Katie Ledecky cruises into 400 free final at US swim trials
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Katie Ledecky cruised into the 400-meter freestyle final at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials Monday, qualifying a whopping 0.52 seconds faster than anyone else.
The Maryland teenager won her heat in 4 minutes, 2.62 seconds, finishing two body lengths ahead of the nearest competition in her first swim of the eight-day meet.
Ledecky owns the world and American records in the event. She could make her second Olympic team by finishing first or second in the evening final.
Leah Smith was second in 4:03.14. Allison Schmitt, silver medalist at the 2012 London Games, qualified third in 4:06.66.
Injured Ryan Lochte advanced to the 200 free semis while swimming in pain.
Lochte qualified fifth fastest in 1:47.77 despite a groin injury he sustained in the 400 individual medley prelims a day earlier. He failed to make the team in that event, finishing third in the final four years after winning gold at the London Games. Only the top two earned a berth in Rio.
“I put everything I could into that (last) turn and it didn’t feel right,” he said. “But I made it back tonight, so I got a lane. You get a lane, you get a shot.’”
Lochte needs a top-eight finish in the evening semis to reach Tuesday’s final. He decided against a cortisone shot before the prelims in favor of massage and stretching.
“If it acts up even more later on, I’ll get it. I’m in pain. But pain is temporary,” he said before smiling as he turned to walk away. “I guess.”
Lochte still has multiple chances to make his fourth Olympic team and add to his haul of 11 career medals.
Swimmers finishing in the top four of the 100 and 200 freestyles earn a spot on the U.S. team. If, after adding second-place finishers from each of the other events there is still room on the team, the fifth-place finishers from the two freestyle events are added. If there’s still room, the sixth-place finishers from the freestyles are added.
Conor Dwyer, who finished second in the 400 free on Sunday, led 200 free prelims in 1:46.66. Jack Conger was second at 1:47.25.
Also moving on to the 16-man semis were Tyler Clary in eighth and Connor Jaeger in 15th. Jaeger is already going to Rio after winning the 400 free.
Defending Olympic champion Missy Franklin and two-time gold medalist Natalie Coughlin advanced to the semifinals of the 100 backstroke.
Franklin was fifth fastest in 1:00.35 in the prelims after a 14-year-old competitor helped her put her cap on. Coughlin was seventh in 1:00.75. The top 16 reached the evening semifinals.
Franklin thought her next-to-last heat would be the fastest, but it wasn’t.
“It’s a little bit surprising that the first and last of the seeded heats were both sub-1s, which is awesome going into tonight,” she said. “But my goal was to win my heat. I did that.”
Leading the way was Georgia swimmer Olivia Smoliga in 59.65 seconds. She was one of three women to break 1 minute. Amy Bilquist was second at 59.67, followed by Missouri’s Hannah Stevens in 59.72.
At 33, Coughlin is trying to qualify for her fourth Olympics. She is tied with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated American woman with 12 Olympic medals.
Coughlin was first woman to break 1 minute in the 100 back and won back-to-back gold medals in the event.
“It would be great to go to Rio,” she said. “Hopefully, I get my ticket there. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s not the end of the world. I’m just enjoying my time racing and seeing what happens.”
Defending Olympic champion Matt Grevers advanced in the men’s 100 back, finishing fifth in 53.98. David Plummer, who owns the world’s top time this year, qualified fastest in 53.22.
Also reaching the evening semi was Jacob Pebley (second-quickest in 53.48), Jake Taylor (third in 54.50) and Ryan Murphy (fourth in 53.84).
In the 100 breaststroke, Indiana University swimmer Lilly King led the way in 1:06.45. Katie Meili was second fastest at 1:06.57.
Also advancing to the semis was 2012 Olympians Jessica Hardy in fourth at 1:07.16 and Breeja Larson in eighth at 1:07.37.