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Katie Ledecky is untouchable in 1500m freestyle in Knoxville

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Katie Ledecky was in the pool in the first race of the night in Knoxville at the 2019 TYR Pro Swim Series. Ledecky never looked back in the women’s 1500m freestyle, winning easily with a time of 15 minutes 49.59 seconds. It was the kind of opening act no one wants to follow.

With 1000m completed, the five-time Olympic gold medalist had built a comfortable 25m lead over the eventual second place swimmer, Ashley Twichell, who finished her race with a time of 16:13.03. Erica Sullivan was third posting a time of 16:29.23.

Ledecky is the reigning world champion and world record holder in the event. The seven fastest times in the event after the world record, yeah, those are times also held by Ledecky.

Ledecky picked up four wins in all in Knoxville. On Thursday she got to the wall ahead of Simone Manuel to win the 200m freestyle in the first event of the evening session. Later that night, she faced her biggest challenge of the meet in the 400m IM when Hali Flickinger hung with her all the way to the finish. Ledecky was able to pick up the win, edging Flinkinger by just .41 hundredths of a second. On Friday evening Ledecky posted win #3 in the 400m freestyle. Flickinger was again her closest challenger, finishing roughly 7 seconds behind Ledecky.

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As swim nationals close, an Olympic champion prepares to pass the torch

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IRVINE, Calif. — Anthony Ervin met his goal at the U.S. Swimming Championships, but he did not make the national team.

Ervin, who in Rio shattered the record for oldest individual Olympic swimming gold medalist, was 17th in the 50m freestyle heats Sunday, his only event as the five-day meet ended. He also missed last year’s world team after placing sixth at nationals.

The 37-year-old Ervin will not be at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo in two weeks or the 2019 World Championships, the two biggest international events before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Ervin isn’t the only big name missing; four-time 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin and Rio 100m breaststroke bronze medalist Cody Miller also did not make the cut.

Ervin’s goal Sunday was modest by his top standard, to break 23 seconds (which he did twice, 22.74 and 22.68 in a swim-off). Ervin clocked 21.98 and 21.40 for his Olympic titles in 2000 and 2016, but hasn’t competed much this year and said he’s at “the low bar” for focus.

“I’ve got a lot of things I’ve got to sort,” Ervin said, noting he has “debts to pay off.” “I’ve got to get my life in order.”

SWIM NATIONALS: Full Results | Pan Pacs RosterRace Videos

The long-term goal is to make the eight-man final at the 2020 Olympic Trials.

By then, he will be older than all but one previous U.S. Olympic swimmer, all but one previous Olympic swimming medalist and all but one Olympic swimmer since 1928 (the exception in all three cases was Dara Torres, 41 in 2008).

“I want to make my way to the end of the quad, just so I can see those guys off,” Ervin said of the younger U.S. sprinters like 19-year-old Michael Andrew, who upset world champion Caeleb Dressel in Sunday’s 50m free final. “That’s a special thing if I can be in the final to shake their hand, whoever does go [to the Tokyo Olympics].”

The U.S. team now heads to Tokyo for Pan Pacs, a major international meet for non-European nations, including swim powers Australia, China and Japan.

Pan Pacs offer a competition within a competition because the meet determines the U.S. team for the 2019 World Championships. The top two Americans per individual Olympic event make worlds, based off each’s best time from either nationals or Pan Pacs. And swimmers can enter any event at Pan Pacs.

In Sunday’s finals at nationals, Ashley Twichell won a Katie Ledecky-less 1500m freestyle in 15:55.68, breaking 16 minutes for the first time. Ledecky skipped the 1500m free, an event where she has lowered the world record six times from 15:42.54 to 15:20.48.

Since Ledecky won the 200m, 400m and 800m frees earlier in the meet, she is eligible to swim any event at Pan Pacs and is expected to contest the 1500m free. That would match her individual-event program from the last two world championships and the 2014 Pan Pacs.

Simone Manuel recorded the fastest 50m free ever in a U.S. pool, winning in 24.10, a whopping .53 ahead of Abbey Weitzeil. Manuel, an Olympic and world medalist in the splash and dash, owns the American record of 23.97.

Kathleen Baker won the 200m IM in the fastest time ever in a U.S. pool, 2:08.32, one day after breaking the 100m backstroke world record. It’s the fastest time in the world this year and a personal best by 3.26 seconds.

Chase Kalisz completed a sweep of the individual medleys, as he did at 2017 Worlds, taking the 200m IM in 1:55.73, the fastest time in the world this year by .54. Kalisz credited his fast swimming in part to kale Caesar salads.

“I definitely would say I’m eating a lot healthier, but I do live across from a Waffle House,” he said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

Zane Grothe added the 800m free to his 400m free title, clocking 7:44.57. It’s a personal best, the fastest time ever in a U.S. pool and the fastest in the world this year.

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MORE: Ledecky faces unique challenge at Pan Pacs

Ashley Twichell becomes oldest U.S. swimmer to win open-water world title

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Ashley Twichell went six years between world championships medals, making it three straight open-water 5km world titles for U.S. women on Wednesday.

Twichell, 28, edged world 10km champion Aurelie Muller of France by 3.5 seconds, touching the board in 59 minutes, 7 seconds for gold in Hungary.

Twichell became the oldest U.S. woman to win an individual world swimming title since Jenny Thompson in 2003 and the oldest American of either gender to ever win an open-water title.

“The goal here was to get on the podium,” Twichell said, according to USA Swimming.

Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha earned bronze, 4.4 seconds back, for her eighth career world open-water medal.

Olympic champion Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands and American Haley Anderson, the 2013 and 2015 World champion, were fourth and fifth.

Full results are here.

Twichell notched the biggest win of her career, six years after earning 5km bronze and team gold at worlds. In between, she missed the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams.

But Twichell came back strong this year. She won her second straight open-water national title in the 10km in May and made the team in the 5km, finishing fourth behind Anderson and two Italians.

Twichell was 10th in the world 10km race on Sunday.

“I didn’t feel awesome during the 10km, so I took the two days in between to really try to recover and get my mind back straight,” Twichell said, according to USA Swimming.

Pool swimming events at worlds start Sunday.

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