a 1:53.31 at her national championships in May. Titmus, who also broke Ledecky’s 400m free world record at Australian nationals, skipped worlds to focus on the Commonwealth Games that start later this week.

Ledecky passed on the 200m free at worlds in part because the 200m free semis were the same night as the 1500m free final.

China’s Yang Junxuan won the world title in 1:54.92. Neither American made the final.

Ledecky hasn’t decided whether she will re-add the 200m free to her program ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Last year, she was fifth in the 200m free, her shortest event, at the Tokyo Olympics, when she also won the 1500m free in the same session. For Paris, the 1500m free and 200m free are separated by two days, which betters the chances that Ledecky puts it back into her program at Olympic Trials.

Ledecky’s last victory in the 200m free at a major international meet was at the 2016 Rio Games.

In Wednesday’s men’s 200m free, 19-year-old Luke Hobson upset Olympian Kieran Smith and won in 1:46.14. Hobson, who was seventh at April’s world championships trials, lowered his personal best by 78 hundredths.

Matt Fallon, a rising Penn sophomore, won the men’s 200m breaststroke in a personal best by one second, 2:07.91, which would have won silver at the world championships. Fallon skipped April’s world team trials to focus on academics.

Mackenzie Looze, daughter of Indiana coach Ray Looze, won the women’s 200m breast in 2:25.35, a personal best by 2.14 seconds.

Isabelle Stadden upset world team members Rhyan White and Claire Curzan in the women’s 200m backstroke, prevailing in 2:07.29. She now ranks sixth in the world this year and fourth among Americans.

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