Santa Clara Grand Prix

Katie Ledecky swims world’s fastest 200m freestyle of 2018 (video)

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About 12 hours after announcing her first sponsorKatie Ledecky was back in the pool, doing what she does best — swimming fast times.

The five-time Olympic champion recorded the fastest 200m freestyle in the world this year — and third-fastest 200m free of her career — at a Pro Series meet in Santa Clara on Friday night.

She clocked 1:54.56 to win the race by 3.44 seconds over Melanie Margalis, who was part of the 2016 Olympic 4x200m free relay with Ledecky. Full meet results are here.

“That’s exactly where I was hoping to be,” Ledecky said, according to USA Swimming. “I’m aware of the fastest times in the world.”

Ledecky displaced 18-year-old Canadian Taylor Ruck for the No. 1 ranking this year. Ruck won the Commonwealth Games in 1:54.81.

Ledecky’s time Friday also would have won the 2017 World title. This was the one individual event Ledecky did not win at worlds, sharing silver behind Federica Pellegrini, who clocked 1:54.73.

Also Friday, 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte competed in a Pro Series meet for the first time since the Olympics and his 10-month suspension for the Rio gas-station incident.

The 33-year-old finished sixth in the 200m backstroke, 4.76 seconds behind winner Ryan Murphy (1:56.06), who swept the backstrokes in Rio.

“I started a new career in January, so this is my new swimming career,” said Lochte, whose son, Caiden, turned 1 on Friday. Lochte moved from California back to Florida in the fall, returning to train under Gregg Troy, who guided him to become the world’s best swimmer nine years ago.

The Santa Clara meet continues Saturday, with Ledecky scheduled to swim the 100m and 800m freestyles. Olympic Channel has live coverage at 8 p.m. ET, also streaming for subscribers on OlympicChannel.com, the Olympic Channel app, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for the U.S. Championships in late July, a qualifying meet for the Pan Pacific Championships in August and the 2019 World Championships.

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MORE: Missy Franklin enters first swim meet since Rio Olympics

Katie Ledecky set for final full meet before nationals; TV, stream info

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Katie Ledecky swims in her last full meet before the U.S. Championships at a Pro Series event in Santa Clara, Calif., live on NBCSN and Olympic Channel this week.

The four-time 2016 Olympic champion headlines a field that also includes Ryan Lochte in his first Pro Series meet since the Rio Olympics, plus Olympic and world champions Lilly KingSimone ManuelCaeleb DresselChase Kalisz and Ryan Murphy.

That’s pretty much the whole set of U.S. swimming’s biggest stars save Missy Franklin, who competes in Europe this weekend (Olympic Channel, Saturday 12 p.m. ET and Sunday 7 p.m. ET) at her first meet since the Rio Olympics.

Ledecky said Wednesday that Santa Clara marks her last full meet before late July’s nationals in Irvine, Calif. Nationals determines the U.S. team for this year’s major international meet — the Pan Pacific Championships in late August. Nationals and Pan Pacs determine the team for the 2019 World Championships in South Korea.

At her last meet three weeks ago, Ledecky smashed her 1500m freestyle world record by five seconds (her first world record since the Rio Games) and swam the second-fastest 400m freestyle ever, trailing only her world record from Rio. Ledecky isn’t signed up for Thursday’s 1500m freestyle in Santa Clara, but can she chase world records in shorter distances starting Friday?

“We’ll see,” Ledecky said after participating in the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make A Splash tour stop in Stanford University. “Didn’t really expect those kinds of times in Indianapolis.”

Pro Series Santa Clara Finals
Thursday — USASwimming.org (1500m freestyles only)
Friday — NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app
Saturday — Olympic Channel, NBCSports.com/live, NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, Olympic Channel app
Sunday — USASwimming.org
All finals sessions are 8-9:30 p.m. ET.

Ledecky is not only in the middle of hard training, but also final exams as a sophomore at Stanford. She’s continued to take classes but will no longer swim for the Cardinal, having turned professional after the NCAA Championships in March.

Ledecky has yet to sign with a swimwear sponsor. She raced in different brands of suits in Indianapolis and said she may do so again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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MORE: Missy Franklin enters first swim meet since Rio Olympics

Ryan Lochte enters USA Swimming Pro Series for first time in 2 years

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Ryan Lochte is expected to compete at next week’s USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Santa Clara, Calif., his first appearance on the domestic U.S. tour since the Rio Olympics.

Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist in his first full season since his 10-month ban following the Rio gas-station incident, is joined in the Santa Clara field by Katie LedeckySimone ManuelLilly KingCaeleb DresselChase Kalisz and Ryan Murphy, among others.

Lochte has competed off and on since August 2017, but never at a top-level meet like on the Pro Series.

NBCSN and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will broadcast the June 7-10 meet, with coverage streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for the U.S. Championships in late July in Irvine, Calif., and the Pan Pacific Championships in late August in Tokyo. Those two meets are the qualifiers for the 2019 World Championships in South Korea.

There is one Pro Series meet between Santa Clara and the U.S. Championships. That’s in Columbus, Ohio, from July 6-8.

Another swimmer scheduled to make a Pro Series comeback next week is 37-year-old Anthony Ervin, who in Rio became the oldest individual Olympic swimming champion by four years by taking the 50m freestyle. Ervin, who failed to make the 2017 World Championships team, is competing on the Pro Series for the first time since last year’s Santa Clara meet.

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MORE: Lochte’s comeback motivated by new life, another swimmer’s goal